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Mint unveils new proof technique

Is the cameo proof about to be knocked off its perch as the ultimate example of the coiner’s art?


For four decades since the U.S. Mint perfected the technique to give all proof coins the cameo effect of white frosted high points on a mirror-like field, it has been the standard proof.

However, development of computer-guided lasers now allows the U.S. Mint to vary the degree of frosting to allow certain design elements to pop as they have never popped before.

That was the message in a telephone conference yesterday held by Steve Antonucci, branch manager, digital process and development, at the Philadelphia Mint, who explained the new approach.

Collectors who have had delivery already of 5-Star General proof silver dollars and $5 gold pieces can see the results of his work as they are the first two coins released to collectors where their finishes have been created by dies with the new laser treatment.

Antonucci said of these two new coins, “This was a maiden voyage for us.”
He said a little over a year ago when he took his current Mint post that “frosting was obliterating the detail” because it “absorbs the light.”

With laser frosting and polishing of dies the frosting now can vary.

He said, “variability will play to the elements of the design. Hopefully it will make collectors ecstatic about these coins.”

Images of the 5-Star general silver dollar struck with dies made the old way and the new way were provided for comparison.

For collectors of the last two generations, frosting has been the ideal because at one time the only way to achieve the effect was on the first few coins struck from a new die. This made them scarce.

On new issues since the 1970s the cameo proof effect is the norm.

Will collectors appreciate the new effect? Take a look at your coins as you get delivery and see what you think.

By the way, all proof – and only the proof – 5-Star General silver dollars and $5 gold coins that are being sold to collectors have been struck using the new technique on the dies. Though the Mint made some the old way for comparison purposes, they are not being released to collectors.

Next up for lasers will be the enhanced uncirculated silver American Eagle with three different finishes on it struck at West Point for its 75th anniversary set.

After that, what new proof coins will display the new technique has not yet been determined.

Antonucci said in future there can be “five or six frosting intensities on the same design.”

That should be interesting.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."