Collectors new to the hobby, just learning about coin grading, may think of proofs as just one grade higher than a top quality mint-state coin. But proof coins are a completely different category as they are produced in a distinctive way, with special materials and processes.
What Makes a Proof Coin Special:
The U.S. Mint has been producing proof coins since the 1830s. These finest-quality specimens are painstakingly created from highly polished, immaculately clean dies, which are again carefully cleaned and polished after a limited number of strikes and replaced before the slightest imperfection can appear.
These coins are distinct from those produced for circulation and generally only output in limited quantities. They are handled, packaged and stored specially to keep them in ideal condition.
Are There Morgan Dollar Proofs:
As a collector you probably appreciate the exquisite beauty of Brilliant Uncirculated Morgan silver dollars. In fact, you may already own a few of these historic treasures in wonderful mint-state quality. Although not often seen, proof Morgans do also exist. From 1878-1904 the Philadelphia Mint issued proof silver dollar coins but in very limited numbers, with 1,355 being the highest output for any one year.
Of course, today these coins are quite expensive and difficult to locate.
“Proof-Like” Morgan Dollars:
But did you know that some Morgan silver dollars are not only graded mint-state but also carry the unusual “proof-like” designation.
Proof-like Brilliant Uncirculated Morgans have a surface nearly as clean and crisp as a proof coin but were struck from working dies for circulation. These special coins were probably some of the first produced from new or newly polished dies.
When grading these coins two distinctions are given, PL (Proof like) or DMPL (Deep Mirror Proof Like). The higher quality DMPL is reserved for coins with exceptional mirrored fields.
Both types differ from true proof issues as they were originally struck for circulation. Unlike actual proofs, they may have bag marks and other minor blemishes. These “proof-like” Morgans will also lack some sharpness in comparison, as proof coins are specially struck for crispness of design.
Where to Go From Here:
Today only about 17% of original Morgan mintages are estimated to survive. And far fewer remain in mint-state grades, much less special proof-like BU quality. These coins are a wonderful collectors item and well worth owning.
Watch for availability of these issues but always keep in mind that “proof-like” coins are not actual proofs but a grading distinction of uncirculated coins.