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JCO737

Proof versus Circulation Collecting

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JCO737    10
JCO737

As a novice collector I would like to get an idea from the experienced collectors here on the considerations of collecting either proofs or circulation coins of a particular series. Does it come down to preference or are proof coins generally more desirable than circulation coins?

 

It is my understanding that proof coins normally have a sharper strike and more mirror-like finish, which make it more attractive for numismatists. For the older series though, proofs were often not issued or only issued in certain years.

 

I collect ZAR and Union coins and prefer to collect circulation coins as I believe these to have more historical/cultural value as the coins look identical to those that were used by the population at the time, but also because proof issues are not always available.

 

Am I right in assuming that collectors of more modern series prefer proofs over circulation coins?

 

I know that for some years of issue circulation coins are more expensive than proofs due to relative scarcity.

 

Thanks in advance.

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jwither    10
jwither

It is ultimately a matter of personal preference. With modern coins, more SA collectors generally prefer proofs, probably because they view circulation strikes as not worth collecting, except for the speculation you might have seen in the Mandela coins which was a mania.

 

For coins that do not currently circulate, some collectors prefer the business strike coins for the reasons you state; they view them as more historical. Personally, I view the historical aspect of most coins as grossly over rated. There isn't much real history with most coins; it is mostly imaginary and invented, regardless of what coin someone is talking about.

 

Personally, I prefer proofs or circulation strikes depending upon how hard the coin is too find. I do not view one as intrinsically more desirable than the other. In the recent past, I would say that most SA collectors have come to view higher grade MS for KGV and KGVI as more desirable than the corresponding proofs. I provided a date-by-date opinion in a prior post (I believe late last year) in the topic "Scarce Coin Watch".

 

So to give you a few examples, I consider the 1931 proofs over rated because they are over priced based upon both their reported mintage and their actual availability. I attribute their existing prices to the virtual impossibility of acquiring the 1931 circulation strike silver. Since a proof is not a substitute for any business strike, I see no sense in this outcome at all.

 

To take another date, I would prefer any of the 1926 proofs over the corresponding business strikes in the same TPG grade. The circulation strike 1/, 2/ and 2/6 are scarce or rare (depending upon the grade) but I have seen them a lot more often than the proofs. I have only seen a single proof farthing once and none of the others.

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geejay50    10
geejay50
As a novice collector I would like to get an idea from the experienced collectors here on the considerations of collecting either proofs or circulation coins of a particular series. Does it come down to preference or are proof coins generally more desirable than circulation coins?

 

It is my understanding that proof coins normally have a sharper strike and more mirror-like finish, which make it more attractive for numismatists. For the older series though, proofs were often not issued or only issued in certain years.

 

I collect ZAR and Union coins and prefer to collect circulation coins as I believe these to have more historical/cultural value as the coins look identical to those that were used by the population at the time, but also because proof issues are not always available.

 

Am I right in assuming that collectors of more modern series prefer proofs over circulation coins?

 

I know that for some years of issue circulation coins are more expensive than proofs due to relative scarcity.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Hi JC0737,

 

I agree with your view on circulation coins and their cultural value. I would put it differently though in that the coins that our forefathers used to buy whatever sometimes in very tough times like during the Great Depression Years have a sentimental value and scarcity that carries interest and therefore a premium price.

 

There is a beauty in a Mint State coin that is different to a Proof. The Proof has its mirror fields,sharp writing and was usually kept in a sterile environment for collectors away from real life as it were. Now take a Mint State coin, often with the necessary imperfections of strike in the lettering etc. It has Lustre as a prominent feature which is better developed than the quick lustre of a proof and has the added merit that although it was made for use, some person had the foresight to look after it such that it received no wear. That decision made sometimes long ago by a long forgotten person is attractive for collectors and gives it its high value.

 

Most collectors collect both Proofs and circulation strikes for these different reasons.

 

My view.

 

 

Geejay

Edited by geejay50

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kyle2    10
kyle2

As everyone above has stated, it is a personal choice, I personally love proofs, their mirror like finish and perfect strikes do it for me, you get rare proofs and quite a few common ones, I have some rare circulation coins, but proofs are my passion.:bigsmile:

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Pierre_Henri    10
Pierre_Henri

I prefer non-proof coins but each to their own.

 

The mirror-like sharpish proof strikes sometimes just look unnatural to me for some reason.

 

Maybe they look just too perfect?

I truly cannot resist a truly lustrous & mint state “normal” coin struck for circulation purposes but never went into circulation for whatever reason.

Pierre

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jwither    10
jwither

I believe that one reason many SA collectors prefer business strikes (as reflected in these comments) is because frankly, a disproportionate number of proofs (specifically Union) are really mediocre looking, and this is irrespective of the grade. I have owned many of these coins and even in grades up to 66, there is nothing "special" about them at all. They either were never made in a high quality of were poorly preserved.

 

If you look at current (or recent) listings on BoB or Heritage, there are any number of mediocre looking proofs that are almost certainly not worth either the ask or sell prices. I have owned many of these coins myself and when I got rid of them, they sold at low prices which is what they actually deserved. There simply are not many "sharp" looking proofs out there.

 

This also applies to the few cameos I have seen and this instance, both Union and RSA. I have only owned three Union and none of them have "deep mirror" surfaces by my standards. The DCAM RSA proofs I have do not measure up to my standards either, for the most part.

 

I do have a handful of Union QE II bronze that I consider really sharp but none of them qualified for the CAM designation. The obverses are very deep mirror but not the reverse. Also, these coins looked better OUTSIDE of the holder than in it because the plastic dulls the reflectivity.

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JCO737    10
JCO737

Thanks to all for the informative replies so far.

 

A question for those collectors that do collect proofs. Do you prefer graded proof coins or are you equally willing to buy a proof set in its original box/packaging. Are proof coins in an original set priced similarly to other raw/ungraded coins?

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jwither    10
jwither

On graded versus ungraded, it will depend upon the coin's cost. You are unlikely to find many problem free ungraded proofs of the scarcer dates anymore. I believe that DNW has some listed in their sale occurring on 9/24, but this is not usual. And even among these, some are described as essentially impaired. I would not pay a strong price for any coins like this without inspecting them first.

 

On the more common dates (most of the post-1946), I will buy either. The problem is that so many of the ask prices are absurd. I have not bought hardly any of these in almost 10 years, only a few. Before, I was able to buy them for the price listed in Krause, regardless of the grade.

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geejay50    10
geejay50
Thanks to all for the informative replies so far.

 

A question for those collectors that do collect proofs. Do you prefer graded proof coins or are you equally willing to buy a proof set in its original box/packaging. Are proof coins in an original set priced similarly to other raw/ungraded coins?

 

Hi JC0737,

 

I can understand that some collectors would like to keep the Proofs as they were minted and placed in a protective box that was made specially for them like the well known Mappin and Web maroon box that the 1923 SA Proof Set was issued in.

 

Given the fragility of all Proofs and the high value of some, it would seem reasonable to have them in slabs so that you can a) protect them from further damage and b) be able to look at them without affecting their mirror fields. Dropping a valuable Proof is a not something anyone wants to do.

 

The cheaper and more recent Proof Sets (after WWII) are housed in the SA Mint blue or red boxes that are generally well made and each coin well is deep enough to stop falling out or moving around. Velvet lining helps stabilize the coin and gives a plush attractive appearance too.

 

The scarce WW II Proofs (1943to 46) if obtained in their original box illustrate what I have just said. The box is made of thinnish cardboard and the coins sit in very shallow wells that do not prevent moving around (please see pic). The lid of the shallow box has no hinge and needs an elastic to hold it on.

 

These proofs have a mintage of between 104 (1943) and 150 for the rest. Their prices have tripled in the last five years in spite of several being offered in the latest DNW auction. They must all go into slabs in my view and I think most will agree that the individual proof coins from these years have been extremely well made - especially the copper.

 

 

Apart from the 1923 Mappin and Web cases, I am not sure what boxes the Proofs after 1923 were issued in - all are so rare that the coins are all in TPG slabs. I think I can recall a 1926 Proof set being exhibited at a coin show in a standard SA Mint box which possibly means that the war issue boxes were inferior because of the problems caused by the War.

 

Geejay

 

58f5a74a56145_1946ProofSetBox.jpg.b5783f09c45a99e9c92b24ea4ff8d248.jpg

Edited by geejay50

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Cold Sea    0
Cold Sea

In the past it was said that minting was the art of engineering. The skills of the Mint personnel added to the quality of the coins. The early Union coins were struck with dies manufactured at the SA Mint, with the matrixes and punches prepared by the Royal Mint in London. The lifespan of the dies depended largely on the metal composition of the coin being struck, as well as thickness and diameter.

 

The worst performer of the silver coins were the threepenny pieces, with only about 28 000 pieces per pair of dies as against 45 000 average for the other silver coins. Of the bronze coins, the farthing gave the best result at around 105 000 pieces per pair of dies. This might help explain the scarcity and quality of some circulated and uncirculated coins.

 

I am not sure whether the proof coins were minted with special dies. Maybe jwither’s comment about the mediocre quality of the early proof strikes is a clue in itself.

 

Whether collecting for value or sentiment, my preference is uncirculated early Union coins (I wish I could afford the proof coins). The modern proofs, especially the commemoratives, are sometimes stunning to say the least and deserves admiration, but it cannot reproduce the artisan qualities of the older coins.

 

Derick

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jwither    10
jwither

Derick,

 

Actually, the mediocre coins I am referring to are the later dates. I am not knowledgeable on the quality of the dies or the striking process for these coins.

 

For the KGV proofs, the three I owned at one time that were not dated 1923 were all well preserved by that is because they were all graded 66. So were the 1923 2/6 in 65, 6d in 63 and the 1/d that I currently own in 65 RB. The others dated 1930 to 1936 that I saw in person were at the 2006 December Stacks sale in NY. Most of these coins required conservation and if they received it, might be high quality. I do not know but they definitely were not stored properly. I still own a 1936 2/6 and it is a nice looking coin but graded "details surface hairlines".

 

The ones that I consider mediocre even in high grades are actually the later KGVI dates and QEII. My guess is that my opinion is probably also partly biased by the higher standards I expect. Since I do not consider any of these coins even scarce, I am simply not willing to keep any one that is not "sharp" and I will not pay any premium price for it either, regardless of what grade is on the holder. I have seen many of the 1947-1950 2/ and 2/6 in grades like a 63 for ask prices or that have sold for prices I consider too high. The 1950 are over rated and the others are too common in my opinion to even want in these grades.

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