Is it possible that a strategy used by the General Manager of your favorite National Football League team can be applied to building your collection? This might not be as much of a stretch as you are, no doubt, thinking - and I invite you to read this blog and give my theory some thought. Have you ever wondered why some NFL teams select a linebacker in the first round of the draft even though they already have three excellent starters in their line-up and some good backups as well? What were they thinking? They were probably using the "draft the best available athlete" strategy and this can, in my opinion, be applied to your coin collection.
First, a little background is in order here. Some coin collectors have a very clearly defined focus to their set(s). They might collect something like Charlotte quarter eagles by date and they know exactly what they need to complete the set. But many other collectors are not this focused and I frequently get emails from collectors or calls from existing clients asking me "Doug, what set should I be focused on?"
The key word here is "focus" and I feel that focus is something that's very important for a new or advanced collector. Having a focus gives you a sense of purpose as a collector and allows you to see a beginning and an end of your endeavors.
But "focus" means one thing to one collector and another thing to another. Some collectors are exceptionally focused and are excited by the thought of collecting every known die variety and die state of 1798 half eagles; for others this would be torture. So how exactly can the "NFL theory" work for the collector who knows he needs some sort of direction to follow but who doesn't want to follow an overly-narrow course?
Remember what I said earlier about drafting the best available athlete? Well what if a collector's focus was the "best available coin?" This might mean that he wasn't buying a certain Charlotte quarter eagle because it fit into a date set but rather because it was scarce or had a great "crusty" look or it was low population (or a combination of all these factors).
Most collectors have laid some basic ground work for their collections. They might buy just gold coins, as opposed to coins in all metals. Taking this further, what if the collector then decides to specialize in gold coins struck between 1800 and 1900? There are a number of things this collector can now decide to become more focused without becoming too much of a specialist. Some examples might include the following:
-Buying coins priced between $2,500 and $5,000 -Buying coins with a certain sort of "look" -Buying coins with original mintages of less than 10,000 -Buying coins that are in the top 10% of all those graded for the date -Buying coins from branch mints -Buying coins not from branch mints
Its my belief that too many collectors worry about being over-specialized and that, in order to deal with DWN they have to be specialists. This isn't the case.
Coin collecting should be about buying what interests you and what makes sense for your budget. I know of many collectors who are, in a loose sense of the word "specialists" but not in the traditional sense.