Proof, Die Trials, Business Strikes?

Question: As I have been taught, proof is a method of manufacture and not condition. If so, then why is it that die trials for business strike coins are graded with the proof designation? — Tom W.

Dear Tom W.,

The point you raise is a good one. I do prefer the term “circulation strike” to “business strike.” The last was made up by Walter Breen and may imply to some that these were coins sold at a profit as a business, whereas they are just ordinary strikes made for circulation.

I will send a copy of this to Dennis Tucker, publisher at Whitman Publishing, LLC, with the idea of exploring a change for the next edition of United States Patterns, by J. Hewitt Judd, of which I am editor and which is now in the 10th edition.

It has been practice to call patterns Proof whether they were made from polished dies or not. There are quite a few patterns that were never made with mirrored surfaces. On the other hand, it might not be correct to call them circulation strikes either. A compromise used by some grading services is to call them “Specimen” or “SP,” but I am not sure that this is understandable either. To me a Specimen would imply a very carefully and superbly made coin, whereas some of the non-mirrored patterns are carelessly made. So, you see you have opened up a puzzle here! Perhaps a good compromise would be to simply call them Mint State, without adding “circulation strike.” “Mint State” can correctly identify the surface.

Thank you for your stimulating question. I hope this helps in some small way.

Dave Bowers

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