Prooflike 1994 Denver coins

Enthusiasts covet curious issues
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Published : 01/05/13
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For a small but devoted group of enthusiasts, prooflike modern coins are highly sought after.

Prooflike coins, or PL coins, display the mirrored fields associated with traditional Proof coins, but they were not struck as Proofs. They can be found among bullion coins, circulation issue coins and “Uncirculated” special issues, like commemoratives. By most definitions, a coin’s entire field area must exhibit at least two solid inches of clear mirror-like reflection to be considered prooflike.

Specialists have recognized that prooflike coins can be found with greater frequency among Denver Mint coinage of the 1990s, especially in 1994. In fact, in the modern commemorative series, only two issues can be found readily with prooflike characteristics: the 1994-D World Cup Soccer dollars and half dollars.

At least 10 percent of the 1994-D World Cup Soccer silver dollars have fully prooflike surfaces and most have prooflike tendencies.

The higher mintage copper-nickel clad half dollars are somewhat less frequently encountered this way, but still 5 percent or so are fully prooflike. Many more are nearly prooflike having slightly less than the requisite clarity of mirrors to be truly prooflike.

Circulation coinage dated 1994-D can all be found with prooflike surfaces. Cents, 5-cent coins and half dollars are slightly easier to find than quarter dollars and half dollars, and they account for only a small fraction of the coins produced.

Nonetheless, it is still technically possible to construct a “prooflike 1994-D Mint set.” To find these coins, collectors search original wrapped rolls. Uncirculated Mint set coins usually have the more standard Satin Finish coins.

It is not known why Denver Mint coins of the 1990s are found with prooflike surfaces. One widely held theory is that planchet preparation at Denver Mint varied slightly from other facilities. Before being struck into coins, planchets (or coin blanks) are heated to soften them in the annealing process.

They are cooled (or “quenched”) and then burnished. During burnishing, coins are spun at high speed in a centrifuge with some media that removes debris and smooths hard contact marks. It is thought that this burnishing process at the Denver Mint created mirrored coin blanks, which in turn created prooflike coins after striking.

No price guide exists for modern prooflike coinage. While they do trade for premiums over nonprooflike examples, they aren’t exorbitantly expensive. A Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 65 prooflike 1994-D Jefferson 5-cent coin with six full steps sold for $45 in a Dec. 10, 2006, Teletrade auction. At that time, similarly graded nonprooflike examples traded for just $20 or so. On Oct. 9, 2011, Teletrade sold an NGC MS-69 prooflike 1994-D World Cup Soccer dollar for $75, while similarly graded nonprooflike coins were selling for only $45.

Sometimes unscrupulous or plain unknowledgeable sellers to offer a coin as “prooflike” that has only one-sided or shallow mirrors — or, in other words, not truly prooflike. Third-party certification is recommended to make sure a coin meets the requirements.

For a small but devoted group of enthusiasts, prooflike modern coins are highly sought after.

Prooflike coins, or PL coins, display the mirrored fields associated with traditional Proof coins, but they were not struck as Proofs. They can be found among bullion coins, circulation issue coins and “Uncirculated” special issues, like commemoratives. By most definitions, a coin’s entire field area must exhibit at least two solid inches of clear mirror-like reflection to be considered prooflike.

Specialists have recognized that prooflike coins can be found with greater frequency among Denver Mint coinage of the 1990s, especially in 1994. In fact, in the modern commemorative series, only two issues can be found readily with prooflike characteristics: the 1994-D World Cup Soccer dollars and half dollars.

At least 10 percent of the 1994-D World Cup Soccer silver dollars have fully prooflike surfaces and most have prooflike tendencies.

The higher mintage copper-nickel clad half dollars are somewhat less frequently encountered this way, but still 5 percent or so are fully prooflike. Many more are nearly prooflike having slightly less than the requisite clarity of mirrors to be truly prooflike.

Circulation coinage dated 1994-D can all be found with prooflike surfaces. Cents, 5-cent coins and half dollars are slightly easier to find than quarter dollars and half dollars, and they account for only a small fraction of the coins produced.

Nonetheless, it is still technically possible to construct a “prooflike 1994-D Mint set.” To find these coins, collectors search original wrapped rolls. Uncirculated Mint set coins usually have the more standard Satin Finish coins.

It is not known why Denver Mint coins of the 1990s are found with prooflike surfaces. One widely held theory is that planchet preparation at Denver Mint varied slightly from other facilities. Before being struck into coins, planchets (or coin blanks) are heated to soften them in the annealing process.

They are cooled (or “quenched”) and then burnished. During burnishing, coins are spun at high speed in a centrifuge with some media that removes debris and smooths hard contact marks. It is thought that this burnishing process at the Denver Mint created mirrored coin blanks, which in turn created prooflike coins after striking.

No price guide exists for modern prooflike coinage. While they do trade for premiums over nonprooflike examples, they aren’t exorbitantly expensive. A Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Mint State 65 prooflike 1994-D Jefferson 5-cent coin with six full steps sold for $45 in a Dec. 10, 2006, Teletrade auction. At that time, similarly graded nonprooflike examples traded for just $20 or so. On Oct. 9, 2011, Teletrade sold an NGC MS-69 prooflike 1994-D World Cup Soccer dollar for $75, while similarly graded nonprooflike coins were selling for only $45.

Sometimes unscrupulous or plain unknowledgeable sellers to offer a coin as “prooflike” that has only one-sided or shallow mirrors — or, in other words, not truly prooflike. Third-party certification is recommended to make sure a coin meets the requirements.

Scott schechter is a grader at NGC and co-author of 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins. He can be reached by email directed to him at scott@ngccoin.com.

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