That's largely because of the fact that the TPGs and more specifically the internet has shown how available many of those dates are.
I definitely agree with you on this point. The internet has shown how available things are and I do think it the primary force for having let people see what was once thought rare is not necessarily rare.
However, availability was not necessarily part of the mindset I mention. We all knew if you wanted a coin, it could be had by going through the may adverts in the coin magazines. They were all available - just not as quickly and easily as today for sure.
As an example, in the coin shop I used to work at as a teen, we had (for example) a tray of Mercury dimes
by date. Each slot in the tray had a small stack by date and MM of the same coin for most years. As the RedBook
(and we knew it was overpriced - everyone did) showed, some were fewer in number than the others, so prices could vary - but not necessarily by much. It was always more special to have an S-mint coin b/c they were rightly perceived (for most dates) as not being as common as others. Available...sure, but not as common since not as many were made.
Recently I got to review an older collection from a friend's father (Easy coast all his life) who was looking to sell. The mindset I speak of seemed to be reflected in what he had put away. The War Nickel
extras, Walkers, Franklins, Roosevelts, Lincolns, etc, were primarily S mint marks. When the silver rush of the 80s came, he likely sold some silver, but the hobby just "knew" to save S MMs b/c there were never as many of them as everything else.
And although theses older S MMs are more readily available than ever before b.c of the internet, these little pieces of history will always be lesser in number. I hate seeing them equated with the much more numerable (let's say) Philly coins of the same year. It seems to erase the fact that when all of these were in circulation, it was so much more difficult to find those elusive little gems from San Francisco. It was so much more exciting to turn a coin over and actually find an S!
I also remember this as being one of the lures which interested my friends and I into enjoying the hunt for coins.
I think had slabs, which naturally showcase coins, make them look nice, and draw attention to themselves, had never existed, that the excitement over each coin would still have been retained. Again, you see it in the eyes/posts of people who find that oddball Mercury dime
in change nowadays... before they become aware of the market as it exists nowadays.
But... time moves on and sometimes is unintentionally cruel to smaller facts of history.
but the truth is that before the internet and TPGs MANY of those things were over hyped as being rare by dealers when they aren't at all.
I personally do not recall this. Of course I remember looking in a magazine and seeing Littleton adverts which did this very thing, but again, we knew it. As said, we also knew the RedBook
was too high in prices. Now we did have one "bad" dealer in the area I lived. We all knew this guy (sideline of coins in an antique store anyway) and also and kept away from him! Another we knew to be pricey when selling and cheap when buying. So again, his shop was avoided. There was enough info about markets through magazines to keep up on things - or at least where I was. I don't have purchases I regret from those days. But it could have been different in other areas I suppose.
The internet has also opened peoples eyes to everything that is out there and not left people at the mercy of their local shop which has lead to the rising popularity of type collecting or buying what you want instead of doing full sets.
Also an unforeseen result, and definitely a positive one as it has opened up new collecting schemes. Although I had not officially started one, I had always been intrigued with what I now know to call a type set. Its much more doable b/c of the Internet's making many choices for the same coin visible on my screen rather than just a line of print in a magazine!