Digging Deeper: Is Proof a Condition?

Digging Deeper: Is Proof a Condition?

Posted by Toby Adkins, Numismatic Scholar for on Feb 24th 2022

As collectors we love our shiny little baubles! Whether a gift from a loved one or the rare coin we have always wanted, the details on coins matter. The very definition of a Proof coin lets you know it is special.

Proof- coins struck for collectors by the Mint using specially polished dies and planchets.

So, we know they are made for collectors, they are given special care, and are made to be beautiful. Does that mean that the term Proof denotes the condition?

To cut right to the chase, the short answer is no. However, there is a reason this question is asked as much as it is. The U.S. Mint Proof coins are the most carefully handled coins produced by the Mint. This high level of production is what makes them a "Proof" coin. The great news is this same level of production means they are typically the most t beautiful coins coming from the Mint. 

 So, how is the production different from the other coins? First, is the polishing of the dies and the planchets. The die is the actual tool that transfers the design into the planchet. The planchet is a blank piece of metal that when it's struck becomes a coin. The polishing of both is what gives the final coin such high luster. To make sure the design transfers crisply, each proof coin is struck at least twice to transfer all of the detail. Then, each proof coin is removed and packaged by hand to make sure the coin is handled with as much care as possible. All of this work is intended to bring a final product that every collector would be proud to own.

 This is the reason that so many people think proof is a condition. Since so many proof coins are in high condition they associate a proof as the pinnacle of grade. It's understandable but in reality Proof coins are graded on the same scale as all other coins. This scale is known as the Sheldon Rate Scale and measures condition from 1 as the worst to 70 as the best condition possible. Most new Proofs will be on the high end of the scale because of how well the Mint produces them.

 In short, Proof coins are made at a very high level from the Mint and usually have very high grades. Just remember Proof denotes the manufacture of a coin and not it's condition. Fortunately, we live in a golden age of coins where the process produces some of the very best looking coins ever struck by the Mint. Happy collecting!