What’s a proof coin?
A newly minted proof coin is also Un-circulated, however it is the way it is made that causes a difference in appearance and qualifies it as a “proof”. To understand this, let’s look at how coins are made. Coins are produced when two dies strike a blank piece of metal with tremendous force. One die is engraved with the front (obverse) design for the coin. The other die has the back (reverse) coin design on it.
A proof coin is made with a specially polished and treated die!
By treating the die in a special way, the coins it produces have a different appearance. Modern technology allows the high points on the coin design to be acid treated (on the die). The background (field) design of the coin die is polished, resulting in a mirror-like look on the coin it strikes. This gives the finished coin a frosted look (frosting) on the raise parts of the design, with a mirror like finish on the background. This contrasting finish is often called “cameo”. On some older coins a cameo appearance is quite rare. The attribute “CAM”, when added to a coin’s description, means cameo appearance. “DCAM” means deep cameo, and indicates the cameo appearance is strong and easy to observe.
Proof coins are struck twice, or more!
Not only are proofs made using specially treated dies, each coin is struck two or more times by the coin die. By striking it more than once the metal is forced into all the crevices of the die, thereby giving a very fine detail to the image on the coin. This fine detail does not appear on some non-proof coins.
Today’s grading of proofs is similar to the grades used for uncirculated coins. The attribute “PR” or “PF” stands for “proof”, and is used instead of the MS (mint state) to indicate a proof coin. Proofs (that are also un-circulated) will be graded PR 60 to PR70, with PR70 being rare or non-existent in some cases. Because a proof coin can be mishandled or receive wear by cleaning or handling, proof grades can extend below PR 60. Example, a PR50 grade proof coin, is one that has had a touch of wear on the high points of the coin. Like uncirculated coins, proofs can experience toning, tarnish or darkening.
Rarity and the Cost of Proofs
Because of the extra effort, time, labour and production costs in making a proof coin, the respective government mints often sell them at higher prices. In many instances the production of proof coins is limited. The end result is that usually, but not always, a proof coin of the same date will be more expensive than a non-proof uncirculated.
For most United States & UK gold and silver coins, the proofs have the same amount of precious metal in them as non-proof uncirculated coins.
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