As I got close to completing my initial collecting goal (middle and late date large cent sets), I started building sets of half dimes in 2007: mint state Capped Bust; proof Seated from 1858-1873; and this business strike Liberty Seated set. Completion of this set is my primary goal.
I initially named the set Route 66 because the first few entries were graded MS66. Coins graded from AU53 through MS67 currently grace the set. I may stretch for an MS68 of a common date, and certainly will have to settle for lower graded examples of the keys, such as the 1853-O No Arrows already in the set. In a few cases, I have gotten AU place holders that I hope eventually to upgrade.
Although I may be able to complete the registry set someday, there is, of course, one coin I'll probably never add: the 1870-S. Only one is known, supposedly discovered in a dealer's "junk" box. The last I knew (2015), it was in the Law/Simpson collection, and was being offered through Legend Numismatics for $2,250,000. Barring some windfall, I'll never have anything close to that much to spend on coins for the rest of my life! If another exists in the cornerstone of the second San Francisco Mint, no collector will ever own it.
I expect to have fun building this set over the next several years. The challenge will be finding well struck pieces. I have passed on many poorly struck coins, but some issues just don't come fully struck. Like many new collectors, I initially favored "white" coins, but now welcome nicely toned pieces. By that I mean that toning should be pleasing color(s), should be even or smoothly varying, and should not obscure the luster or make evaluation of surface quality difficult.
Aside from someday completing the set, I have a goal to provide quantitative measures of various characteristics of the coins. So far, only the luster has been rated. Ratings range from 0 (no discernible luster) to 5 (superior luster), and are given separately for obverse and reverse sides. Of course, these 'quantitative' ratings will be my opinions. But I will do my best to be objective. Once I have ratings for other attributes (such as strike, toning, post-strike damage, eye appeal), I will use them to construct my own opinion of grade.
I was pleasantly surprised when this set was selected for one of the five Best Classic Set awards for 2015! It's not as awesome as the Gardner set or the Law/Simpson set, or others that surely exist, but it is pretty nice... Here's the citation:
This collection of Liberty Seated Half Dimes is nearly complete, lacking just ten coins at present, one of which is the unique 1870-S issue. All but a few of the coins are high-end, Mint State examples, and the owner has stated his goal of acquiring only well struck pieces. Also favored is attractive toning, which makes these coins quite pleasing to the eye. Among the highlights are 1839-O grading MS 66, 1848-O in MS 67 and 1864, also a MS 67 gem. Three of the coins in this collection carry the coveted NGC Star Designation for superior eye appeal, and two (1866 and 1868) are designated as Prooflike.
Since then, I have acquired a few more, so that only three holes remain (not counting the 1870-S, and a PCGS-graded 1866-S that is locked into another set.) Hopefully I'll be able to get nice examples of the remaining non-unique coins (and upgrade the handful of AU coins). And I'll be sure to keep an eye open for that "non-competitive, display-only" coin...
March 4, 2017