Price guides have always been popular in my time in numismatics.
Knowing what something is worth is crucial information.
But the logic of pricing can sometimes seem strange or even nonsensical. It probably shouldn't even be called logic.
An email question arrived the other day.
"Why is a 1995-S Proof-65 dime listed at $20 in the NN monthly price guide yet the entire 1995-S standard proof set is listed at $11?
“This is only one example of numerous dates where one coin is listed more than the entire set. I could understand if the reference were between uncirculated coins and mint sets because there is no guarantee that the coins in a mint set will grade MS-65, but for individual proof coins not to grade PF-65 is not reasonable.”
This is a good question.
It must be remembered that the price guide is comprised of retail prices.
It has been standard operating procedure in the last 50 years and probably longer to assign values for individual proof coins that are higher when combined than the cost of the whole set.
Like a grocery store, this is in part a volume discount.
It is easier to sell a complete proof set than coins individually.
In the old days, each coin had to be separately packed and marketed.
Nowadays there is the step of adding third-party grading service costs to the price of each coin.
A 1995-S Proof-65 dime has been graded by a third-party grading service.
This is the assumption of price guides.
The proof set has not been so graded by a third-party.
It may seem logical to declare that every coin in a proof set is MS-65, but it is not a certainty.
A dime in a proof set could have toned badly, or have a carbon spot on it or have been slightly damaged in the packaging process.
Or the dime could be Proof-67.
However, without that third-party seal of approval, the dime will not command the third-party Proof-65 price.
Buyers with hard cash do not make assumptions. Like the detectives on the old “Dragnet" TV series, they want just the facts and pay accordingly.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."