How To Collect Short Sets: 5 Easy Coin Collections For Collectors On A Budget

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Short sets – miniature date-and-mintmark coin collections for a given series – are highly popular for coin collectors on a shoestring budget.

A short set of coins is less expensive because it contains fewer coins than a typical, complete date-and-mintmark run of coins for a series and usually avoids the expensive key date coins.


These budget coin collecting sets also provide you with a springboard to finish the rest of that series should your finances later permit.

What follows below are the typical guidelines for collecting 5  of the most popular coin short sets, most of which can be completed for well under $100.


Indian Head Cent Short Sets, 1900-1909


Indian Head pennies are among the most popular 19th-century United States coin series for collectors, and are unique in that it’s one of the few series that span so far back in time (to 1859) yet is also reasonably affordable for many numismatists.

Still, key dates such as the 1877 cent, 1908-S cent, and 1909-S cent pose tremendous financial obstacles for most coin collectors, and are avoided when assembling an Indian Head penny short set.

A common super short set of Indian Head cents includes the following coins:

  • 1900 cent
  • 1901 cent
  • 1902 cent
  • 1903 cent
  • 1904 cent
  • 1905 cent
  • 1906 cent
  • 1907 cent
  • 1908 cent
  • 1909 cent

You may notice the exclusion of the mintmarked 1908 and 1909 Indian pennies. Given that those are the only 2 years in the series during which branch mints struck Indian cents, it’s generally accepted to exclude those expensive mintmarked coins from a short set.


Buffalo Nickel Short Sets, 1934-1938


Buffalo nickels represent something of a romantic era in United States coinage, when designs depicted our nation’s Native Americans. Several coins, like the $10 Indian Head eagle and the aforementioned Indian Head penny evoke scenes from 19th-century American Indians culture.

The Buffalo nickel goes 1 step further by depicting an American bison – an animal commonly seen across the Midwest and Great Plains states when that part of the United States was still mainly populated by Native Americans.

Buffalo nickels include a few key dates, including the 1913-S Type II, 1921-S, and 1926-S nickels, and a common short set that circumvents having to buy these rare coins for a collection includes the following:

  • 1934 nickel
  • 1934-D nickel
  • 1935 nickel
  • 1935-D nickel
  • 1935-S nickel
  • 1936 nickel
  • 1936-D nickel
  • 1936-S nickel
  • 1937 nickel
  • 1937-D nickel
  • 1937-S nickel
  • 1938-D nickel
  • 1938-S nickel

Note that the 1937 3-legged nickel is left out of that short set. The good news is that since it’s not regarded as a regular-issue coin, it can be safely avoided even if you’re collecting a complete date-and-mintmark set of Buffalo nickels.


Jefferson Nickels, 1942-1945


While it’s not a series that’s known for having many expensive key dates, Jefferson nickels have been in existence since 1938 and include hundreds of issues. For that reason, many coin collectors choose to pursue a short set of Jefferson nickels, concentrating on owning a few issues of this large (and still growing) coins series.

By far, one of the most popular short sets of nickels is that which consists of the 11 so-called Wartime nickels – five-cent coins that were made from an alloy of 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese to conserve nickel for the war effort.

These Jefferson coins, which can be visually distinguished by the large “P,” “D,” and “S” mintmarks over the dome of Monticello on the reverse, are relatively inexpensive and can be had even in uncirculated grade for as little as $5 to $10.

Wartime Jefferson nickel short sets include the following coins:

  • 1942-P nickel
  • 1942-S nickel
  • 1943-P nickel
  • 1943-D nickel
  • 1943-S nickel
  • 1944-P nickel
  • 1944-D nickel
  • 1944-S nickel
  • 1945-P nickel
  • 1945-D nickel
  • 1945-S nickel

Note that Jefferson nickel short sets exclude varieties such as the 1943/2 nickel.


Mercury Dime Short Sets, 1941-1945


Mercury dimes were made during the years 1916 to 1945, spanning 2 world wars and the Great Depression. During the 29-year run of the Mercury dime series, several key dates were issued, including the famous 1916-D Mercury dime.

Many coin collectors want to assemble a date-and-mintmark collection of the Mercury dime series, but get financially snagged when they have to fill a few expensive holes in their Mercury albums.

That’s why many coin collectors will restrict their Mercury dime collections to only the issues that were made during World War II – 1941 through 1945.

You’ll need the following coins to complete a Mercury dime short set:

  • 1941 dime
  • 1941-D dime
  • 1941-S dime
  • 1942 dime
  • 1942-D dime
  • 1942-S dime
  • 1943 dime
  • 1943-D dime
  • 1943-S dime
  • 1944 dime
  • 1944-D dime
  • 1944-S dime
  • 1945 dime
  • 1945-D dime
  • 1945-S dime

As with the other short sets, the Mercury dime collection listed above does not include varieties such as the 1942/1 and 1945 micro S Mercury dimes.


Walking Liberty Half Dollars, 1941-1947


Lauded as one of the most beautiful silver coins ever produced, the Walking Liberty half dollar was struck from 1916 through 1947 and is one of the most popular larger denomination coins among collectors.

As with many other coin series produced during the first half of the 20th century, Walking Liberty half dollars include several expensive key dates that are financially out of the reach of many coin collectors.

Many Walking Liberty half dollar enthusiasts get around the expensive key dates by assembling short sets of Walking Liberty halves that only include the coins struck from 1941 through 1947. This collection of World War II-era Walking Liberty half dollars is ideal for coin collectors on tight budgets, as these coins can generally be bought for as little as their bullion value.

Walking Liberty half dollar short sets include the following coins:

  • 1941 half dollar
  • 1941-D half dollar
  • 1941-S half dollar
  • 1942 half dollar
  • 1942-D half dollar
  • 1942-S half dollar
  • 1943 half dollar
  • 1943-D half dollar
  • 1943-S half dollar
  • 1944 half dollar
  • 1944-D half dollar
  • 1944-S half dollar
  • 1945 half dollar
  • 1945-D half dollar
  • 1945-S half dollar
  • 1946 half dollar
  • 1946-D half dollar
  • 1946-S half dollar
  • 1947 half dollar
  • 1947-D half dollar

Sets like this one make beautiful desktop displays. If you assemble a Walking Liberty half dollar short set, you might want to invest in a deluxe plastic holder, like the ones that are made by Capital Plastics.

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