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Thanks for the input, everyone.

No one source told me to start at MS-60; it was more of a general concept that I put together on my own. Higher-graded coins have, historically, appreciated faster, plus I just want coins that look good. The coin in question in my original post just didn't appeal to me the more I looked at it. It seemed like every time I inspected it I found a new flaw. I guess that's part of being new and not knowing what to look for. I think I'll be better off for now buying graded coins, especially if I'm considering a purchase over the internet.

I did read in one of my books that the best guide for an investment-collection is to have the common coins in lower grades and save the home run swings for the rarer coins. I know the 1850s is a pretty tough decade for the rarer coins and I know I'm not going to get them all in 60 or better (or ever, for some), but I really don't mind building a collection one coin at a time. For me it's more than just collecting years, it's about collecting quality coins.

AW- thanks for the link. Those are some fantastic pictures. If I could take pictures like he does I'd start my own consignment business.

I made it to the Baltimore show a few hours before close on Sunday. I had dinner downtown with some coworkers Friday night and crashed at a friend's apartment literally one block from the convention center, but I was so incredibly hungover Saturday that I just couldn't make the walk. Even so, there were about 50 dealers left with everything under the sun and after browsing what everyone had and talking to a few dealers, I found a beautiful 1856 large cent, ungraded, listed for $160. I inspected it for a good 10 minutes, checking my reference book multiple times, deciding it was clearly better than AU-58, probably somewhere in the 60-62 range and possibly higher if not for the weak strike at the very top hairline. I haggled the price down a little and walked away feeling like a winner.
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