Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1989

Investment In Proof Coins
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A type set of proof coins might easily be a candidate for the most beautiful collection of United States coins one can acquire. The attempt to put together such a set, and the resultant profitability in future years would more than offset the difficulty in attempting to complete the set.

But before one gives thought to the assemblage of such a set, he might well question whether or not Proof coins themselves represent a good investment. Some persons (see COINAGE Magazine, March 9, 1977, "Are Proof Coins a Sound Investment?", page 44) believe that in many instances Gem BU coins represent better investments than proof coins. In the article mentioned, a sound argument is made that in certain series Gem EU business-strike coins are scarcer, have increased in price to a greater extent, and probably represent greater value and future investment potential than proof coins of the same year in the same series. I do not argue the point. One can choose any series of coinage produced by our country and argue in favor of a certain mint, a certain design, and of course the method of production (business strike as against proof) as being the better investment. My point is that a type set of proof coins may turn out to be a fine investment, whether or not the Gem B U business-strike coin of a particular year is a better investment.

FCI has recorded just under a decade of rare coin business. In that time we have become one of the largest rare coin dealers in the world, and our approach to numismatics has always been to recognize the value potential of rare coins. In that period of time, none of our staff remembers seeing more than a handful of partial Proof type sets owned by an individual, a museum, or a firm!

With the advent of the book you are now reading, we believe that it becomes possible to obtain enough information to intelligently put together such a type set. I believe that very few things will equal the value of such a set in five to ten years!

Back to the argument concerning EU Gem business strikes being better investments than proof coins .. . the fact that Proof coins have advanced less in value on a percentage basis over the years is meaningful to me, and means specifically that:

a. Proof coins have been neglected as investment vehicles, because of lack of promotion of these coins, whichin turn stems from lack of supply of these coins for dealers to sell to their customers;

b. That Proof coins have a longer road to travel to get to the point where EU Gem type coins are at the present time, and I'd personally rather take the longer road and the more conservative one than try to catch a flying star;

c. That Proof coins have been relegated to a minor status of late by those who proclaim, "They are nothing more than coins produced for collectors", which statement disregards the fact that proof coins throughout the centuries have been made for collectors, in very special ways, and represent the finest artistic efforts of every mint which produces them. Of course there are more Proof coins in existence, per amount originally manufactured, thanthere are business strike coins. This speaks for itself. But does the fact that more than 50% of the proof coinage of a certain series still be in existence as compared to, say, 1% of the total mintage of the business strikes of that series, mean the proof coins cannot represent a major investment value? I think they can. The difference is in the original mintage - not the percentage of coins in existence.

If one considers the tiny mintages of Proof coins as compared to business strikes, it becomes obvious that using percentages only as a basis for value can mislead the investor, just as statistics can be utilized to mislead the unwary.

I say, read Walter's chapters introductory to his exposition of individual proof coins. Absorb the information about proof coins and see the magnificent pieces on display in collectors' albums or showcases. View their beautiful toning and mirrored surfaces, their deep strikes, their absolute conformance to the original rendition of the artist who conceived the coin's design.

Yes, proof coins are not very desirable today, but it was just a few years ago that gold coins were relegated to the back of the collector's mind, and were regarded as the property only of specialists and museums. And wasn't it even closer to today that silver dollars, those great big clunking coins were regarded to "too heavy" or "too much of one design for one to collect"? Take a long look, if you will, at Van Allen and Mallis ENCYCLOPEDIA AND CATALOGUE OF UNITED STATES MORGAN AND PEACE SILVER DOLLARS, (FCr Press 1977). You'll see why there is a resurgence of interest in the Morgan and Peace series in their die varieties and the concurrent increase in value of rare dates and rare varieties in both of these series.

I believe that proof coins are in the same position today as silver dollars were and as gold coins were, just "yesterday". And I strongly suggest that one begin, now, to quietly put together a type set of proof coins of our nation - for the sheer beauty and for the magnificent potential for value increase ahead.

II. PROOF SETS 1936-1942

First off, it is my contention that the proof sets of 1936 through 1942 are undervalued. I thought so in 1970 when the 1936 set sold for about $650, in 1973 when the 1936 proof set was selling for under $1000, and r think so today with the same set selling for about $1500. I hold no particular brief for investing in proof sets after 1955, since I believe that a production of more than a half million sets may never amount to the quality investment of the earlier sets.

But, all of the sets between 1936 and 1942 have a total mintage of 73,872! YES, THAT'S RIGHT, THERE WERE LESS THAN 75,000 PROOF SETS PRODUCED BETWEEN 1936 AND 1942 ... a total of seven years of proof sets in which there were a lesser amount of sets manufactured than every single year of proof sets beginning with 1952! To make the comparison more dramatic, AU of the sets produced between 1936 and 1942 equals a number 50 times less than the sets produced in 1976 alone!

One might ask, then, why are the sets from 1955 through 1977 so popular? Because of availability ... and no other reason. For a coin dealer, selling a modern proof set is like selling abottle of liquor or pair of shoes. There are plenty of these sets available, in the tens, in the hundreds, in the thousands. To obtain a good 1936 to 1942 set is not easy. In fact, to obtain sets of good value, where the copper coin is free of corrosion or pitting, and where all of the other pieces are free of abrasions or hairlines, is a major' enterprise. But it can be done!

Let's look at the prices of these seven forerunners of the modern proof sets. In a recent advertisement in Coin World newspaper, one dealer, known for his integrity and for his inventory of a large stock of proof sets, advertises the 1936 set at $1400, the 1937 set at $700, the 1938 set at $395, the 1939 set at $300, the 1940 set at $245, the 1941 set at the same price, and the 1942 set at $235. Thus, for a total investment of under $3800, one can obtain -if one is very careful about every single coin in each one of the sets -the complete run. In the case of purchasing these particular sets, the word "Gem" must be understood and observed. No compromise is acceptable.

Investment In Proof Coins
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