Proof sets were made by the US Mint specially for coin collectors to have coins in uncirculated, perfect condition. Proof coins are minted at the San Francisco mint, have a deeper strike, a mirror-like surface, and go through a more intensive quality control.
I have purchased many proof sets online, here is my guide to help you make the best purchases and get the best deals on proof sets.
Do Your Research
Proof sets made before 1999 are almost always a lot cheaper than sets made from 1999 to now. This is because 1999 was the start of the US State Quarters program.
Mint sets made from 1999 to now come with 4 more quarters than proof sets made in the decades before. Having more coins, and the desirability of the proof state quarters drove up the price of proof sets.
Building on that, proof sets minted from 2007-2016 have 4 or 5 dollar coins instead of 1. This raised the price on proof sets minted from 2007 to 2016.
Things that will increase the value of a proof set:
- Silver Proof Sets
- These sets include 90% silver quarters, dimes, and half dollars. They usually come in a sleek black box.
- All quarters, dimes, and half dollars minted before 1965 are 90% silver.
- Years With More Coins
- 1999-Present: More quarters
- 2009: Contains 4 Pennies, 5 dollar coins, and 6 quarters
- 2007-2016: Presidential dollar coins
- Reverse Proof Sets
- A regular proof set has a mirror-like finish on the
- Included COA
- COA is the Certificate of Authenticity. Helps verify the coins are genuine.
- This is not super necessary to have, as proof coins are not often faked, but some collectors like to have it.
- Even though proof sets go through a quality control, they can still have errors. Proof set errors are usually more valuable than regular errors.
- Look out for proof coins missing the “S” mint mark.
- The 1952S Superbird Quarter is one of the more famous proof errors.
Check Bulk Lots To Get Good Deals
For proof sets, eBay is one of my favorite ways to buy. You can get great deals on bulk proof sets on eBay. What is helpful about this is they are normally sold in sequential years.
For proof sets minted in 1998 or earlier I try to spend about $5-$10 each, although I have seen some sold for cheaper!
The 1964 proof set is more expensive because the dime, quarter, and half dollar included are 90% silver. The 1964 proof set currently goes for about $20-$30 online.
Check For Damage
Things to look out for:
- Cracks in the case.
- Toning on the coins.
- Misaligned coins.
Cracks in the case are bad because they ruin the look of the case, and can lead to the coins toning. Some people like it when coins tone, but not all coin collectors do.
A coin can develop toning in a proof set that is not cracked, but it is good to check for signs of toning because it may mean there is a crack letting air into the case.
Misaligned coins just don’t look as good when the set is being displayed. Not a huge deal, but can affect the value as it cannot be fixed without opening the set case.
Set A Budget And Stick To It.
I give this advice a lot because it is so important! Especially if you get caught up in the world of online coin auctions it can get very easy to slowly overspend your budget. Pick a number you are willing to spend on each proof set and stick with it.
Should you buy proof sets directly from the mint?
I received the advice to not buy proof sets directly from the mint. In general, I think this is good advice. Sets sold directly on the mint website are usually very expensive, as there is more excitement to get a mint set the year it is released.
Especially if you are not worried about having the original government packaging or the Certificate of Authenticity, you can get great deals on proof sets online!
That being said, make sure to check mintage numbers. Some specialty proof sets are released with smaller mintage numbers. These sets potentially gain value over their initial price. Reverse Proof American Silver Eagles are great examples of coins that sell out fast!
I personally love reverse proof sets and the innovation series dollar coins. I would pay a premium to have these sets as soon as possible. So it really depends on your budget and how YOU value each item!
Proof Set Colors
If you have bought older proof sets, you have probably noticed the colors of the packaging and background change through the years. Here is a breakdown of the colors used for proof sets and their packaging from 1967-1998:
- 1967-1967: Dark blue box, dark blue background
- 1968-1972: Blue sleeve, black background
- 1973-1982: Black sleeve, red background (with display!)
- 1983: Blue sleeve, dark blue background
- 1984-1993: Purple sleeve and background
- 1994-1998: Green sleeve and background
Great For Displaying: Proof Sets From 1973-1982
The US Mint had great packaging from 1973-1982 where the proof sets came in jet black sleeves and were in a display stand. It made proof sets very easy to show-off!
I’m giving these proof sets a special shout-out on this article because I think this was a really innovative idea from the US Mint. I would love to see more products with built in display capabilities.
American Silver Eagle Proof Coins
Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!
The American Silver Eagle has been America’s favorite design for decades. Combined with the smooth proof finish, these coins really pop.
Share your favorite proof set in the comments below!
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