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Type Collecting vs. Complete Sets

Tom Becker

I’ve never cared much for building complete sets of coins. For me, the project is too predictable. What I like least is the necessity to often buy many common coins only for the sake of completing the set. I can’t seem to get enthused about spending money on a bunch of “hole fillers”

Collecting coins by type offers considerable flexibility and allows for plenty of customization. Collecting coins by type obviously offers greater diversity than building a set containing one coin for every date the type was produced.

Collecting coins by type eliminates many of the coins the complete set collector requires. Because the type collector needs only one example in their set they usually have the option to obtain a coin of better quality. This seems especially important to modern collectors who generally think the highest grade coins are the most desirable to own. Collecting by type offers a viable alternative for the collector who wishes to explore certain areas but would find assembling a complete set of these coins to be cost prohibitive.

Those who haven’t thoroughly explored type collecting might assume the practice involves little more than acquiring a common item to represent a certain type. When this is done a type set seldom inspires the collector who appreciates scarce and rare coins. It’s much like the date collector who fills holes that mean nothing. A practical approach is to combine type collecting with other interests. For example, if I were building a type set of Canadian cents I would absolutely include the 1907-H to represent the type of coin issued during the reign of Edward VII. This would add considerable “spice” to my type set. Because I happen to like the variety, the 1973 Large Bust 25 cents would somehow find its way into my type set. My interest in mint errors would be represented by including a Victoria five cent piece illustrating coins struck from heavily cracked dies.

Collecting Canadian coins by type can also be satisfying to the collector who appreciates completeness. As in the case of the Three Cent piece minted in 2001, a “complete” type set can consist of a single coin or the ambitious collector may strive to include examples of every type and sub type of coin issued from Colonial times to 2006. Unlike the date collector who sees the need to fill spaces the type collector enjoys considerably greater freedom and finds that every coin added to the collection is there for an important reason.

Collecting by type is a good way for the new collector to become acquainted with a great number of different types of coins without making a hasty commitment. It could well be that after even a few months of sampling a person may decide to acquire cents or dollars and nothing else. Previous exposure to type collecting may provide the assurance that the collector is making the right choice.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by or visit Tom's website @


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