Deb writes: I am very new to coin collecting. What does proof mean? And how would I know if my coin is a proof? I have a 1883 Morgan dollar with no markings and have no clue what to look for!
Proofs are specially made coins for presentation or sale to collectors. They differ from “business strikes”, that is, normal coins designed to circulate, in the following ways:
- Proof blanks are highly polished. Normal blanks have dull surfaces.
- Proof dies are carefully made and are essentially flawless. Normal dies may exhibit die polishing marks, tooling marks, minor cracks or other flaws.
- Proof coins struck from proof dies are struck multiple times and handled individually. They have a higher relief than normal strikes. Normal strikes are struck once at high speed and permitted to fall into a hopper with other coins. Normal strikes are counted and stored in canvas bags where they are subjected to contact marks from other coins.
- Proofs normally exhibit mirror fields and are well struck with, sometimes frosted, devices. Normal coins usually have lustrous fields, though some 19th century first strikes may have “proof-like” fields as well.
- Morgan Dollar proofs were minted in Philadelphia (no mint mark). All United States coins without mint marks, proof or business strike, were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.)