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Life left in proofs?

While annual proof sets no longer draw in collectors like they once did, there’s still a market for them as gifts or a cost-effective way to collect the year’s proof coins.

The 2012 silver proof set is one of the few modern proof sets with a premium - a market value of around $200 on a originally $61.95 set.

The 2012 silver proof set is one of the few modern proof sets with a premium – a market value of around $200 on a originally $61.95 set.

Julian Leidman said annual proof sets aren’t as popular as they once were.

“It used to be the one set you’d get,” he said. “That was before the Mint began putting out other proof sets and products.”

For instance, in 1974, the Mint sold 2,617,350 proof sets at $7 per set. In 2014, 714,661 clad proof sets were sold. Add in the 2014 silver proof set at 429,493 and the total annual proof sets sold in 2014 reaches just 1,144,154.

With proof sets available for quarters, since 1999, or dollar coins, since 2007, collectors who focus on those series turn away from the annual proof sets.

Still, there’s a good motivation to buy proof sets for both collectors and the non-collecting public: as gifts.

Leidman said he often sells proof sets to people looking for gift ideas.

“Any time someone comes in looking for a gift, I ask them how old the person receiving the gift is,” he said. “Proof sets are an easy gift idea. They’re always going to be gifts. They were a gift when I had my bar mitzvah.”

John Krupka, owner of Point Coin, Stevens Point, Wis., said he has steady proof set sales throughout the year.

“It’s not a big moving item but it is an item people come into the store requesting,” he said. “Grandparents come in looking to buy clad or silver proof sets for their grandkids. Parents come in looking for a gift for their child.”

He said collectors also have an interest in proof sets.

“You do have collectors looking to put together a complete run,” Krupka said.

Certain proof sets bring in premiums due to errors and varieties. For example, a few 1968, 1970, 1971, 1975, and 1983 proof sets are known to contain rare no-S mintmark error dimes. Likewise, there are some 1990 proof sets that contain no mintmark error Lincoln cents.

Varieties contained in proof sets include the 1970 large and small date types as well as the type 1 and 2 1979 and 1981 proof sets, known for their different mintmark designs.

Of modern issues, the 2012 clad and silver proof sets can be considered “keys.” The Mint ended sales of the sets early, forcing collectors to turn to the secondary market. Just 395,443 silver and 794,002 clad sets were sold by the Mint.

On eBay, the 2012 silver proof set is in the lead with an average price of $180 to $200 per set. The initial purchase price was $67.95. The 2012 clad proof set trades around $85 to $105 on the site. The Mint’s price was $31.95.

Leidman said demand may place premiums on certain proof sets occasionally.

“There has been a push on the green box proof sets from 1994 to 1998,” he said.  “Somebody must be doing something with them.”

As for reselling proof sets, collectors can find a dealer interested in them, he said.

“Just send them to me,” he said. “I’ll buy them. Any coin dealer will, unless they’re on the ultra-high end.”

Krupka said besides bringing proof sets to a coin store, collectors can try reselling them online or at a coin show.

“If you have connections on eBay, you can put them up for auction,” he said. “You’ll want to factor in shipping and listing fees then. Or, you can bring them to a coin show and shop around for the best price.”

While proof sets may not be as popular as they once were, there’s still interest in them.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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