From 1917 to 1935, collectors of U.S. coins lacked something that had
been offered to them by the United States Mint from 1858 to 1916 — new
Proof coins. In 1936, however, Proof coinage was reborn, and the
modern era began.
Now a new book by an acclaimed author explores the first seven years
of modern Proof coinage. United States Proof Coins 1936–1942 by
Roger W. Burdette is the most comprehensive work on the subject in
decades and covers new ground not previously published.
Burdette approached the book as he did his other works: the
Renaissance of American Coinage trilogy, his United States
Pattern and Experimental Pieces of WW II, From Mine to Mint, and
the Guide Book of Peace Dollars. He reached deep into the
archives of the United States Mint and found information not
As a press release states, “This much anticipated book covers proof
coins made at the Philadelphia Mint from 1936 through 1942 in detail,”
adding that subjects “include background and origin of the series, the
number of pieces struck from each die, when dies were pulled from
service, delivery dates of coins, plus quantities sold and returned
for destruction,” adding, “The coins are examined both by year of
issue, and individually by date and denomination. Clear, logical text
and hundreds of full color illustrations provide the collector and
numismatic professional with encyclopedic coverage of the fascinating series.”
Burdette writes that Mint and Treasury officials were not supportive
of any effort to restart production of Proof coinage after its long
hiatus. As late as April 1936, Mint officials routinely replied to
collector enquiries “that proof coins are no longer made at the Mint
of the United States.” However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
himself an avid stamp collector, and Treasury Secretary Henry
Morgenthau Jr. disagreed with the bureaucracies, Burdette writes. On
April 28, 1936, Morgenthau ordered a resumption of Proof coinage.
In the historical section in the chapter on resuming Proof coinage
production, Burdette cites the positive collector reaction to the
news, reflected in orders pouring in, which seemed to catch
Philadelphia Mint officials off guard, since they had not planned on
However, some collector criticism was heard; collectors were unhappy
that the finish of some pieces lacked the mirror-like fields and
frosted devices of the coins in past decades.
Two styles of 1936 Proof coins were produced: Satin Proofs and
While a Brilliant Proof finish had been standard throughout the 19th
and into the 20th century, Mint officials changed things in the last
few years of production that led up to the series’ end in 1916, when
only a few denominations were produced. Matte Proof coins were issued
at the end of that era. Some assumptions were made in 1936 that
collectors would be satisfied with Lincoln cents and Indian Head
5-cent coins bearing a Satin Proof finish, while the dimes, quarter
dollars, and half dollars would be given the Brilliant Proof finish
last used on the Proof coins of those denominations issued several
Eventually in 1936, cents and 5-cent coins would be struck with both
types of finishes before the Brilliant Proof finish became the
standard for all denominations starting in 1937.
Burdette’s book examines Proof coins by both date and denomination.
The section dealing with the coinage by date focuses on historical
aspects, including Proof coin deliveries by denomination as well as
sales. Where the documents are available, Burdette reprints important
correspondence dealing with the coinage of a particular date.
The section dealing with Proof coinage by denomination includes
detailed information on delivery, plus on the number of dies used. The
author also explores such areas as “appearance,” addressing the “look”
of a particular date and denomination, and “notable die varieties,”
exploring such varieties as doubled dies or coins struck from
overpolished dies. He also discusses counterfeits when such pieces are
known to exist.
The book opens with chapters on the “Origin of Modern Proof Coinage”
and “Manufacturing Proof Coins,” both providing a detailed historical
analysis on their respective subjects.
According to a press release from the publisher, “Overall, there is
surprisingly little duplication of content between the chapters.
Author Roger W. Burdette noted, ‘It has been amazing to go through the
data and analysis, and then see unexpected results and explanations
appear — almost magical.’ “
The book “resolves many long-standing mysteries of the proof
series,” according to the press release. “Among these are the origin
of ‘1940 reverse of ’38 nickels,’ ‘1939 reverse of ’40 nickels,’
production of ‘cameo proofs,’ and quantities actually sold during the
year of issue.”
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The book is being released by Seneca Mill Press LLC.
The book is 330 pages in length, printed in full color with hundreds
of illustrations. Each book includes a CD-ROM containing the full text
in searchable format. The digital file may also be transferred to the
purchaser’s portable digital device for use away from home or office.
United States Proof Coins 1936–1942 by Roger W. Burdette is
available from the distributor, Wizard Coin Supply, at www.wizardcoinsupply.com. The book is priced at $39.95.