If you are new to coin collecting you may not know the difference between an uncirculated coin and a proof coin. Knowing the difference between the two can help you make a more informed purchasing decision, whether you’re looking to add a new coin to your collection or an older rare coin.
An uncirculated coin is one that has not been in circulation, i.e. it has not been used as currency by the public. As a result, these coins do not have any wear on them from handling. All new coins, before they are distributed, are uncirculated coins.
Uncirculated coins may have small imperfections on them caused by the production process. These are called “bag marks” and are the result of the coins bumping into each other when they transported in large canvas bags.
The condition of the coin is designated by the initials MS for “mint state.” A coin that is graded between an MS-60 and an MS-70 is considered uncirculated quality. MS-60 would be a lower grade coin with normal bag marks. MS-70 would be a perfect coin with no marks whatsoever.
A proof coin, on the other hand, is one that has been specially produced to a much higher standard of finish than an ordinary coin. Its designation as a “proof” has nothing to do with its grade but rather with the method by which it has been struck.
Proof coins are made with specially polished and treated dies that give the coin its unique appearance. The finished coin has a frosted look on the raised part of the design, whereas the background has a polished, mirror-like finish. This contrasting finish is called “cameo.” Cameo proof coins have been popular since the late 1970s.
In addition to using specially treated dies, a proof coin is made by striking the coin two or more times at lower striking speeds. This gives a higher, sharper definition to the image on the coin. Furthermore, the coins are often hand-fed into the coin press. Proof coins are designated by the initials “PR” or “PF” and are graded between PR-60 and PR-70.
Proof coins are popular with collectors because of their shiny finish and the fact that they are produced in lower numbers. The extra time, labour and production costs associated with minting them means that the mint sells them at a higher price to non-proof coins, so expect to pay a bit more.
Whether you want to buy a proof coin or an uncirculated coin is a matter of preference and depends on what you want to do with the coin. As a rule, the higher the coin grading, the larger the premium you will pay for it and the more value it will have as a coin investment.