The 2003 Proofs are Here

Posted by Rick Montgomery on 4/1/2003

As the trees bloom and the flowers blossom every spring, collectors around the world know that the proof sets are not far behind.

As the trees bloom and the flowers blossom every spring, collectors around the world know that the proof sets are not far behind. And this year is no different. As April welcomed a new season, the 2003 proof sets began to make their way to everyone’s doorstep. Even here at NGC, April started out with a deluge of these annual treasures.

The pristine quality of this year’s proof coins are second to none. It seems that the U.S Mint just keeps on making a higher quality proof coin each year. The perfection of the silver Eagles reflect stone white cameo effects against a hard black field. This year’s crop continues the ongoing trend of the US Mint to produce the ideal precious metal proof coin. As such, the coins exhibit exquisite surfaces, little or no mint defects, with many specimens receiving the coveted PR 70 UCAM grade by NGC. These coins are especially difficult to find in such states of preservation as the coin is so large and the fields so exposed that any slight, physical defect can be easily attained. The pieces inspected thus far have been of the highest quality with few mint made defects while exhibiting the maximum levels of cameo effect. It’s a pleasure to see such quality to detail and to know that so many of these perfect gems will be permanently preserved in the utmost state of condition for generations to come.

The annual highlight, of course, are the State Quarter issues. This year is no different as the US Mint rolls out this year’s lineup of clad proof quarters. As with the silver Eagle proofs, the State Quarter proofs are being produced in the highest quality. The pieces seen so far at NGC have been extraordinary in quality. Where in the past, there would be situations, especially amongst the clad issues, of shallow cameo effects, the 2003 vintage so far are exhibiting cameo effects usually only seen on the silver quarters. Hardly a coin has been seen with any spotting, an occurrence that has frustrated collectors in the past. The degree of mint caused defects also remain low in the groups of proofs inspected during these first few weeks of release. This quality production of these quarters by the mint along with the high cameo contrast has contributed to the many PR 70 UCAM grades being issued by NGC. This streak of high quality issuance by the US Mint has many a collector anxious for the silver issues later this year.

As NGC inspects these proof coins for the ultimate grade, we look to judge the originality (not a usual concern for these coins), identifying any physical defects as well as mint caused defects, and determining the degree of cameo effect. As one might imagine, the bottom line determinants as to whether or not one of these 2003 proof issues makes the 70 grade comes down to any hairlines or spots being detected under 5X magnification. Should a hairline or spot be identified, this will cause the coin to grade no higher than 69. Mint caused defects, however, can be found on these proofs and still garner the grade of 70. As long as they are minor in nature, few in numbers, and easily determined to be mint caused, the grade of 70 can still apply. There are circumstances where a proof coin cannot grade 70 due to there being too many mint caused defects or mint defects that are too large in size. In these cases, the highest attainable grade will be 69. Lastly, the coins must exhibit the necessary stone white frosted devices against the black, mirrored fields in order to obtain the desirable UCAM designation from NGC. Unfortunately, many of the clad State quarters of the past were notably weak in this area. The 2003 issues certainly do not seem to be the case so far.

As springtime continues, we all look forward to the upcoming proof gold Eagles to be distributed in early May. If the quality of the early 2003 proof coins are any indication, this could be a bumper year for some of the finest, Ultra Cameo proof coinage in recent memory.