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Reverse proofs examined

It was no sooner than the March of Dimes Special Silver Sets began hitting the street that owners began reporting relatively minor errors being found on many of the reverse proof dimes.

The reverse proof dime has mirrored design devices and frosted fields.

The reverse proof dime has mirrored design devices and frosted fields.

Reverse proof refers to the finish on the coin where the devises are polished to a mirror-like finish and the fields are given a frosty matte finish. Typically proof dies are processed with just the opposite effect; mirror-like fields and frosted devices, an effect referred to as “cameo proof.”

A number of the dimes showed up on the Internet coin forums with owners showing and describing such defects as the coins being struck through a bit of lint or dirt. Another coin was reportedly struck from what appears to be a rim-damaged die.

The piece struck from a rim-damaged die is interesting in that it presents the enigma of “what happened?”  Unfortunately, I can never extend a definitive answer to such errors as the damage could have occurred as a result of many different mishaps.

It could have occurred as the die was having its rim machined into it or sometime during transport, storage or use.  Because such defects in the dies are generally considered trivial to collectors, they are ignored by both error collectors and collectors of normal coins.  A defect like this one will not affect value one way or another and probably not be factored into the grade. The one shown here was sent in by John Taxter of New York who provided the image.

A rim-damaged die struck this reverse proof March of Dimes dime.

A rim-damaged die struck this reverse proof March of Dimes dime.

Also shown here is a Gold Standard Corporation “Quarter Ounce” die produced by Roger Williams Mint circa 1977 for Conrad J. Braun. It exhibits rather severe die damage to the die in the form of a rim ding. While I can speculate that the damage occurred by the die being dropped on another die or tooling, since I was not there when the damage occurred I can never be sure.

In all cases that I’ve seen so far, March of Dimes coins struck through lint or dirt have been of a minor nature.  They do not have an exclusive on this affliction since proof coins of today and yesteryear are found like this every day.  Unfortunately, these “errors” rarely add value to a coin and can actually reduce value.

This is a rim damaged die from a private mint. Pieces struck with it will also show damage as the reverse proof dime does.

This is a rim damaged die from a private mint. Pieces struck with it will also show damage as the reverse proof dime does.

The problem is that such errors are not large enough to elicit any interest from error collectors so there is no value to be found there. Conversely, folks who want a normal coin find such defects detracting to the coin and will often pass on such a piece  or only buy it at a reduced price.

My advice to recent buyers of such sets has been and will continue to be, if it’s not large enough to interest an error collector, return it to the Mint as soon as possible for a replacement.  There is nothing worse than watching the value of a coin go up only to realize later that it has a defect that reduces its value after the return period is over.

Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has written many feature articles for “Numismatic News” and for “World Coin News.” He is also a member of the board for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America. He can be contacted via email at kpotter256@aol.com  for more information on CONECA, or to comment on this story. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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