Proof set or Mint set, what's the difference?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by fretboard, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage

    This is a pic of a Proof with cameo and all, 1962 beauty, excuse the pics. On ebay sometimes you see the names used interchangeably Proof or Mint sets. My understanding has been that there's a difference between the two.

    I understood it to mean that Mint sets have always been available for sale. Then in the early 60's the US mint came up with Proof sets which were made for collectors. Can someone clear up my information? :confused:

    It gets a bit more confusing b/c I have bought mint sets off of ebay and elsewhere, sealed mint sets and I have never come across a cameo'd coin. The pic is of a half dollar I bought by itself off of ebay. What year did the US mint start minting proof sets? As always, I appreciate responses, any and all. ;)

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    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    There is a difference - a big one. Problem is, a lot of folks selling them on ebay don't know that.

    But to answer your questions, the US Mint began selling packaged Proof sets in 1936 and stopped in 1942. Then started back up again in 1950 and continued to date.

    However, the US Mint first began selling Proofs to collectors, by request only, in 1856 I think it was. But there was no regular program or packages. In fact most Proof coins were purchased individually, one at a time. Very few individuals ever purchased all of the denominations for given year.

    Prior to that, Proofs were made as far back as 1816, again going by memory and not looking it up, but they were not being sold to collectors. They were instead being given to diginitaries as Presentation Pieces.

    They began selling Mint Sets in 1947 and have continued to date. Prior to that, there was no such thing a Mint Set.
  4. bhp3rd

    bhp3rd Die varieties, Gems

    That coin is a proof - the mint started the modern proofs in 1950

    That coin is a proof - the mint started the modern proofs in 1950 and except for 1965, 66, 67 there have always been proofs and mint sets.
    The two terms do and can get confused as some proof sets are and have been referred to as mint sets and even sometimes the other way around - they are not the same.
    The differents is dramatic as proof coins are struck completly different than mint set or coins produced for circulation. Proof coins are struck multible times on slower presses with greater force, special planchets.
    They almost always have sharp edges and mirror like fields and must be handled carefully to avoid contact marks or scrapes. The best way to learn the dfferents is look at thousands, tens of thousands of each and learn the minting process for yourself - once learned you will have no trouble telling the differents.
  5. onecenter

    onecenter Member

    Just an amplification. There were no proof sets in 1965, 1966 and 1967 (just special mint sets) and there were no mint (uncirculated) sets in 1982 and 1983.
  6. mpcusa

    mpcusa "Official C.T. TROLL SWEEPER" Supporter

    In my opinion proof setts are the best by far!! Outstanding and brillant
    Shine cant be matched!!
  7. quartertapper

    quartertapper Numismatist

    I collect both, and am almost finished with the 1968 to date mint sets. I have very mixed feelings on the satin finish they've been putting on them in recent years. They are kind of unique, but I really would just like a plain old mint set for the most part. I feel it is a bad attempt on the mint's part to boost sales of the mint sets.
  8. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Doug's anser is closest to being correct, but the sale of proofs tocollectors began in 1858 and the earliest proof were 1817. And while mint sets began in 1947, when the mint resumed producing proof sets in 1950 they thought the collectors would rather have the proof sets than the mint sets so no mint sets were made in 1950. There was demand for both though so both proof and mint sets were made from 1950 through 1964. Only special mint sets were made in 1965, 66, and 67. Both proof and mint sets havebeen made from 1968 to date.

    While the proof coins from 1950 to date have been sold by the mint in sets only, the modern proofs of 1936 to 1942 were sold individually not as sets. (Yes you could buy one of each coin and they would come as a "set" but you actually bought the individual coins and there was no discount for buying all of them as a set.) In 1942 the proof coins were avaialabe early in the year and the proof war nickel was offered later and collectors could buy that coin by itself. Once the silver version became available the copper nickel was discontinued so very few if any six coins sets actually came from the mint that way. Most six coin sets seen today are five coin sets that have had the sixth coin added to it.
  9. Cringely

    Cringely Active Member


    As far as Cameo'd coins, if you look at very recent proof sets, you will see all of the coins in cameo or deep cameo. Finding cameo proofs in earlier pre 70's proof sets is difficult. In those days, the method of preparing proof dies with a cameo effect was such that the repeated striking of the dies wore down the dies changing the surface from frosted to polished quite quickly. If you want to know more, I'd recommend you get a copy of Rick Tomaska's Cameo and Brilliant Proof Coinage of the 1950 to 1970 Era as it explains the process much better than I can (and has many photos of the range of cameos all the way to ultra deep cameo). You can borrow it (assuming you are an ANA member) from the ANA library or buy it at
    If you have the chance to go to a national show where R&I has a booth, stop by and see how impressive a truly deep cameo can look.
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