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Prestige Proof Sets

posted Oct 17, 2011, 9:13 PM by OC Coin Club   [ updated Oct 31, 2011, 4:14 AM ]
Attractive but Costly at Issue, These Modern Sets Are an Opportunity Today
Seeking to give proof collectors a way to show off their purchases, from 1983 to 1997 the US Mint sold prestige proof sets in addition to their standard offerings. Each includes one proof S-mint cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar and adds to the familiar hard plastic “lens” holder one of the year’s commemorative silver dollars. A case styled to resemble a suede-covered book holds the lens in a frame between padded inner covers. With their high issue prices of $45 to $59, they were poor sellers in most years and continue to languish today. Several factors, however, make prestige proof sets an intriguing field for modern collecting.


We all enjoy looking at our coins, but few storage methods lend themselves to display. Prestige sets, however, invite exhibition on your bookshelf. Standing upright with the front cover of the book-like case open, they show their contents to good effect while remaining safe in the Mint’s lenses. Assuming they stay away from heater vents, sunbeams, and other sources of environmental damage, your sets will be protected and put on view at the same time.

Modern Commemoratives Likely to Appreciate

Many collectors see classic (1892 - 1954) commemoratives as a single series to be collected in its entirety. The classic series has its low-mintage issues like the 1928 Hawaiian half that command prices similar to key dates in popular circulation series. In modern commemoratives expect to pay high and increasing prices for coins, such as the uncirculated 1996 Atlanta Olympics rowing dollar, that were unpopular at the time of issue. Seen as a series, prestige sets also have t
heir low-mintage years that could become valuable. High issue prices for all of the prestige sets kept production low in most years, creating several opportunities. The market recognizes the rarity of the 55,000 mintage 1996 set at $320 for example, but not the 80,000 unit 1997 set which remains affordable at $93.50.

Appreciation through Attrition

Like other silver proof sets, many prestige sets fall victim to high silver prices. I recently bought a 1986 set (the most common) for $32.50 from a dealer who was asking $36 for circulated silver dollars. He could have cracked out the 90% silver dollar, put it in a junk bag, discarded the other coins and packaging, and realized a higher price. Similarly, a collector at a recent club meeting offered several dollarless prestige sets for sale. This attrition can lower supply an
d, in time, increase price.

Bargains Are Available

If I were a dealer hauling my inventory to a show, stocking a small shop, or mailing coins to customers with a fixed shipping charge, I would prefer to carry my product in a small 2” by 2” holder rather than an item of the same value in a weighty 7” by 5” box. Dealers are happy to
rid themselves of all proof sets, including prestige sets, so you may find bargains or dealers willing to negotiate. The local shop I frequent, for example, sells the 1990 prestige set with the Eisenhower Centennial commemorative dollar for less than the same dollar by itself.

Precious Metal Value

Each prestige set includes a dollar with 0.77 ounce actual silver weight, giving in intrinsic value even if the numismatic premium declines.

Consider starting your prestige set collection with one of the common $35 - $45 sets with a commemorative theme that appeals to you. Show the set in your home for a few weeks and see how you feel about the display. You may find a rewarding new collecting interest.