What’s the Difference Between U.S. Proof and U.S. Mint Sets?

Proof mint set differences

Today’s collectors love U.S. proof and mint sets as they combine all the year’s circulation coins, specially minted and housed all in one contained package. But not everyone is clear on the differences between the two sets, which are both official products of the U.S. Mint.

U.S. Proof Sets:

These popular sets contain one exquisite proof specimen of each denominations for the date, cent through dollar. Historically these sets included 5 or 6 coins, but more recently, with commemorative quarters and dollars, they have been comprised of 14 to 18 coins. Since 1968 the proof specimens have been packaged in hard plastic cases, with current sets featuring a number of separate cases.

Proofs are the finest-quality coins produced by the U.S. Mint. They’re painstakingly created from highly polished, immaculately clean dies, which are again carefully cleaned and polished after as few as 15 strikes and soon replaced before the slightest imperfection can appear.

Proof coin blanks are also individually polished to attain a stunning mirror-like finish. Each is then hand-fed into the minting press and struck at least two times to produce far more relief and sharpness than regular circulation coins. Today’s U.S. proof dies have been treated with special chemicals to give engravings an elegant frosted effect, which contrasts beautifully with the blazing mirror look of backgrounds.

From 1983 to 1997 the mint also issued lower-mintage Prestige proof sets that included commemorative proofs for the date, in addition to regular coins. The U.S. Mint added silver sets in 1992, reviving the tradition of 90% silver coins that had ended decades before.

U.S. Mint Sets:

Another option for collectors are the much larger U.S. mint sets. Twice the size of proof sets, they contain perfect Brilliant Uncirculated specimens of every circulation issue for the year (each coin denomination struck by the “P” Philadelphia Mint, “D” Denver Mint and sometimes “S” San Francisco Mint).

Until 1999, U.S mint sets contained between 10 and 13 coins. But the addition of Statehood quarters and other special circulation issues has expanded the recent sets to 18-28 coins each. The coins are generally specially minted with improved strike and finish qualities in comparison with regular business-strike issues. And since 2005, U.S. mint set coins have boasted a special satin finish rather than the former BU look.

In the past the coins were protectively contained in see-through plastic packs, with the issuing mint’s medal included. The 2007 set introduced impressive new protective U.S. Mint packaging that allows edge lettering to be viewed. The blue and red folders show both sides of each coin and protect them from damage.

Where to Go From Here:

Most collectors buy their sets yearly and to keep their collections current (the aftermarket for these sets can be volatile). Some past sets can be very affordable, while others are tough to find. Building a complete collection of U.S. proof and/or mint sets is a wonderful challenge!

Happy coin hunting!

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The Perfect Christmas Tree


As we approach another holiday season, I can’t help but take a stroll down memory lane to a time when the holidays were simpler and seemed to be far more meaningful.

As our own marketing team here at ICC does their very best to increase our revenue during this busy time, I reminisce about past Christmas seasons and how we may have lost sight of the simple pleasures of this wonderful time of year.

In my youth we did not go to the mall to buy our Christmas tree. My brother and I took a walk in the woods of our rural Vermont town and found what we estimated to be the perfect tree. We would cut it down and drag it home as proud as could be. I’m certain the trees of my childhood would pale in comparison to the perfectly groomed specimens that we expect today, however the pride we felt in our accomplishment far outweighs the perfection of the Christmas tree that sits in my own living room today.

As we all scour the world of Amazon, Walmart and all of the other massive retailers searching for that perfect gift, we need to all take a moment and think about a time when often the gift was time spent with loved ones without cell phones and social media clouding up this joyous season.

However you may celebrate I hope you will take a moment to reminisce of days gone by, spend a little extra time with family and enjoy this special time of year.

From all of us here at ICC, thank you for your past business, for helping us preserve the history and memories of the past. May this holiday season be very special to all of you.

Rick Thurston
President, ICC Inc.

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The Advantages of Silver Bullion Coins from Around the World


Everyone loves silver! That makes the many silver bullion coins from around the world popular with collectors and investors alike. (see our “Coin Collecting: Investment or Hobby? blog) These coins have advantages over silver rounds or bars in that they are official legal tender and universally recognized. The weight, content and purity of each issue is government authorized and guaranteed.

There are many wonderful world bullion coins to choose from as well. Here’s a nice selection of some of our favorite 1-oz. investment grade silver coins from around the globe.

U.S. Silver Eagle Dollar: This largest silver dollar in U.S. history, originally issued in 1986, contains a full troy ounce of .999 fine silver. Its magnificent “Walking Liberty” design first appeared on the 1916 U.S. half dollar during World War I — regarded as the finest U.S. silver engraving, it’s much larger in this silver dollar form. The Presidential Seal reverse is a distinctive version of a design that’s appeared in various forms on U.S. coins since the beginning of the 19th century.

Canada Maple Leaf: Struck by the award-winning Royal Canadian Mint, this is one of the world’s most popular silver coins. In the past few years, two anti-counterfeit features have been incorporated. Small radial lines create a pattern across the coin and a leaf shape micro security mark has been added. The distinctive minting includes a unique proof-like reverse as well as raised engravings, mirror effects and a satin-finish background. Minted in purest 99.99% fine silver, each contains precisely 1-oz. of pure silver.

China Panda: The long-standing Panda coin series is a favorite for collectors and investors alike. Different from other 1-oz. silver series around the world, these coins feature a fresh engraving of the amazingly cute panda bear each year. The two-tone frosted and mirror finish gives a spectacular proof-like appearance to the Brilliant Uncirculated silver dollar. Beijing’s historic Temple of Heavenly Peace appears on the obverse. Starting in 2016, these .999 fine silver bullion coins have been produced with 30 grams of silver.

Australia Koala and Kookaburra: Australia’s renowned Perth Mint produces two highly collectible silver series that highlight Australia’s unique wildlife. The Koala and the Kookaburra are iconic creatures from “Down Under” and both 1-0z. silver coins feature a unique design each year. Everyone loves impressive issues which feature Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. Each Brilliant Uncirculated one dollar coin contains a full troy ounce of .999 pure silver and is a sovereign coin backed by the Australian government.

Mexico Libertad: The Mexican silver dollar tradition is the oldest in the Americas and this 1-oz. .999 silver BU evokes its heroic past. Shown is a graceful Libertad  or “Winged Liberty” celebrating Mexico’s independence and the age-old “O over M” mintmark of the Mexico City Mint, which has the longest continuing history on the continent. The obverse depicts the famous Mexican Eagle in 11 different forms from historic coins. The eagle is symbolic as an Aztec legend claims that Mexico City, the capitol, was founded where an eagle killed a snake on a cactus.

Great Britain Britannia: Since 1997, the 1-oz. silver Britannia issues have been very popular with collectors. Starting in 2013, they have been produced with .999 pure silver. These big, impressive coins have a face value of 2 pounds and feature the beautiful Britannia, a female personification of the island and the ancient term for the nation. She is shown holding a trident and shield, ready for battle in a classic toga and a war helmet. Around the edges of the sizeable coin are the weight, purity, country of origin and mintage year. Queen Elizabeth II graces the obverse.

Where to Go From Here:

If collecting bullion coins is in your future you’ll want to consider the options above. Many collectors like the great variety available and choose to own some of each type.

Happy coin hunting!

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Giving the Gift of Coins


As Thanksgiving approaches my thoughts turn toward holiday shopping. Gift giving is a careful balance between pleasing the receiver and finding pleasure in sharing the gift. Choosing the right item can be challenging. We all like to give presents that say something about ourselves and our values. (My teen might want the latest video game but if I cherish family time I might choose tickets to a special event.)

Coin collectors value the past and our connection to it. Owning a collectible coin allows you to actually hold history in your hands and each coin carries a fascinating story. Giving the gift of a coin is a great way to share your passion and introduce your loved ones to numismatics.  Continue reading

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Why Do Collectible Coins Cost So Much?


International Coins & Currency has been in business for over 40 years. In that time, prices have risen drastically and not just because of general inflation. There are many varied reasons for this change and many of these explanations will continue to affect the industry in the future.

Silver and Gold:

Precious metal markets are a huge influence on the cost of collectible coins. Many historic issues have intrinsic silver and gold value that is tied to those markets. As with numerous other consumer purchases, coin prices go up easier than they come down. Each time there is a spike in the precious metals market the cost of collectible coins rises more than it falls when things stabilize.

Fewer Remain Each Year:

The availability of collectible coins is also always in decline. No more historic coins will ever be produced, the number of pieces minted in the past is never going to rise. And the total number of historic coins that exist decreases every year due to melts and attrition.

And due to the law of supply and demand, the fewer coins remaining, the higher the value of those that have survived.

Everyone Loves Coins:

Rising population and worldwide interest have also greatly expanded the coin market. There are many more collectors today to compete for the dwindling number of historic coins available in the marketplace.

The internet has had a drastic influence on this transformation. Information and coin knowledge are much more widely available now than at any time in the past.

Investment Diversity:

Another pressure on the numismatic market is the fact that financial planners often suggest having a wide diversity of investments. Collectible coins are often considered as a way to balance out a portfolio of stock offerings, which adds to their popularity.

Where to Go From Here:

Although it is difficult to see prices rise in the numismatic marketplace, the demands on the industry make the changes understandable. As we collectors adjust to higher prices, we need to be sure to appreciate the fact that coins in our collections have probably risen in value due to the same conditions.

Happy coin hunting.

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Which Morgan Silver Dollar Would Win the Beauty Contest?


Morgan’s Beauty:

Collectors love Morgan silver dollars! It remains undoubtedly the most famous and collected classic silver dollar worldwide. When you hold one of these impressive big coins in pristine Brilliant Uncirculated condition, you’ll appreciate the striking beauty of this minting legend.

From years of examining every Morgan dollar date and mint, most seasoned experts invariably narrow the field to the 1880-S, 1881-S and 1882-S issues, produced by the then-new San Francisco Mint. That’s quite a distinction, because there were 95 different Morgan silver dollar issues, including all dates and mints!

The Exceptional S-Mint:

At the time, the San Francisco Mint was the newest U.S. minting facility and perhaps the most advanced in the world. The facility used its cutting-edge technology to produce exceptionally well-made silver dollars using material from such fabled Old West sites as the Comstock Lode and Tombstone. In those years, only Morgan silver dollars were minted in San Francisco, so the greatest care could be lavished on these masterpieces of the Wild West.

The proud “S” mintmark reached its height of excellence with the early 1880s Morgan productions. Special care was lavished on the manufacture of these coins, with precise die spacing assuring that all details were struck exceptionally well. The unusually crisp engravings of George T. Morgan’s Liberty personification obverse and American Eagle reverse are highlighted in every minute detail with brilliant luster.

Where to Go From Here:

Until you’ve held a Brilliant Uncirculated 1880-S, 1881-S or 1882-S Morgan in your hand, you haven’t seen this great American coin at its finest. But which of those issues is truly the most beautiful? You’ll have to acquire a few of your own and judge for yourself.

That’s part of the fun of collecting Morgan silver dollars!

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A New Way to Learn About Coins!


The More You Know the Better:

One of the very first bits of advice you’ll receive as a coin collector is to learn as much as you can about numismatics. This is an excellent recommendation for new collectors, as well as established hobbyist. You will benefit in a huge variety of ways as your knowledge of coin collecting grows.

There are many ways to add to your expertise on coins. Many, many books and magazines are available to help you learn about your favorite collectibles. The internet can also be a good resource for information. (You may want to be sure your source is reliable as much of the information online is self published.)

A New Resource:

Recently I discovered a great new way to learn about coins through listening to podcasts. A podcast is an audio program that you can subscribe to and listen to when ever is convenient. You can find podcast on a myriad of topics including coin collecting.

One of my favorite things about listening to a podcast is the flexibility. I download the file on to my phone or my computer and I can listen whenever and wherever I like. I often will enjoy a podcast during my work commute or when I’m walking my dogs.

Podcasts are general free and released on a regular schedule. Many will have back episodes you can enjoy while you wait for a new release. Podcasts will become something you look forward to with anticipation, I’ve already got my favorites in queue waiting for my next free moment.

Where to Go From Here:

iTunes is great place to start when looking for podcasts of interest to you. There are more than a billion to choose from on that platform alone!

Here is a link to my favorite coin related podcast: http://www.coinshowradio.com/

I’d love to hear what podcasts you enjoy so I can add them to my play list!

Happy coin hunting.

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