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Clad proof set reality

Even though I know a bottle of soda pop is no longer 10 cents, or a proof set $5, I sometimes react negatively to current prices even when I have no real grounds to do so.

Next Tuesday, the U.S. Mint will begin selling the 2014 regular clad proof set. Issue price is $31.95. This is unchanged from last year. The Mint is to be commended for holding the line.

But because of my flashbacks to long ago, $31.95 seems like a lot of money.

I will not assert that a price more than six times the 1968 proof set issue price is cheap, but what I will say is that when my rational brain goes to work I see that collectors are still getting value for money.

With five dollar coins in the set (four Presidential and one Native American) as well as five America the Beautiful quarters, a Kennedy half dollar, a Roosevelt dime, Jefferson nickel and Lincoln cent, the 14 coins in the current set is almost three times the five coins in the 1968 set.

Production costs alone indicate that the issue price should be higher.

I have also previously written that perhaps the clad set should be eliminated because collectors show an increasing affinity for the silver set.

This kind of pruning would help reduce the huge number of collector coin offerings from the Mint and in the long run create a healthier market. But present market conditions do not support my opinion.

It is a truism among many that it is cheaper to buy proof sets a while after they are issued to get them at a lower price.

This particular piece of wisdom has served many hobbyists well. However, it is contradicted by price action on the secondary market for recent sets.

Coin Market editor Harry Miller reported yesterday that the 2013 clad proof set has popped up to $88 on the secondary market as the Mint closed out its sales.

This price might be inspired by a belief that the 789,595 sales figure most recently reported on the Mint Statistics pages of Numismatic News is low.

The 2012 set is $110 on the secondary market. The 2011 set is $46.50.

Are these high prices temporary or the beginning of the overturning of the old conventional wisdom?

Whatever the answer to that question, the current secondary market prices give confidence to collectors who are interested in adding the 2014 clad proof set to their collections.

They also prove that however much my brain might want to stroll down memory lane some mornings, the $31.95 clad proof issue price is justifiable by today’s market.

In the last analysis, that’s all that counts.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."