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On my wet toes about ‘No S’ proof

I have experienced cloudbursts before, but never has any managed to get my toes wet in the office. But now it has happened.

Water was coming off the roof so fast as these pages were being assembled that the drains of the F+W Media building fell behind. Water seeped through the base of the outside wall where I sit. I looked down to see a dark and growing wet spot spreading out and reaching my toes.

This is a first.

Had it gotten any worse, we would have had to shut the power off at my desk. Who knows when these words would have been written in that case.

My area was built 34 years ago, so this isn’t quite a once-in-a-hundred-year flood, but it is more than I have ever experienced.

What I had hoped to write about in this space was the newly found 1990 proof set with the “No S” cent. The valuable find was made by a Florida collector who had owned a bunch of sets for about a quarter of a century.


When he decided to look at them, he found the find of a lifetime. He contacted Ken Potter, the Numismatic News error expert. You can read the rest by clicking HERE.

This brought back memories of when I first learned that some of the 1990 proof sets had coins with missing mintmarks. I was quite anxious to take a look at the two sets I had ordered from the Mint.

As you have already guessed, the two sets I had been shipped were just as they were supposed to be. There was no valuable prize inside.

But the story of the lucky collector in Florida is a reminder to all of us not to make assumptions about what we own. Proof sets and other coins need to be examined. Check your 1990 proof sets and any other coins you own that you haven’t looked at closely. If you find something, send me an email at

This latest “No S” 1990 proof set find is also a good illustration of what all collectors already know. There is a certain element of lottery in what we do in numismatics. That is why there is such a mad scramble to order certain new issues directly from the United States Mint website before sellout.

Getting an in-demand item that has sold out in minutes feels like making a California gold strike. Getting something that also then grades at -70 is an additional reward. But often prices for these new issues soar and then crash back down to earth. Collectors have to pay attention and act fast. Most do. But someone along the chain of ownership of this particular 1990 proof set did not look at it. The current owner did not order it from the Mint. The original owner missed an opportunity.

There is also a lottery aspect to weather. But it is one none of us ever wants to participate in. I do not expect ever again to see water reaching my toes while I am hard at work on Numismatic News. I have managed to keep them dry in the office for 39 years while working in more than one location in this building. The odds caught up to me and I am a little soggy.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .

• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .