November 14th, 2012

Proof sets prove to stand test of time

By MintState

With the eve of winter upon us, it was time to do some pre-hibernation cleaning around our house and put everything in its right place before the snow flies. During this pre-Thanksgiving tradition, I took time to sort through my coin collection and stumbled upon some old proof sets that have gathered dust over the years. As I was sifting through these old relics – one dating back to 1964, the others coming from the 1980s to early 1990s – they reminded me of what how easy proof sets make it to introduce coin collecting to newcomers.

For example, sets produced from 1950 to 1972 included the quartet of the one-cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar pieces, whereas those circulated from 1971 to 1983 (as well as those minted in 2000 or later) also include that year’s dollar coin, providing all the main coins from each year in one shot. Other sets have served as a means to secure special coins minted in short runs, including the Lewis and Clark Westward Journey nickels included with 2004-05 sets, or the 2007 collections that included four Presidential Dollars to mark the introduction of that series. In addition, other special sets have focused on historically significant milestones, such as the 1976 edition that included three silver-clad pieces, which also carried the reverse depictions to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial celebration. Along that vein, another special proof series came out in 2009 when the U.S. Mint included a whopping 18 coins – the largest proof set ever issued – as part of the celebration marking the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth, with sets including pennies that featured all four different reverse designs in honor of his life.

Not only do proof sets provide new collectors with each general coin minted in that particular year, they also ensure that you receive a top-quality coin in the process. The “proofing” process is much different than what business-strike coins minted for everyday consumption experience. Based on that process, proof coins generally have sharper rims and features, as well as smoother and more polished surfaces on the coin. Also, since the coin’s dies are treated with special chemicals, the coins often have a frosty appearance, contributing to the shiny surface referred to as cameo and deep cameo. Add that to the fact that proof coins are also generally struck twice to ensure their sharp designs and the coins generally have a special look to them that sets them apart!

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