Proof gold coins are among the highest-quality coins of any issue. Renowned for their stunning level of detail and masterful production, these beautiful works of art are prized by precious metal investors and coin collectors alike. For this reason, proof gold coins have excellent potential for long-term investment.
The Minting Process
Originally, proof coins were the first ones made of a given issue, created as “prototypes” in order to test the minting process and the new dies. Today, proof coins are made using an entirely separate minting process, with their own dies. Proof coins are made with a specialized striking process designed specifically to result in a beautiful coin.
Most proof gold coins are struck from high-polish dies, giving the background of the image a high-polish, mirror-like surface. Meanwhile, the foreground image is softly frosted. This contrast produces a beautiful coin with a much higher level of detail than other gold coins. The softly frosted image on a mirror-like background is characteristic of many (though not all) proof gold coins, and is known as a “cameo.”
Purity and Cost
Proof gold coins usually contain the same amount of gold as the non-proof version. For example, a one ounce Gold American Eagle contains 1 troy ounce of gold, whether it is a proof or non-proof version. Despite containing the same amount of precious metals, these coins often trade at a premium over their non-proof counterparts.
Often, the mint charges an additional cost for proof coins, over the price charged for non-proof coins of the same issue. The quantity of proof coins is typically much lower than the number of non-proof coins minted in the same year. This rarity only adds to their value.
A common misconception is that proof coins are simply those that have not been handled since leaving the mint, leaving them free from scratches or other wear. However, these are actually known as uncirculated coins. Uncirculated coins are free from wear, but are otherwise no different than other examples of the coin which have been handled. A newly-minted proof coin is also uncirculated, but it is typically worth more than uncirculated non-proof coins.
Proof Offerings and Grades
Not all gold coins are available in proof versions. Proof Gold Eagles are some of the most popular gold proof coins ever minted. Introduced in 1986 – the same year as the regular-issue Gold Eagle – it is made in a highly controlled minting process involving gloves, lint-free material, and other measures to minimize the risk of blemishes in the finished coin. There are currently four versions of the American Gold Eagle Proof Coin, in one ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and tenth-ounce sizes.
Because of their high collectible value, many proof coins are sent in for authentication and grading. Proof coins are usually given the grade PR or PF, instead of MS (mint state, a designation given to regular-issue coins). Proof coins that are also uncirculated (free from wear due to handling) are usually graded PR60 to PR70, depending on whether there are any blemishes in the coin. If the proof coin has been handled or cleaned since being purchased, it may receive a grade lower than PR60.