ABOUT THE BOOK
Before this work the only full-length treatise on United States Proof coins was Walter Breen’s 1977 encyclopedia that later was revised in 1989. Although that seminal book moved the scholarship light years forward, its main drawback was its lack of illustrations. It was published before the digital age and was written on typewriter and laid out in the way books were done for generations. Thirty-five-millimeter photographs were cut and pasted into a layout and that layout was converted to a transparency called a “blue.” From the blues, a printed book was produced.
This volume on Proof gold has nearly 2,000 illustrations and every Proof gold variety either has a full color photograph or a close-up illustration of its pertinent features. This is only possible because of digital photography and software for a work of this magnitude. Details that previously only could be verbally described is now illustrated with such clarity that words are now secondary. Noting the date’s position by where an imaginary vertical line aligns with the left base of the 1 digit aligns with a dentil below it is still noted in this work, but many date positions have obvious other differences. Micro photographs of date positions illustrate these differences and allow easy identification of varieties.
After 1840, nearly all United States coins were produced from completely hubbed dies. Thus, the differences in Proof and circulation strike dies after this point often are the position of the hand-punched dates and little else. Reverse dies are even harder to differentiate, as the ones from Philadelphia (the majority of the Proof coins in this book) usually differ only in post-hubbing features. There is no mintmark in a different position for Philadelphia Proofs to distinguish varieties, as they do not have them!
In the past, collectors wanted one example of each date and Proofs were the ultimate collector coins. Today, collectors want both Proof and Mint State examples, so Proofs have lost some of their luster, as many collectors today have concentrated on rare circulation strike issues or common issues in very high grades. Admittedly, some of this focus is deserved, as there are many rare issues and there are numerous common-date coins that are very difficult to find in ultimate states of preservation. However, the collectors of the past appreciated the “Coiner’s Caviar” as Proofs were the best coins produced by the United States Mint and those throughout the world. Today, nearly every mint in the world produces Proof coinage – the ultimate examples of their coinage. Mints are proud of their coinage and Proof coins are the ultimate examples of their output. The care in producing and preparing the dies and planchets results in nearly perfect coins. They are miniature works of art!
Hopefully, these four volumes (this work on gold, followed by silver, copper, and nickel treatises) will cause a renaissance in collecting Proofs. In reality, Proof gold coins are among the most sought after and desirable issues in United States numismatics, but the other metals in the ultimate format have languished in recent years. Proof eagles and double eagles are highlights in dealer’s cases and auctions, just as one can imagine they were throughout the years past.
These four works will systematically identify every known Proof variety issued by the United States prior to 1916. By doing this, collectors will then be able to assemble variety sets of Proofs just as they do for large cents by Sheldon and Newcomb varieties, half dollars by Overton numbers, and the other circulation series that have been extensively studied and have had their varieties enumerated.
The author hopes that collectors, dealers, and others interested in numismatics will enjoy reading these works as much as the author enjoyed writing them. It is the culmination of a life-long fascination with the Mint’s pinnacle of their output – the best examples of the coiner’s work – Proof coins.