Let’s say you want to assemble a set of Liberty Head eagles. You’ve got a daunting task ahead of you. This design lasted from 1838 through 1907 and it features over 180 issues including numerous rarities which are very expensive and/or extremely rare in higher grades. Unless you have a large coin budget, you are going to be priced out, right? Maybe you just need to look at gold collecting differently. How about doing a year set of Liberty Head eagles? A year set includes one example of every year in which this design was produced; in this case a total of seventy years. By choosing a year set (instead of a date set), the collector can significantly reduce the number of coins he needs to complete a set.
Another great feature of a year set is that you can avoid having to buy prohibitively rare and expensive issues like the 1875. The year set collector can fill his 1875 hole with a far more affordable 1875-S or 1875-CC.
The two most intimidating things about assembling a date set of Liberty Head eagles are the length and the cost. As I just pointed out, a year set reduces both of these immeasurably. It also allows the condition-oriented collector the chance to pursue higher grade coins.
Take, for instance, the eagles struck in the year 1849. There are two: the Philadelphia and the New Orleans issues. The former is relatively affordable in comparatively high grades (the collector should be able to find an MS60 to MS61 coin for around $5,000) while the latter is not only expensive in higher grades (an MS60 if available would sell for $30,000+) but it is incredibly rare.
Even the collector on a relatively tight budget can participate in the Liberty Head eagle series. How about a 20th century Liberty Head eagle set? This would consist of 21 coins, produced from 1900 to 1907. The beauty of this set is that every single date can be purchased in MS60 or better and most of these dates can be found in reasonably high grades for under $1,000.
What if you only buy Gem coins and can’t “deign” to own anything below MS65? How about a year set of 20th century Liberty Head eagles? This consists of just eight issues and every one can be found in MS65 (or in some cases better).
It’s about time that the popularity of Set Registry collecting which has fueled the market for 20th century gold coinage starts to take hold with the far rarer but less popular issues from the 19th century. How many collectors who pay $50,000+ for a St. Gaudens double eagle with an in-grade population of, say, ten or more (plus others in higher grades) would reassess their collections if they know that they could buy far rarer Liberty Head eagles for a fraction of the price?
Are date sets of Liberty Head eagles going to suddenly replace St. Gaudens double eagles as the hot new trend in gold collecting? Probably not. But what if set collecting of Liberty Head eagles were better marketed? What if more (and better) categories for these existed in the PCGS and NGC Set Registries? Could this change in the next few years? I contend that this is a possibility. After all, who would have ever thought that collectors would pay $10,000++ for high grade modern coins?