With world Proof coins, it’s all about how extra metallic
manipulation translates into a bolder design.
Each world mint has its own process for making Proof coins, which
may include specially prepared planchets, dies and presses. Proof
blanks are typically struck more than once or in such a way as to
create images that stand out, i.e., are shinier, more detailed or have
higher relief than designs on the non-Proof versions of the same coin.
World Proof coin collectors are positively passionate about their
topical specialty, whether it’s the traditional Proof with frosted
cameo and mirrored fields or a modern marvel like the Reverse Proof.
World mints are happy to feed the fever and some continually push
the boundaries of this art form with experimentation and innovation.
In 1993, France created a silver proof series titled “The
Bicentennial of the Louvre.” One of the replicated masterpieces was
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The traditional Proof format of frosted
cameo with mirrored background was ideal for this as it put all of the
focus on the famous portrait. Leonardo’s landscape was nowhere to be
seen on the coin, but Mona Lisa’s smile is what most viewers were
looking for anyway.
Egypt also issued a Proof silver coin series in 1993. “The Great
Treasures of Ancient Egypt” is known for its clarity of detail. The
coin showing Cleopatra’s pharaonic headdress is a good example. Note
the play of light and shadow in the weave of the fabric. You can also
see a hint of the feathers of the goddess Nekhbet, a royal symbol
portrayed as the head of a white vulture.
Recent Proof series tend toward more multilayered subjects, such
as the 2007 to 2008 Austrian Railway-Locomotive series.
The 1837 Ajax steam locomotive appears on the obverse of the 2007
issue in detail, and the reverse is even more complex. The date is
Jan. 6, 1838, and the Ajax is making it first public appearance amidst
cheering crowds as it crosses the Danube River Bridge on the Emperor
Ferdinand Northern Railway. The Proof surfaces deftly portray land,
river and steam, as well as elements as large as mountains and as
small as stones in the bridge.
In 2001, Canada chose its first and only 3-cent coin, produced in
Proof, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 3-cent Beaver
postage stamp, the nation’s first stamp.
Part of the stamp’s design is framed within the center on the
reverse. A trio of frosted, satin and mirrored finishes on .9999 fine
gold make for a unique combination, but affordable, because the coin
is actually made of silver, then plated with gold. In 2013, Canada
also issued a series of Reverse Proof Maple Leaf bullion coins as part
of that ever-innovative program.
In 1981 Bulgaria proved that a copper-nickel planchet could make a
stunning Proof coin.
For the 1,300th anniversary of the country, Bulgaria created a
Proof-only 2-lev coin showing a mother and child in front of the sun
with delineated rays in the background. It is a simple design without
text but easily captures the “wow” factor.
Even aluminum can be used in Proof coinage.
China, Vietnam, Hungary, Malta, Australia and North Korea are
among the nations that have minted Proof coins from aluminum. Ducks
are one of the animals featured in North Korea’s colored Proof series
of 2001, “Fauna of Asia.” Other animals include parrots, tigers,
pandas, eagles and angelfish. This nation has also issued Proof coins
in brass and copper versions, and in ringed bimetallic base metal form.
Sometimes, a coin that looks like a Proof is simply Brilliant
Uncirculated instead. The Australian Kookaburra bullion coin series,
started in 1990, illustrates this.
At first glance, many of these 1-ounce dollars (early coins are
denominated $5) look like Reverse Proof pieces, with raised devices
that are mirrored and background fields that appear frosted. They are
regularly but mistakenly sold on eBay as Reverse Proof coins.
Ironically, in years when a Proof Kookaburra option has been
available, they have been traditional Proofs and not the Reverse Proof style.
Finally, some older world Proof coins can be challenging to
distinguish from their Mint State counterparts because they do not
have an obvious special finish. For instance, the rare Proof 1962
bronze cent of Suriname does not, at first glance, look much different
from its common Mint State cousin.
However, under magnification the superior ridge detail in the
ornate geometric design that encircles both the obverse and reverse is
apparent. Collectors can be certain of the Proof status by locating
the extremely tiny S Mint mark that is unique to it and that is
camouflaged in the design below the word cent.
These examples are just some evidence, Proof positive, of the
abundant collecting opportunities that exist with world Proof coins. ■