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Speaking in code

When I checked my email this morning I had a short one that read this way:

“sms are they proof or unc

are they from sanfrancisco??”

That was it.

To a noncollector, and perhaps even to someone who collects but is fairly new to the hobby, this might cause trouble in deciphering the two questions.

The “sms” refers to the special mint sets that the U.S. Mint produced for the years 1965-1967.

They were consolation prizes so to speak for the abolition of the annual proof set and the annual uncirculated coin set that the Mint thought it was too busy combatting the coin shortage to offer to collectors in those years.

The coins in the special mint set are neither proof nor uncirculated. The coins are supposed to be better than the coins struck for circulation, but they most assuredly were not struck twice with polished dies on polished planchets, but certainly some of the coins could be called prooflike.

The coins were packaged and shipped from what was then the San Francisco Assay Office and now is the San Francisco Mint.

However, there are no mintmarks on the coins as mintmarks also had been abolished for the years 1965-1967 to prevent coin collectors from saving examples from each coining facility.

Price at the time of issue was a shocking $4, up from the $2.10 proof set price and the $2.40 mint set price of 1964.

The perceived high price knocked collector purchases almost in half compared to the nearly 4 million mintage of the 1964 proof set.

The questions posed by the few words of the email are certainly good ones, but they are also examples of the shorthand collectors get into the habit of using.

When I know what they mean, no problem, but sometimes even I get questions so abbreviated that I have no idea what the sender means and have to ask for clarification.

It all boils down to never being afraid to ask questions. In numismatics, asking questions is the key to advancement.

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