A Proof coin is typically different from other coins that are intended for circulation. Proof coins and Uncirculated coins are both popular among buyers of gold and silver, but for a few different reasons. Since Proofs offer a better presentation and are manufactured in smaller numbers, almost always going to appraise for a premium.
For example, let’s say you have two Silver American Eagle coins. Both are stamped with the same year, they have the same weight, and one troy ounce of .999 Silver. The only difference is that one is a proof coin and the other is not. Even though the silver value is no difference between the coins, the Proof is going to be worth more due to their higher collectability.
Making a Proof Coin
Proof coins are struck multiple times with especially dies. These dies are often polished, sandblasted and or treated with chemicals to alter the look of the Proof. By striking more than once under a higher pressure than standard coins, the final coin will have sharper rims, and the details of the design will be more pronounced. The blank areas, called “fields,” will also have a much smoother appearance.
Dies that are treated with chemicals, or even sandblasted, can make parts of the design have a frosted appearance, where polishing the field areas produce a like mirror finish. When the two methods are combined, finish style is called a “cameo.” When looking to purchase these types of Proofs, look for the attribute “CAM” in the coin’s description. Proofs are also individually handled after striking as opposed to standard coins which are dropped into bins for later distribution.
Proof Coin Mintages
A coin’s mintage is the total number of coins that were produced in a given year. Proof coins are usually produced in much smaller quantities than uncirculated coins. Record-keeping at the US Mints were not very well documented in the early days. Typically, the number of coins recorded was the number of coins delivered to the Treasury and not the number of coins actually minted. Historically when dies were produced, they were used until they either broke or wore out. It was not uncommon for coins to be struck in a year with a date of the previous year. This would affect the final count of coins for a given year, giving false numbers for the total coins minted in a single year.
The Mintage Effect on a Coin’s Value
The mintage of a coin is one of the more significant factors that determine the value of a coin since it is the factor that determines how rare a coin may be. Of course, there are a wide variety of different factors that determine a coin’s value. If a coin’s mintage is low, meaning that not a lot of coins were produced that year, it will be harder to find across all grades. If the mintage is high, meaning a lot of coins were made, a few additional factors may come into play.
When collectors order a bunch of coins and keep them in reserve for a while, vs. allowing the coins to circulate, the value in uncirculated grades won’t be as high since the supply of the better quality graded coins are available. Clearly, all coins won’t last forever. Some will get lost, and others will become worn out or damaged. This reduces the total number of coins available to the market for collectors.
Proof Coin Grades
Certification agencies use a grading system and assign numerical ratings for Proof coins. The highest grade possible for a proof coin is a PR70 and indicates a perfect Proof. PR69 and lower Grades are for Proofs that are not perfect. PCGS has an excellent web page discussing how they grade coins and they even show examples of the different grading levels.
The grading system for proofs is very similar to the grades used for uncirculated coins. For proofs, PR” or “PF” are used, as opposed to “MS”, for mint state coins. Uncirculated Proofs are typically graded between PR 60 to PR70, with PR70 being rare or even nonexistent in some cases. Since proof coin could receive wear by cleaning or mishandling, proof could be graded below PR 60.