Proof Sets in Original Boxes

Question: Frank, do the original boxes play a great part in the value of early Proof sets, say 1950-1955, or is that more of an esoteric gimmick for dealers and collectors? — G.C.

Answer: In my opinion, Greg, the boxes play a small part in the importance of the sets as “original” items, but I don’t feel they increase the value of the coins themselves, as those values rely strictly on the coins and their grade. Some early sets can be found still taped shut, but buying one of those sets at a great premium is pretty much like buying a “pig in a poke” as the old-timers used to say. For instance, say you pay a 30-40% premium above the same set in a Lucite holder, or for the five coins in third-party grading service holders, then you get home and your curiosity gets the better of you and you open the box; after all, you want the coins more than the box. To your surprise, the coins have been in long-time storage in an obviously damp environment, and the staples that were used by the Mint to close the individual cellophane envelopes have rusted. In many cases in my experience, the staple rust can actually discolor or even eat into the surface of the coins, especially the cent, leaving you with a highly priced mess of tarnished and corroded coins. Also, a tiny break in the original cellophane can result in a deep toning spot precisely where the break in the envelope is, resulting in yet another coin with a low value due to an unsightly environmental incident. The best bet for those collectors who want early Proof sets of the 1950s in their original boxes of issue is to buy sets that come in previously opened boxes so that you can determine if the coins are “right” for your collection, or in the case of sealed boxes, buy from a dealer who will allow you to examine the coins on the spot with the understanding that if the coins have been environmentally damaged by rust or other means, you can renegotiate the price. Most dealers operate on good faith and will be happy to make certain that you are happy, for that will result in repeat business; there’s no better customer after all than one who comes back again and again for nice coin from a trusted dealer.

Best Regards to All Our Readers,

Frank Van Valen

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