One Collector’s Passion: The Bagne Collection of Proof and Prooflike Silver Commemoratives

Posted on 12/15/2008

California Collector Jerry Bagne has assembled one of the largest and most diverse Prooflike Silver Commemorative Collections ever.

No place is better than the Signature Sets section of the NGC Registry for collectors to showcase their passion for coins. Unlike Competitive Sets which follow rigid pre-defined frameworks, Signatures Sets are designed by collectors who can shape their sets around their unique interests. This is well demonstrated by the Bagne Collection of Proof and Prooflike Silver Commemoratives, assembled by California collector Jerry Bagne.

Early US silver commemorative coins were issued from 1892 to 1954. The series consists of 50 different design types which honor important historical events and people in US history. When all the different dates, mint marks and major varieties of coins are included, the entire series is made up of 144 different coins. Many collectors chose either to build a 50-coin type set or a 144-piece complete set. Since the designs range broadly in theme and artistic composition, they can be collected in a variety of different ways.

Jerry Bagne has chosen a rather unique approach. He collects the scarce proof and prooflike examples, and accumulates as many as he can possibly acquire. Prooflike coins are examples struck from polished dies or on polished planchets (or both), and as a result they have mirrored surfaces. To qualify for the prooflike, or PL, designation at NGC, a coin must have 2 to 4 inches of reflectivity throughout the entire field area on both obverse and reverse. Of the 144 different issues in the series, 33 of them can be found certified by NGC with prooflike surfaces. Bagne’s collection of over 150 coins includes, incredibly, 22 different issues, and is certainly among the largest and most diverse group of prooflike silver commemoratives ever assembled. In fact, he has acquired more than 10% of all the prooflike silver commemoratives certified by NGC!

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Bagne, a retired printer and business owner who is now 80 years old, has collected virtually every type of US coin since he began collecting in 1976. A few years ago, he had completed a set of Proof Morgan Dollars and was looking for something new to collect. He likes the look of proof coins, and found that commemorative coins offered an interesting collecting option: prooflikes. According to Bagne, "Proofs in this series can’t reasonably be collected because of their rarity and considerable expense, but most prooflike range from a few hundred dollars into the thousands, and, for the price, are very limited in availability."

He does have a number of duplicates, but he says that’s a part of collecting prooflike commemoratives – with so few coins available you have to buy more than one of each. For example he has amassed seven of the 67 Roanoke half dollars graded prooflike. The rarer issues are also represented; he has one of the only six 1935-S San Diego 50C graded in prooflike, and one of only two 1936 Cincinnati 50C with PL designation. He also pursues NGC star designated coins. Of the 14 prooflike commemoratives assigned star designations, Bagne’s collection includes five, and he comments, "the stars are always great looking coins."

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His favorite coin in his set, however, is unusual for a prooflike in that its richly toned. It’s his Isabella quarter graded MS 67 PL, the only prooflike Isabella to receive that grade, which he feels beautifully combines a deep blue patina with smooth prooflike surfaces. He also singles out his 1951-S Booker T. Washington graded NGC MS 67 DPL for which he paid $11,557.50 at auction, a record for a Booker T. Washington prooflike. It’s the quality a depth of reflectivity that appeals to Bagne. The auction description notes: "This coin displays unbelievable flash that jumps out at the viewer."

Each coin in his collection bears the NGC pedigree, BAGNE COLLECTION. Jerry Bagne still continues to acquire new coins for his collection, and as of this writing has two new editions ready to add to his Registry Set, which can be found online: Bagne Collection of Proof and Prooflike Silver Commemoratives.

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