US Coins

NGC grades 1999 Delaware quarter souvenir set

Some products of the United States Mint prompt more questions than answers, including a set that dates two decades ago.

Little is known about a two-coin souvenir set distributed by the Philadelphia Mint to attendees following a Dec. 7, 1998, first-strike ceremony at the facility for the 1999-P Delaware quarter dollar.

The Delaware quarter dollar was the first release in the then-novel 50 State Quarters Program.

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The souvenir set contains two 1999-P Delaware quarter dollars housed in a hard plastic lens similar to those used for Proof sets.

The coins' placement allows for the George Washington obverse to be visible on one coin and the Delaware commemorative reverse on the other.

The lens is secured in a red cardboard insert with cutouts punched to reveal the coins, and with the U.S. Mint seal imprinted between the coins.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. authenticated and graded one of the sets it recently received, and it sought information from Coin World beginning Feb. 19.

NGC senior grader Paul Sandler said NGC’s graders had never seen an example of the set before, and he sought information on the production technology and number of possible sets distributed.

NGC’s grading staff suspected that the coins in the set may have been struck with specially prepared dies that were afterward used in general circulation production.

The two coins in the set examined by NGC graders were graded and encapsulated Mint State 65 and MS-65 prooflike, respectively, after conservation by NGC’s sister company, Numismatic Conservation Services.

The NCS curation removed surface contamination as well as reduced evidence of fingerprints that were on the coins at the time of submission.

NGC graders were able to authenticate the coins and pedigree them to the Dec. 7, 1998, first-strike ceremony after comparing them against a coin from another set received by a member of NGC’s staff who had attended the event.

“Although the original case has long since been forgotten, one of his coins was used as a reference and it was a perfect match to the two just submitted,” Sandler said via email. “In fact, one even has the same exact strikethrough (in which a foreign material comes between the die and planchet) in front of Washington’s head and on his neck. This indicates that it was almost certainly struck either immediately before or after the reference coin.”

From the time of Sandler’s initial inquiry to Coin World, Coin World has prodded the U.S. Mint almost daily for details on that striking ceremony, how the souvenir coins were produced, and who and how many people received the sets.

Mint spokesman Michael White said he, too, attended the event and has one of the sets. Former U.S. Mint Director Philip N. Diehl, who headed the Mint at the time of the first-strike ceremony, spoke to Coin World March 7 recalling the event but no specific details on the coins’ manufacture or number of sets distributed. 

In its news coverage in the Dec. 21, 1998, issue, Coin World reported that the first strikes produced by guests at the ceremony would be set aside and not mailed to them until after Jan. 4, 1999. 

As of April 12, the hobby is no closer to knowing full details of the event, coin production and number of sets distributed, or exactly when the sets were delivered or presented to participants in the event. 

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