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However, it’s possible to still enjoy the hobby of coin collecting while paying careful attention to how much money you’re spending.
Building a short set is a common way of rounding out a coin collection while not spending a fortune to complete an entire date-and-mintmark run of coins.
What’s a short set and what are some common coin short sets?
Let’s look at 10 popular coin collecting short sets…
Short Set #1: Lincoln Cents 1941 To 1974
The Lincoln cent is the longest-running coin design in American history.
There are also several rare and semi-key dates in the Lincoln cent series.
However, collecting Lincoln cents doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor.
In fact, one of the most common Lincoln cent short sets involve filling up a common Lincoln cent album date range: 1941 to 1974.
What do you get with the 1941 to 1974 collection? You’re going to include the 3 1943 steel cents. You’ll also have lots of examples of both the Lincoln wheat cent (1909 to 1958) and the Lincoln Memorial cent (1959 to 2008).
It’s actually possible, with lots of searching, to complete this coin collection from circulation, but you’re going to have to be patient to find all the coins. You could also buy all the necessary coins from a coin dealer for less than $15.
Short Set #2: Lincoln Cents 1959 To The Present Day
If collecting Lincoln cents is you’re thing but you want to include Lincoln cents made up to recent times, you may be interested in working on a 1959-to-present Lincoln cent coin collection.
A 1959-to-date Lincoln cent coin collection includes all the Lincoln Memorial cents as well as the 2009 Lincoln bicentennial designs and the Union shield design of 2010 to the present day.
Building such a collection from circulation is definitely possible, though a bit of searching may be in order when looking for the copper Lincoln cents made before 1982.
Short Set #3: Wartime Jefferson Nickels
The 35% silver Jefferson 5-cent coins of 1942 to 1945 make a terrific and historic short set. Wartime nickels actually have no nickel in them; that was because the U.S. government needed to save nickel for the war effort.
Wartime nickel values vary based on grade and also the prevailing price of silver. Generally, a Wartime nickel can be bought for under $2 in circulated grades, though uncirculated examples can cost $10 or more.
It’s possible to find Wartime nickels in circulation, though such findings are usually few and far between. It’s easier to simply buy Wartime nickels from a coin dealer… unless you’re up for a challenge!
Short Set #4: Mercury Dimes 1934 To 1945
Mercury dimes may appear to have some Greek inspiration, but they’re truly all American. The head on the front is not that of Mercury (as is commonly thought thanks to the winged cap) but Miss Liberty.
Some Mercury dimes, such as the 1916-D, are rare and expensive. But a short set of Mercury dimes from 1934 to 1945 offers a nice range of dates and avoids the high-priced specimens of the earlier years in the series.
A worn collection of Mercury dimes from 1934 to 1945 would cost approximately $75 to $100 to purchase.
Short Set #5: Roosevelt Dimes 1965 To Present Day
Roosevelt dimes have been made since 1946.
But because those made before 1965 contain silver, the early pieces cost dozens times ore than face value and are nearly impossible to find in circulation these days.
However, you can build a complete date-and-mintmark set of business strike Roosevelt dimes right from circulation. Such a collection represents the majority of the Roosevelt dime series.
Short Set #6: Washington Quarters 1965 To 1998
Washington quarters made from 1965 to 1998 have become a popular short set.
This collection avoids the higher-priced silver issues of 1932 through 1964 and the numerous yearly installments made since 1999, which include both the 50 States Quarters, District of Columbia & U.S Territories Quarters, and the America the Beautiful Quarters.
A collection of Washington quarters from 1965 to 1998 is easily achievable through circulation finds.
Short Set #7: Washington Quarters With 50 States Quarters Reverse
If 50 States Quarters are your game, then it’s a game you can easily play by looking through circulation for the coins you need.
Made from 1999 to 2008, each of the 50 different designs made to honor our nation’s 50 states are circulating and can be picked up for face value from pocket change. It costs just $12.50 to collect one of each State quarter from circulation.
Short Set #8: Walking Liberty Half Dollars 1941 to 1947
The Walking Liberty half dollar is often considered one of the most beautiful coins in the world. While some of the dates from the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s are expensive, a date run from 1941 to 1947 is a common and popular short set for the Walking Liberty half dollar.
Each Walking Liberty half dollar from the 1940s costs around $7 to $10 in circulated grades, so a 1941 to 1947 short set would cost around $150 to $200 to complete — far less than the at-least $2,000 or so it would cost to buy each and every date and mintmark in the entire series!
Short Set #9: Peace Dollars 1922 to 1926
The Peace dollar was struck from 1921 to 1935. While some dates are quite cheap, others are more expensive. The 1921 Peace dollar can cost $200 or more to pick up. Some of the latter dates also cost $50 to $100 or more to buy in worn grades.
However, Peace dollars made from 1922 through 1926 are plentiful and don’t cost much more than their silver value to purchase.
A date-and-mintmark set of 1922 through 1926 Peace dollars can be purchased for around $250 to $300.
Short Set #10: Silver Eisenhower Dollars 1971 to 1976
Eisenhower dollars made from 1971 through 1978 used to be easily found
at banks a couple decades ago but, in the last number of years, they have been difficult to obtain at face value through circulation or bank transactions.
While a copper-nickel clad set can be assembled for under $50, for the same money (more or less) you can put together a handsome set of the 5 different 40% silver San Francisco Eisenhower dollars made dated 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1976 (none were dated 1975).
Have your pick, either silver or proof — though the proof specimens can cost a tad more. Or, if you’d like, assemble a set of both silver and proof Eisenhower dollars. But either way you have it, a run of 40% silver Eisenhower dollars makes an attractive and affordable way to collect the last of the large-size dollar coins.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!