How do i tell a proof Indian head cent from a MS version? Mintmark? weight? I notice some non-graded proofs listed on Ebay, but i'm concerned that they may not really be proofs.

There are no mintmarked Proof Indians for one thing, and the weight won;t help you either. Look for STRONG square rims, full dentils and a reflective surface for starters. Some will be cameo as well. If you cannot tell, even from a picture, I would NOT advise buying these raw !!

To add to what Jack had to say . . . The tops of letters and numerals should be flat on Proof coins and rounded on Business Strikes. Your best bet would be to visit your local coin dealer or a coin show and compare Proof and Business Strike IHCs side-by-side. This will help you to identify the differences between the two.

First off, the fields will be mirror-like. There is almost always some cameo appearance between the fields and the devices (although the level varies by the date of issue and from coin-to-coin within a year). There aren't many prooflike IHC's (for some odd reason) to confuse you, so the mirrored surfaces almost always give the coin away. In addition, the strike is generally quite strong with all features of the coin generally showing, and if you have the ability to view the coin raw, the proof's edge will be much more squared off and the rims sharper than a business struck coin. The good news is that once you've seen a few, it is relatively easy to make the determination. All of the above is based on my own experience & hoping to helps...Mike

The dentils on a proof should look more square than the dentils on a business strike, which are more rounded. I also wouldn't even think of buying a proof IHC raw.

Two choices: - Spend 5 or so years studying them until you can be 100% certain when you see a proof. - Buy PCGS or NGC slabs that indicate the coin is proof. For the price of those coins anything else is sheer folly.

Hi, many thanks to everyone for their knowledge of Indian Head proof cents!!! I'll definately ask some dealers at my next coin show for some comparison(MS & proof). Graded sounds like the best route though, given the low mintages! Thanks!!!

From a technical perspective, preceding posts are right on. Here's another way to approach it : Is there a difference between a business strike and a proof ? Is there a difference between a drainage ditch and the Grand Canyon ? If the difference doesn't pop, I pass. Proofs should be amazing coins. When they aren't, I move on. Something else to consider, particularly with 19th century proofs : proofs tend to magnify small flaws. Flaws are more conspicuous. And beware of hazy fields !

If it takes someone 5 years to learn IHC proofs from business struck coins, that person is either blind (no offense to our visually challenged brothers and sisters), or they haven't taken enough time to look at examples in-hand. It isn't that hard.... Quite frankly, I could take a novice and show them the differences and make them good enough to pick out the proofs with 99% accuracy in an afternoon and a couple dozen example coins. In fact, I find the IHCs about the easiest of all the classic proof types when it comes to distinguishing proofs from business struck coins. Now 3CN or even the larger denominations have challenges, but IHCs are a piece of cake (IMO). Respectfully...Mike

Since I am still new to this whole thing let me ask a question? Can there be circulated proofs? I imagine this answer will be a resounding yes. But I just had to ask it.

Yes. They are rare -- far rarer than mint state ones -- particularly for IHCs. To wit, I can't recall the last time I saw a circulated IHC proof, but I'm sure they're out there. In general, the higher the denomination the more likely it was spent -- you'll see more proof halves and dollars circulated because of their intrinsic value. Remember, back in the 1800's a dollar bought a LOT of stuff. But a cent (obviously) wasn't as valuable so the reward for spending one was less. Or at least that's the way I've always thought about it/rationalized the number of larger denomination proofs you see in circulated condition.