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|Proof or Uncirculated Coins - The Difference|
The word uncirculated is quite descriptive, an uncirculated coin is a coin which is quite literally in mint condition. Because of the fact that coins are mass produced, there can be considerable surface marks, scratches, light abrasion or edge knocks. Even before a coin leaves the mint, it may be considerably less than perfect.
Sometimes uncirculated coins are described as ordinary uncirculated to differentiate them from proof coins.
The Royal Mint has recently described its year 2000 uncirculated non-proof sovereigns as bullion grade sovereigns, although they are, in fact, considerably better than most ordinary uncirculated coins, but not quite as good as specimens which we describe later.
It would be wrong to assume that all "bullion grade" coins are as good as these.
Proof is not a grade, but a term for a specially struck coin, produced originally as pre-production samples, now often marketed for collectors.
Most proof coins have the raised parts of the design in a matt or sand-blasted finish, while the flat part or background has a highly polished mirror finish. The dies used to strike proofs are usually sand blasted first, and then the flat raised areas of the die, which correspond to the flat background areas of the coin, are then polished to a mirror finish.
The blanks from which the coins are struck are also specially prepared and polished prior to striking.
Proof coins can be expected to be absolutely perfect without blemishes.
Matt Finish Proofs & Reverse Proof Finish
Some proof coins may be produced with different finishes. The coronation coin set issued for Edward VII in 1902, for example, is well known for having a totally matt finish.
Some mints produce coins with what they describe as a reverse proof finish, i.e. where the background is matt, and the raised design is polished. Although these are still accurately described as proofs, what most coin dealers or collectors would generally understand from the unqualified term proof, is one with a matt finish design on a highly polished field or background.
Strictly speaking any coin which is absolutely perfect is referred to as being in F.D.C. condition, an abbreviation of fleur de coin.
We reckon this translates as "flower of corner", but then we may be misunderstanding some subtleties of the French language!
Specimen is used to describe any coin produced to a particularly high standard of finish. Before 1970, most British proof coin sets were described and issued as specimen sets, despite the fact that they would now be called proofs.
In recent years the Royal Mint has started to produce especially good versions of its uncirculated coins which it calls specimens. These are ordinary uncirculated coins which have been handled individually and with greater than normal care, to avoid most, but not all, of the surface blemishes which occur due to bulk handling.
Differences in Production Techniques & Practice
Most proof coins are individually hand-fed as blanks into the stamping press, checked before and after striking, only being handled afterwards with gloves or by their edges, and then individually packaged. The press is usually operated at a lower speed, and the coins are often double or treble struck to ensure a completely sharp impression.
Specimen coins are usually produced on a stamping press which has been modified so that the coins feed, after striking, into plastic channels or onto a rubber conveyor. They are usually given a brief visual inspection on both sides before packaging individually.
Ordinary coins intended for circulation feed at high speed straight from the stamping press via a hopper into large metal bins or containers.
Value of my Coin. What's it Worth?
British Coin Denominations. What's a Groat,? etc.
Common Names of British Coins. What's a Tanner?
Do you have a query about the difference between proof and uncirculated?
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