US Coins

Mint reverses direction with Proof surface finishing

This is the second part of a feature story about finishes used on U.S. coins, which first appeared in the June 6, 2016, Monthly issue of  Coin World:

Early in the 20th century, the U.S. Mint experimented with variations on Proof finishes, including some matte finishes. However, from 1858 when Proof coin sales began in earnest and to the 1970s, Proof coins, in general, bore a Brilliant Proof finish, having little or no distinction between the mirrored finish on the raised devices and in the flat fields.

Cameo Proofs, with their contrasting frosted devices and mirrored fields, were generally a happy by-product resulting from the first strikes of fresh dies, with the frosted devices of the dies gradually losing their frost after multiple strikes. In 1978, however, Frosted or Cameo Proofs became the Mint’s standard Proof finish — until the 21st century and the introduction of the Reverse Proof finish in 2006. 

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A Reverse Proof coin is as the name implies. Instead of the standard Cameo Proof finish — frosted devices against mirrored fields — the Reverse Proof is just the opposite — mirrored devices against frosted fields. 

The U.S. Mint produced its first Reverse Proof coins in 2006 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1986 introduction of the American Eagle gold and silver coins.

The Reverse Proof 2006-P American Eagle silver dollar was offered only in a limited-edition three-coin set that also included a Cameo Proof 2006-W American Eagle silver dollar and an Uncirculated 2006-W American Eagle silver dollar (as referenced earlier).

The three-coin sets, limited to a release of 250,000 sets, were offered at $100 per set by the U.S. Mint.

Recently completed eBay sales recorded $455 paid for a set still sealed in its shipping box; $575 for a set in its original U.S. Mint packaging; and $800 for a set graded and encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.: Proof 70 Ultra Cameo for the Cameo Proof coin; Proof 70 for the Reverse Proof piece; and Mint State 70 for the Burnished Uncirculated coin.

In addition to the silver set, the Mint produced gold sets celebrating the 2006 anniversary.

The 20th Anniversary American Eagle three-coin gold set comprises a 2006-W Reverse Proof, a Proof and a Burnished Uncirculated 1-ounce gold coin. Limited to a production of 10,000 sets, each set was offered at $2,610.

In a recent eBay auction, a buyer paid $6,100 for a three-coin gold set with all three coins graded and encapsulated by NGC — Proof 70 Ultra Cameo for the Cameo Proof, Proof 70 for the Reverse Proof coin, and Mint State 70 for the Uncirculated coin.

Another eBay sale closed at $7,995 for the three coins graded and encapsulated by Professional Coin Grading Service under its First Strike program — MS-70 for the Uncirculated coin, Proof 70 for the Reverse Proof coin, and Proof 70 Deep Cameo for the Cameo Proof piece.

Also issued by the U.S. Mint for the gold and silver American Eagle 20th Anniversary was a two-coin gold and silver set containing simply Uncirculated examples of each coin. The set was limited to a product maximum of 20,000, at $850 per set.

A recently completed eBay auction recorded a sale price of $1,311 for an intact two-coin set still in its original U.S. Mint presentation box.

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