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Noob Question: Proofs

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From about mid-1850s until about the mid-1960s, a US Mint proof coin was:

1. Only made at the Philadelphia Mint.

2. Only struck on a high-pressure medal press with one blow.

3. Usually had dies and planchets polished to a mirror-like finish.

4. Usually had detail far superior to circulation strike coins made on a standard toggle press.

5. Sold to coin collectors at a small premium over face value.


Proof Lincoln cents and Buffalo nickels prior to 1936 were made with a matte surface by sandblasting the dies before hardening. Proof Saint-Gaudens and Pratt gold from 1908-1915 were made on a medal press and then sandblasted - except for 1909-1910 which were not sandblasted - these are called "satin" proof.


After mid-1960s the Mint began striking proofs at San Francisco, and the term "proof" became more closely associated with mirror-like or very shiny coins. The methods of manufacture also changed to multi-strike presses and eventually the shiny coins with snake-skin frosting usually produced today.

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Thank you! That makes a lot of sense. We were always at the mint in Philadelphia when I was a kid and dad bought a lot there. So this makes a lot of sense. Thanks for clearing it up!

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