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Chasing proof sets?

There seems to be growing interest in the 2012 proof sets because of their fairly low mintages.

I have had a number of inquiries about the clad proof set and silver proof set of that year.

Will they go higher in value?

That is the eternal question.

Rather than answer, my mind harkens back to my early days in numismatics.

When I was a new collector in the 1960s, the hobby was going through tumultuous times.

The end of silver in coinage was a great shock to those who had long engaged in circulation finds to fill out their collections.

What does one do when the main source of one’s coins disappears?

Many left the hobby.

Many others turned to the annual spectacle of new Mint issues when its task of combating the coin shortage was won and it retunre in 1968 to offering collector proof sets and mint sets as it had done in 1964.

With the proof spigot having been shut off after the 1964 set, there was speculation that this set would soar to $50 as the last example of proof coinage.

It never got there, but the thought that a set with 3.9 million mintage could rise to $50 was my introduction to the idea of making money in proof sets.

I did not stumble upon this until after the ordering period for the 1968 set had closed.

If nothing else, that taught me to pay attention to the hobby calendar.

Speculative fever hit the 1968 set. After the wave of collector complaints about the higher $5 issue price, compared to the $2.10 price for the 1964 set, collectors embarked on a speculative frenzy.

In those days it took the U.S. Mint far longer to deliver sets to collectors than it does now. In fact, it was the better part of a year.

If your order for one of the approximately 3 million sets was at the end of the line, you could watch speculation unfold. That's all.

If you got early delivery, and sold, you made money. Prices went up.

When the price reached $15, I could not resist any longer, I had to have a set before it went beyond my budget. I bought one on the retail market.

Bad move.

Why did I buy it?

I bought it because everyone else seemed to want one. I wasn’t going to be left behind.

Retail prices continued higher, reaching $20 a set.

But then the sky fell.

I was soon under water.

Well, I reasoned, I am a collector. I will simply hold on.

Eventually the price fell below issue price.

What lesson did I learn?

Don’t chase a set on the secondary market.

There is nothing more stale than last year’s proof set.

I may be a collector, but I do not like holding something to avoid taking a loss.

So what about the 2012 proof sets?

I know from my own experience that the impulse to speculate is a strong one.

Every collector has to indulge it or harness it in his own way.

Just know that my opinion about 2012 proof sets carries as much weight as my opinion about 1968 proof sets.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."