When I was a child, my father smoked Tarryton cigarettes. (He quit when he was 40). The brand had a catchy slogan: “I’d rather fight than switch.” Print ads showed guys with black eyes holding their cigarettes.
Some collectors would rather fight than collect. I write that because I got a phone call yesterday from a reader who wanted to dispute something written in a feature story.
The story recalled that mint sets were abolished in 1982 and 1983. The consequence of that is some of the uncirculated coins with those dates are scarcer than coins from other years because collectors don’t have the supply of mint sets to raid for high-quality coins.
This is settled history. The caller called it an error. He said there were mint sets in 1982 and 1983. I said, “No, but there were souvenir sets.” He immediately agreed, but then insisted it was wrong to say there were no mint sets in those years.
I demurred. Settled hobby definitions apply the term “mint set” to specially produced sets of uncirculated coins from all of the active minting facilities of that year. The most prominent producer of these is the U.S. Mint itself, which has done so in modern times since 1947.
Mint sets can be produced privately. They were a staple in the hobby for many years, especially in 1982 and 1983 when my firm created its own to help sell newspapers. Private sets need to be labeled as such to be distinguished from the official Mint products, which are what make it into the price guide books. There are no price guides that I know of for 1982 Krause mint sets or of those of any other private producer.
Common collector parlance uses “mint set” in a settled way to refer exclusively to the U.S. Mint product. Legally, there is nothing to enforce it. However, by the standards of this newspaper, we are in the business of being as clear as possible and not to use common terms in an uncommon way to mislead readers.
So, the existence of souvenir sets does not make the statement of a lack of mint sets in 1982 and 1983 untrue. Besides, the basic point of the original statement is the lack of millions of official mint sets make uncirculated coins more valuable. The few thousand souvenir sets that were produced during those years make absolutely no difference to this true statement. Souvenir sets also did not include all uncirculated coins of the year. They included only those from specific mints, so you need further modifiers of "Denver mint set" and "Philadelphia mint set" to be accurate.
So, I guess I would rather fight, too. I fight for clarity, but then again, that’s my job.