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There are many excellent reasons why someone may want to collect coins. For starters, they tell unique stories. A coin's design, mint mark,condition, and composition can offer a glimpse into history and a better understanding of the past. Some people collect coins in the hope that they will appreciate in value. Others simply enjoy them for their historic or cultural significance. There are millions of coin collectors in the United States alone. A great way to either start collecting or add to a coin collection is to purchase US Mint proof coin sets. They provide a simple and affordable way to collect a copy of each coin issued by the US Mint for the year in high-quality proof condition.
US Mint Proof Coin Sets 101
Proof sets are small collections of coins, packaged by the Mint, which include specially produced versions of coins struck in a given year. A proof set is typically one of each denomination for a particular year. There would be one penny, one nickel, one dime, one quarter and one half-dollar of a specific year in one set. Proof coins are never sold individually; they are always sold in US mint proof sets. Before they are sold to the public, these coins are placed into a hard plastic case that can safely house them for years.
US Mint proof sets contain coins dated with the appropriate year bearing the mint mark of the particular US Mint at which the coin collecting proof sets were produced. There are also special proof sets, such as the presidential dollar series or the silver state quarter series.
Proof Coin Sets vs. Uncirculated Coins
An uncirculated coin is one that has not been put into circulation for use as currency. It is still legal currency, but is not intended to be used as such, in order to protect it from the wear it would experience when used every day. Handling a coin, as well as improperly storing a coin, can result in wear on the surface. This wear, even if very minor, will affect the coin’s grading, which determines its value.
A newly minted proof coin is uncirculated; however, it is the way it is made that causes a difference in appearance and qualifies it as a proof. Coins are produced when two dies strike a blank piece of metal with tremendous force. A proof coin is made with a specially polished and treated die, and each coin is struck two or more times by the coin die, creating magnificent detail that doesn’t appear on non-proof coins. Most modern proof coins exhibit cameo features, which means the raised elements of the design appear frosted, while the background is mirror-like. For early proof coins, this type of finish is less common, making cameo and deep cameo examples highly desirable.
The History of US Mint Proof Coin Sets
The concept of proof coins goes back centuries. Early on, specialized care, extra time, polished dies, and other processes were used in a basic quality assurance program when new coins were to be created. The prototype coins created were examined for problems so any needed changes could be made prior to mass minting. The first batch of these minted coins were usually kept, almost like souvenirs. These coins stood out in quality compared to any other coin minted. They were unique, so some were kept by employees, while others were given to special visitors, politicians, and other wealthy or influential people. It’s not surprising that eventually the popularity of these coins spread and the demand for them increased. Eventually, the mint started to make proof coins for the intent of appeasing collectors. Organization, structure and uniformed manufacturing processes resulted and proof coins came into being.
What to Consider When Buying
Grading proofs is similar to grading uncirculated coins. The attribute "PR" or "PF" stands for "proof," and is used to indicate a proof coin. Proofs will usually be graded PR 60 to PR70. Coin grades are designated by a combination of letters and numbers. The letter of a grade is the major category, then numbers are used to indicate finer distinctions. In this case. "PR" the major-category designation for "Proof." Numeric grades for Proof Sets range from 60 to 70. Sixty is the lowest possible numeric designation and indicates a coin that may be weakly struck or have minor scratch marks from being moved and bagged in bulk, but it's still a very high grade compared to a coin that has been in circulation. At the other end, PR70 coins are essentially "perfect," with no apparent defects. Very few coins ever rate an PR70.
Since US Mint proof coin sets take extra time, effort, labor, and production costs to make, they are sold at higher prices than non-proof, uncirculated coins. In many instances, the production of proof coins is limited, which further increases the proof sets’ worth. US Mint proof set prices are set by
the US Treasury Department at the time of issue. In the case of Mint Silver Proof Sets, which contain coins that are 90 percent silver, the value may vary in relation to the current market price of silver bullion. As such, US Mint coins are worth money and some collectors view them as an investment to protect against a depreciating dollar or as a hedge against inflation.
Often US Mint proof and uncirculated coins will have a mint mark on the coin, indicating which US Mint produced it. Sometimes, governments will make proof coins at a different mint than the regular, or circulation strike, coins. The US government has minted coins at these mints in the past: Philadelphia (P), San Francisco (S), West Point (W), Denver (D), and New Orleans (O). Old gold coins were minted at Dahlonega, GA (also D), and Charlotte NC (C). Carson City (CC) was used to mint old silver coins. All proof coins minted since 1968 have been struck at the San Francisco Mint and feature the coveted S mint mark. The San Francisco Mint is renowned for the quality of its coins.
Proof sets can go up or down in value, depending on a number of variables, including supply and demand. Variables include the grading of the coins, the year the coin was manufactured and the mint mark on the coin. For example, fewer than 4,000 copies of the 1936 proof set were produced and these sets can be sold for over $7000. Be sure to research the coins before buying to ensure a fair price. One resource to utilize and find pricing is the Professional Coin Grading Service (PGCS). Another resource is the United States Coins Red Book .
Caring for US Mint Proof Coin Sets
Caring for modern-day proof sets are relatively easy, as they come sealed in hard plastic and placed in a box. For convenience, there are storage boxes that hold multiple proof sets safely. There are even specially made storage boxes, such as the Intercept Shield box. that prevents corrosive gases from coming into contact with the coins and discoloring them. US Mint proof coin sets should be stored away from heat and moisture. Remember, never remove the coins from their sealed boxes as they will lose value.
Know Where to Find US Mint Proof Coin Sets on eBay
Once you decide which year and style of mint proof set to shop for, simply enter a description of what you’re looking for into the search bar on eBay’s homepage. eBay will then display all the listings for that year or style of proof set. For example, if a 1976 proof set is desired, type in "1976 proof set " in the search box found in the upper left corner. This will generate a list of all relevant items.
If you can't find the exact mint proof set you want in your initial search, shopping in eBay Stores might be the solution. Alternatively, tell the eBay community what mint proof set you want by creating a post in Want It Now. You can also save a search in My eBay, which will trigger eBay to email you when a match becomes available.
Once you find a the proof set, be sure to review the entire item description and examine available photos. If you need more information, click on the "Ask a Question" link under the seller’s profile or on the item listing to contact the seller.
Before completing a purchase, check the seller’s feedback rating. How many transactions has he or she completed? What do buyers say in their feedback? Does the seller have positive feedback? Does the seller offer a money-back guarantee or other return policy? What are the terms and conditions?
In addition, remember to figure delivery costs into the final price. If the mint proof set is expensive, make sure the seller will insure it when it ships. Always make sure to complete the transaction on eBay; transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by the eBay Buyer Protection policy. Never pay for an eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone unknown.
Become familiar with how eBay and PayPal work together to protect buyers and sellers. Although rare, if an item fails to arrive or is different than described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover the purchase price plus original shipping.
Investing in US Mint proof coin sets can provide security for the future, or simply serve as an enjoyable pastime. When shopping, ensure that the price for the item is fair. If buying online, carefully read the details in item listings and look closely at the photographs. With a little research and eBay’s secure buying options, collectors should have no trouble finding the proof set they need or want. A complete collection is just a few short clicks away.