I’ve been in the hobby since 1992, which is long enough to have bought and sold a few coins being an active coin collector and all that. And as I ponder over my collection from time to time deciding what I wish to buy or sell next, I got to thinking about some of the coins I wish I still had… The coins I really regret selling. Yes, there’s such a thing as buyer’s remorse. But seller’s remorse? It’s something I’m sure many collectors experience every now and then. It’s certainly something I’ve encountered, too.
Budgets have always been a necessary confinement for me, going back to my youth when I kicked off my journey in numismatics at the age of 11 and was on a tight allowance. I’m a coin collector to be sure, but I’ve always kept my collection relatively small, and it’s not really worth very much monetarily. It contains the coins I like for this reason or that, and quite often the things I go for are unrelated to grade or rarity. Working within a certain financial limit when pursuing a new coin, a new series, or even goals in other hobby avenues, I’ve often had to part way with a coin or three to finance those targets.
Having spoken with countless other collectors over the years I understand this is typical; most collectors are working within defined budgets and thus often need to sell one thing to acquire something else. And every now and then, this imperative exchange of one coin for another has led to emotional quandaries. Certainly, they aren’t issues I would have foreseen when I went to sell those coins.
There are the usual suspects… I sold all my pre-1933 U.S. gold coins to help myself buy a house during a good buyer’s market and a period of low interest rates. As much as I loved owning those gold coins, they weren’t anything numismatically out of the ordinary, and I could easily acquire similar pieces again in a heartbeat with enough cash. Then there was a scarce G4 1913 Barber Half Dollar I bought for $5 in 1994 from a mail-order dealer who must’ve thought he sold me a much more common 1913-D. I made a little cash off my sale of that coin in 1999, but I could’ve made much more if I had held onto that piece to this day.
Then there was the time that I, as a teenager, parceled out a nearly complete basic type set of circulated half cents through half dollars to help finance a little landscape project I wanted to embark on, because gardening is one of my hobbies, too… Always has been. And, sadly for me, “has been” describes the state of that high-dollar garden project. Yep, the one at an apartment complex that I moved away from many years ago. Darn…
Ok, ok, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “welp, the kid learned a lesson.” Oh, I did… I did… Don’t sell your type set to pay for plants to dress up the outside of a rental apartment. Yep, that lesson from the school of hard knocks is wired into my noggin now. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t the last spell of seller’s remorse for me. Case in point? The time I sold my raw VF20 1834 Capped Bust Half Dollar that I received as a gift from my parents for my 13th birthday.
Since my first foray into the hobby, I had been entranced by Capped Bust silver coinage. My first introduction came by way of black-and-white photographs of these coins I had seen in my October 1992 Edmund’s United States Coin Prices – the first hobby-related book my parents ever bought for me. I really wanted a Draped Bust Dollar, but at the time $325 for a G4 1799 Dollar was way higher than my budget allowed. Besides, if I had that kind of money, I probably would have spent it on some wicked awesome Super Mario Brothers or Legend of Zelda gear. Or maybe some pretty plants. But I digress…
I focused on getting a Capped Bust Half Dollar... A twelfth birthday and two Nintendo-heavy Christmases passed before my mom bought me that 1834 Half Dollar to mark my passage from tween years to teen years… And it was a coin that my grammatically correct mom had been convinced was given a syntactically erroneous name. She insisted the coin should be dubbed “Busted,” which is the proper past tense of “Bust.” She didn’t immediately grasp that the coin wasn’t broken, nor that the name was a shorthand reference to the obverse “bust” of Miss Liberty. But she eventually came around on the numismatic nomenclature with my careful (and none-too-pedantic) explanation about the coin’s design.
Some 14 years passed by, and I found myself paying off college bills during the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the 1834 Capped Bust Half Dollar was a casualty, as I sold it to help pay for my college classes I had taken. The threat of college debt was gone, but so, too, was the coin I loved. Sadly, my mom would also be gone the next year, passing from cancer at the young age of 56.
Oh, how I’d love to own that 1834 “Busted” Half Dollar again. At least I still have the October 1992 Edmund’s price guide… It’s a time capsule from my first weeks as a coin collector. And with it I get to relive over and over memories of all those amazingly inexpensive type coins I recall temptingly staring back at me from inside my dealer’s cases during the mid-1990s. Alas… I suppose that’s the subject for an article on buyer’s remorse?