United States-proof coins have always been among my favorite coins. When I first started collecting at 10 years old, the first coin I purchased at my local coin shop was a 1962 proof Franklin half dollar. After studying my Guide Book of U.S. Coins, by R.S. Yeoman (the “Red Book”), and from conversations with local collectors who were more experienced than me, I learned that proof coins represented the finest possible quality the U.S. Mint was able to produce – the state of the art, given the technology of the day.
However, that key phrase, “the technology of the day,” is most important when understanding the difference in quality and rarity between proofs struck since the late 1970s, and proof coins struck in the mid-1970s and earlier.
It is most important to understand that the proof-making technology at the Philadelphia mint was simply not as advanced at the Mint 50 years ago as it is at the San Francisco Mint today. Most proof coins struck in that earlier era simply do not compare in quality to proof coins struck today in 2021.
But what appears most incredible (it was a “light bulb” moment for me when…