Mail Bag – Are Proof Sets Worth Collecting?

Today’s Mail Bag question comes from Amber and they ask a simple question: Are Proof Sets worth the effort to collect? It is a valid question that I suspect more than one numismatist has asked themselves from time-to-time. But the answer to this simple question is a bit more complicated.


I just started collecting coins and I have been looking at proof sets on amazon and ebay. Are they worth collecting? I think they look really nice but I could see where they end up in a drawer. I think it may be best to collect separate san francisco coins separately.




First Amber, thanks for taking the time to write and welcome to the hobby!

The answer to your question is really a personal one to be fair. What do you want to collect? Some people (Clinton raises his hand) love Proof Sets and collect them every year. Others think they are not worth the time and effort. It really does come down to personal desires of what you want in your collection.

For me, my love of Proof Sets comes from seeing one that my grandfather (the one who got me interesting in coin collecting) from 1940. I was stunned by its beauty and the mirror-like finish of the coins. It hooked me. When I started collecting, a 1986 Proof Set (the year I really started collecting in earnest) was one of the first things I bought and I’m pretty much picked up each year since (I have a few gaps – teenage kids where expensive!). Now, I go even further. I not only get the Proof Set for each year but also get the Silver Proof Set for each year. But, like you are considering Amber, I also buy individual Proof coins for each year to complete my in-folder sets.

My latest craze: Trying to complete the Prestige Proof Sets the Mint offered from 1983 to 1997 (except 1985).

Clinton's Prestige Proof Set Collection
Clinton’s Prestige Proof Set Collection

Now, being completely transparent Amber, Proof Sets have traditionally been a losing proposition from an investment perspective. Let’s take my 1986 Proof Set as an example. The issue price back then was $11 (that is equivalent to $25.90 in 2020). Today, you can pick one up for $7.95 on Amazon (Affiliate Link). There are exceptions to this of course, but with the number of Proof Sets that the Mint produces each year, those exceptions often come down to errors in the set. So proceed knowing that if a day comes that you want or need to sell a Proof Set, you may not break even on the sale.

Ultimately the decision of worth on collecting anything in Numismatics comes down to the value you see in doing it. If you love Proof Sets, damn the torpedoes and collect Proof Sets! If you are looking at it from an investment perspective, they probably aren’t the best way to go unless you focus on key dates and error sets. But, understandably, those are going to cost you more initially.

I hope this helps Amber!

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