I received a letter to the editor for Numismatic News. The writer was complaining about the quality of the two-coin San Francisco silver American Eagle proof set that contains a regular proof 2012-S silver Eagle and a reverse proof 2012-S silver Eagle.
A regular proof has a frosted look on the high points in the design and a mirror effect in the empty fields.
The reverse proof shows frosting in the fields and the high points are mirrored.
Proofs of either kind are beautiful coins and it is understandable that collectors want the best possible.
But what is the best possible?
This particular letter writer expressed his disappointment that the coins were not -70 on the numerical grading scale.
He has stated what more and more collectors seem to be thinking – only Proof-70 coins will do.
Is that realistic?
In a word, no.
The desire is understandable, but the Mint’s ability to satisfy it is lacking.
This isn’t a slam at the Mint. Making proofs is a mechanical process. Even with the greatest care, there are variations in quality.
There is no question that proof quality today is far superior to that which prevailed when I began collecting in the 1960s. In those days, only the first few coins struck with proof dies would exhibit a frosted effect. In the 1970s the Mint was able to achieve this for all proof coins. Still more quality improvements followed.
However, as pronounced as the improvements have been, the expectations of quality among collectors now seem to be racing ever further ahead.
That can only lead to disappointment. Not all proof coins can be perfect. More of them are today than ever before, but they still comprise just a fraction of the total output.
We will never reach a point where all proof coins are perfect.
Will this cause discouragement among the buyers of Mint proof products?
If I were head of the Mint I would worry about this. It could be a perfect storm heading toward it.
I can’t think of a way to counter it.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”