A type set, or type collection, is a coin collection based upon the coin's design or type. Instead of assembling a collection of coins based upon year and mint, a type set will consist of one coin from each design type without regard to the year that it was produced nor to the mint that it was minted in. In many ways, this is an ideal way for an intermediate coin collector to assemble a coin collection that contains a wide variety of different coins. Additionally, collecting a type set can save you money by purchasing the highest graded coins at the lowest possible price.
Collecting Major and Minor Type Coins
Coin types are usually classified as major and minor (or sometimes referred to as a subtype). For example, Shield nickels were minted from 1866 through 1883. In 1866, the coin design had rays between the stars on the reverse. In 1867, the rays were removed. This yielded two subtypes of coin for the Shield nickel. Currently, a total of 747 coins are required to build a complete type set of United States coins that includes all subtypes, proof-only issues, commemorative coins, and bullion coins. If you add Proof sets and Uncirculated Mint sets officially issued by the United States Mint, that would bring the total collection to over 1,000 coins and sets.
Building a High-Quality Type Set
If you decide to pursue building a complete type set of United States coins that includes subtypes, proof-only issues, commemorative coins, and bullion coins, you will need a substantial coin collecting budget. This set should only be attempted by advanced coin collectors. Also, there are some extremely rare type coins that are not always available for purchase no matter how much money you have.
Take your time in building your collection to ensure that you are getting the best value for each coin purchase that you make. High-quality coin collections of this magnitude may take a lifetime to complete. In fact, it may take more than one generation to achieve your collecting goals.
Knowledge is a coin collector's best friend. Educate yourself on the different types of coins and the characteristics of a high-quality coin for each type. Start by buying a book on United States type coins. Once you understand the finer points of each type, look for value in every purchase that you make.
Starting Your Type Set Collection
Undertaking the challenge of building a complete type set of U.S. coins is a daunting challenge. Pick a particular denomination and series to concentrate on initially. Educate yourself and research that particular series before you make your first purchase. Start with more affordable clad or copper coins to begin with. Once you gain more experience, then you can move into more expensive silver and gold coins.
Do not start with early American coins that may be problem coins or tend to be frequently counterfeited. Additionally, stay away from high and rare value coins that may be offered at a "bargain deal." These usually turn out to be bad investments or altered/counterfeit coins.