Modern Proof Sets - Appraising Your Coin Collection

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Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

For the 20th century, proof sets were made up through 1916 in very limited numbers. Production of proof coins were ceased until it was started again in 1936. Between 1936 and 1942, proof coins were sold individually in limited numbers. With World War II, proof coin production was again ceased until 1950. Proof coins before 1950 generally have a higher value primarily based upon their rarity. For example, between 1936 and 1940, the lowest mintage was just under 4,000 for 1936 and the highest was 1942 with just over 21,000.

Starting in 1950, proof sets were again sold by the Mint. Mintage for 1950 was only 51,386 sets in increased rapidly to 1961, when 3,028,244 sets were minted. Since then, the Mint has averaged between 2 and 4 million sets per year, except of course between 1965 and 1967 when only special mint sets were struck. Working dies for proof coins are normally only used to strike about 3,000 coins. If 3 million coins are struck, and each working die is used to strike an average of 3,000 coins. Then approximately 1,000 working dies would be required to strike these coins. Therefore, if one working die for a given year has a dramatic doubled die, statistically, you would need to look at 1,000 coins to find one example.

But sometimes, when it rains, it pours. One dealer purchased a box of 20 1971-S proof sets from a collector that was still in the Mint sealed box. He found 10 sets that contained the dramatic 1971-S Lincoln cent with a dramatic doubled die that was worth approximately $1,500 per coin.

The majority of proof coins struck since 1950 do not contain anything that would command a premium over their normal price as a proof set. Many proof sets struck between 1970 and 1990 have a value that is less than the amount that was originally paid for them. During this period, many collectors would purchase several sets for each year. Today, there is an over abundance of 1970 through 1990 proof sets and little demand.

There are also modern commemorative sets that were struck starting in 1982, mostly to raise funds for different organizations and special events. Many of these were struck in silver and gold, some in proof, and some with circulated strikes. The majority of these are simply worth their value in bullion melt.

Of course, for sets that contain silver coins, they will increase or decrease in value based upon the value of these metals. With gold at approximately $1,300 an ounce, sets with gold coins have normally increased in value.

There are several key types of varieties to search for on proofs. The first is early proof coins with deep mirrors and cameo frostings. If you look at proofs struck after 1980, you will notice the fields usually have a deep mirrored, and the devices normally have a frosted surface. The process for creating working dies was vastly improved in the early 1970s, before this time, the frosted surface wore off when it was used in the coining press. Only the first few coins would retain this surface. Check proof coins from 1964 and before for cameo devices, the earlier cameo proofs are rarer and more valuable. On the larger proofs such as the Franklin half dollars, these can be breath taking. 19th century proofs can also be found with deep mirrored fields and cameo surfaces, but these will not normally be found in the average collection. Below on the left is a 1950 Franklin half dollar proof. On the right is a deep cameo Franklin half dollar proof.

Proof Sets

There are several key die varieties that need to be searched for. The first and most important is the No S proof sets. Starting in 1968, the San Francisco Mint was used to exclusively strike proof coins. An ā€˜Sā€™ mint mark was added to identify that the coins were struck in the San Francisco Mint. Up through the mid-1990s, all working dies were hubbed at the Philadelphia Mint. The dies were hubbed and the mint mark added as the last stage in the dies production. Several working dies between 1968 and 1990 were sent to the San Francisco Mint and used to strike proof coinage without the S mint mark. These coins are worth an extreme premium and absolutely must be checked for. They include: 1968 No S dime, 1970 No S dime, 1971 No S nickel, 1975 No S dime, 1983 No S dime, and 1990 No S cent.

Some of these are extremely rare, for example, on the 1975 No S proof dime, there are only two known and are worth over $300,000. The 1968 No S proof dime is the second rarest and is worth about $20,000 in higher grades. Even the more common 1983 No S proof dime can be worth over a $1,000 in higher grades. This makes these varieties an absolute to check for. During this time frame, the S mint mark on the cent and dime is right below the date. On the nickel, the S mint mark is between the date and bottom right of Jefferson. Below on the left is the 1990 No S Lincoln cent proof. On the right is the 1983 No S Roosevelt dime proof.

Proof Sets

There are literally hundreds of doubled dies known on proof coins from 1950 onward. The level you search for these treasure is primarily dependent on the time you have to spend with them. At the very least, you should search through proof sets for those years with the most dramatic doubled dies. This includes 1960, 1961, 1970, and 1971. For example, there is a 1961 Franklin half dollar proof that has a very dramatic doubling and worth a very nice premium. A list of the better proof doubled dies are listed in the second half of the book. The earlier the proof set, normally the higher the value. There are also modern proof sets that are worth a lot of money simply based on their low mintage or high demand. For example, the 1999-S silver 10-piece proof set can be worth several hundred dollars. You can use references such as the Red Book to get a general idea of the value, but there are other sources that provide an up to date value such as the gray sheet, which is used by most coin dealers.

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Copyright 2015 by Kevin Flynn, All Rights Reserved

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