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Yes, you can believe your eyes

When you want to find a valuable coin so bad you can taste it, does that mean you don’t believe what your eyes tell you?

I wonder.

I had an email yesterday:

“I’m writing you again after sitting with my mother and going through some numismatic back issues. We have a 1990 proof set with a no 's' penny. I have attached a picture for your review.

“Let me know if this is the one referred to in the July 4 edition. I appreciate your time.”

The attached image was of half a 1990 mint set, which is more formally known as an Uncirculated Coin Set.

The cent, of course, being from Philadelphia has no mintmark on it.

I don’t expect noncollectors, mothers included, to know a proof finish from a hole in the wall. I don't expect them to know proof set cases from mint set packets.

I can understand simply noticing a lack of a mintmark.

I suppose I should not even expect a noncollector to know that there are “P” mintmarks on the other coins in the polyester film packet.

But then, you have to know what a mintmark is and where it is located to know there is not one on the cent.

But the clincher in this case is the copper-colored cent-sized medal in the packet. It says, “Uncirculated” around the rim at the top with a large “P” in the center and “Philadelphia” at the bottom.

Why would you not believe what the medal says?

Uncirculated is not proof.

But a 1990 cent without a mintmark looks so tantalizing when the proof version is worth $10,000.

I will grant you that.

So I had to burst another bubble.

I wrote: “Sorry to disappoint you, but this is not a proof set. It is an uncirculated coin set from the U.S. Mint. It is also called a mint set.

“Proofs are made in San Francisco and would have “S” mintmarks on the other coins if it were a proof set.

“Good luck with your coin hunting.”

The email writer took it in good spirit.

“Okay. Thanks” was his two-word reply.

The lesson here is look at all the pieces in your hands. Sometimes questions virtually answer themselves.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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