There were four types of Proof sets through the 1990s, and two are ideal for beginning collectors, the relatively low-mintage and inexpensive green packaged non-silver and black packaged silver sets.
The first thing is to be able to identify the four types of sets:
The Green Packaged Proof Set (1994-98) features five coins, cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar (no silver).
The Black Packaged Silver Proof Set (1992-98) features five coins: a cent, nickel, silver dime, quarter, and half dollar (90% silver).
The Premier Silver Proof Set (1992-98) is the same as the Silver Proof Set, but with display packaging.
The Prestige Silver Proof Set (1983-1997) is the same as the Silver Proof Set with a silver commemorative dollar and half dollar (1986, 1989, 1991-96). There was no 1985 set as no commemoratives were included then.
For the beginner, the green and black-packaged Proof sets (silver or premier) are recommended. Prestige sets are more expensive with the 1996 key date set (55,000 mintage) selling for more than $333 on APMEX.
Identifying the different types of Proof sets can be tricky. On popular sites like eBay, sellers often confuse the silver, premier, and prestige labels. Here’s an example calling a premier set, prestige:
The next lesson is recognizing the values. Here’s a chart from the PCGS price guide:
As you can see, the green packaged Proof sets are inexpensive. The silver and premier ones are reasonable.
APMEX, the precious metal dealer, says this about the green packaged Proof sets. “Due to their elegant appearance and low price, Proof sets can serve as a great introduction to the world of coin collecting for a beginner, or can be an enjoyable part of a wider collection.”
New collectors also need to know about mintages. They should start with the mintage of each set and then each coin in the set for each year of the series. This teaches new hobbyists the fundamentals of numismatics.
We’ll get that exercise rolling with mintages and metal composition for the green 1994-98 sets.
- 1994: 2,484,594
- 1995: 2,117,496
- 1996: 1,750,244
- 1997: 2,055,000
- 1998: 2,086,507
Here are the mintages for the 1996 key date green package set:
- 1996-S Lincoln cent, 2,525,265 (copper-plated zinc)
- 1996-S Jefferson nickel, 2,525,265 (75% copper, 25% nickel)
- 1996-S Roosevelt dime, 1,750,244 (75% copper, 25% nickel over a pure copper center)
- 1996-S Washington quarter, 1,750,244 (75% Copper, 25% nickel over a pure copper center)
- 1996-S Kennedy half dollar, 1,750,244 (75% Copper, 25% nickel over a pure copper center)
Of course, the mintages and metal compositions are included in the paperwork for each set. But knowing them across the sets does take some research. And adults and coin clubs can make a game out of it for youth, rewarding children with a purchase when they look up the mintage, denomination and metal composition for each year of the green and black packaged sets.
They make excellent holiday gifts and can be purchased on any popular site, from eBay to Apmex.