Charles Louie wrote (in response to Richard Meaney's post of an 1836 LM-1.1 Half Dime):
The coin is absolutely beautiful...
1. Look for just the rare ones. Learning the common ones will take time and effort away from the rarities. Strong R5 or better is my advice.
2. Use the key pickup points in Glenn Peterson's "Ultimate Guide..." as a quick reference.
3. Check ebay often and be quick about decisions on "Buy it Now" items. Sometimes someone will put up a coin for a hundred dollars and it will be gone within fifteen minutes because of a Buy It Now listing.
Interpretation of tiny pictures takes a lot of practice and a little luck. I try not to waste my time attributing everything...if it is not a rare one, I just move on without ever attributing most coins.