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A Collector's Transition to Crusty Original Coins by Greg Johnson

Originally published on October 13 2015

A few months after purchasing my first seated coin in 1992 I started assembling a beginner's Liberty Seated Quarter collection. The low to mid-grade circulated coins I was accumulating were all cleaned and hairlined to some degree because the dealer I had connected with was a "white coin" guy. About a year into the project I was negotiating with him by phone for a choice VF 1855-O quarter that he described as "butt ugly" (remember there was no internet or photos to consult), by which he meant it was rather dark and deeply toned. It was a tough date, but he'd been unable to wholesale it or sell it to another collector due to its unattractiveness and I ended up purchasing the coin for $180. Today the coin is PCGS VF35/CAC. I, and many others, would call it a very attractive, original, and slightly under-graded XF.

The white coin bias of this dealer was by no means unique, nor did it end with the 1990's. As recently as 2007 I was told by a well-known and very busy Seated specialist dealer that white coins were far, far easier to sell and in greater demand than toned pieces. That seems to be far less the case today, only eight years later; at least among Seated specialist collectors. Probably due in part to the internet, in part to CAC, and in part to other factors I haven't considered or thought of, white coins seem to enjoy rather less support than in the past.

Personally, as I have pursued Seated coin collecting and added more and better coins to the collection, I have developed both an eye and a taste for what we now refer to as "crusty original" coins. The coins I like best tend to be the coins that CAC likes best and so I have also come to value the CAC sticker, though not blindly. Despite the current matching of my tastes with those of many of my peers, the evolution in preferences that I have witnessed raises the question, "Are toned coins just a fad and will the market swing back toward white coins being more desirable?"

There is, of course, no answer to that question. Predicting the future has always been a tricky endeavor at best and perhaps no more so than with something as ephemeral as "taste". I can say with confidence that I hope "naturally" aged silver remains available and popular enough to defeat the urge to dip everything white. After collecting originally toned coins for a number of years I find white coins to be so..bland. I don't necessarily find anything wrong with white coins - especially well-struck, mark free white coins with good luster - they just don't appeal to me as much as their originally (even darkly) toned cousins. Of course it is also possible that there is not really a current preference for original toning and I am imagining it just because the people I associate with like toned coins. Hmmm...food for thought.