How to Spot a Proof Coin

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How to Spot a Proof Coin

Many different types of coins are available, and are popular with many different collectors and investors, and among the most popular type of coin is the proof coin. Proof coins are early samples of a new coin issue, and bear a number of key characteristics which differentiate them from other types of coin.

Whatever your taste, there is a variety of collectable and bullion proof coins that can be found on eBay. This guide will provide the information required to spot proof a coin to ensure a smooth transaction.

Proof Coin Characteristics

Proof coins are early samples of a new issue of coin, be it for use in currency or as bullion. These coins were historically made to check the dies and production processes for a new issue, and for archival purposes. Today, many governments create large numbers of proof coins for collectors. There are a few important characteristics which differentiate proof coins, and make them a popular type of coin among collectors.

  • One of the most immediately evident of proof coins is that the flat parts of a coins face have been polished to an almost mirror shine. This is often achieved with the use of diamond powder.
  • The shine of the flat parts often contrast with a matt finish on the raised detail, which is achieved through the use of sandblasting the die, and striking the image with a hardened steel punch.
  • The markings on proof coins are often of a great quality, and better defined, than those on other types of coin. This is because proof coins are often double struck at a much lower speed than normal issue coins.
  • Proof coins are often of a higher standard as they are generally struck by hand, and individually inspected and packaged to ensure they all meet the high standard of quality.
  • Proof coins are sometimes confused with mint coins. Mint coins are coins which are produced for circulation, but remain in good condition, often never having entered circulation. Proof coins are often of a higher quality than mint coins, due to the unique production processes they go through.

Proof Coin Sets

  • Proof coins are often sold in sets, which can make these coins easier to identify. These sets will often contain multiple denominations of the currency of their region of origin, and are frequently sold contained in their original packaging. Many different countries produce proof sets of coins, and popular sets include those from the Britain and the United States.
  • Commemorative proof coins are another widely popular type of proof coins, and many commemorative coins will be proof. These coins were made specially to celebrate significant historical events, such as jubilees, coronations, anniversaries and Olympic Games, and will often feature unique designs that are related to the event they commemorate. These coins are often highly desirable, and can be quite difficult to obtain depending on their popularity, and how many of the coins were produced.

Proof Bullion Coins

  • Bullion is investment grade precious metal, often available in the form of bars and ingots. Bullion coins are a highly popular type of bullion, among those buying bullion as an investment, and collectors. Bullion coins are unique among the different types of bullion in that they can carry a value above that of the precious metal they contain.
  • Proof bullion coins possess the same high quality characteristics of other types of proof coin, as well as being made of precious metal such as gold or silver, making them a highly desirable type of bullion. In addition, the markings are often intact and easily discernible, which can be of great importance to both investors and collectors of bullion coin. There are a number of different types of precious metal commonly used in bullion coins.

Silver Bullion Coins

  • Silver is one of the most popular and widely available types of precious metal used in all kinds of bullion, including ingots and coins. Its wider availability and lower price than gold make it a popular metal for collectors and investors, though it is sometimes overlooked for more valuable metals.
  • Silver can also take a great degree of polish, meaning the metal can be polished to a good shine, making silver proof coins one of the most attractive types of bullion coin to collectors. Proof silver bullion coins often feature the defined markings and highly polished face of other kinds of proof coin.

Gold Bullion Coins

Gold is one of the most popularly used precious metals in coins and bullion of various types. Gold has a long tradition of use as bullion, and is a particularly popular choice for investors. Gold is often popular due to its position of value between the cheaper and more widely available silver, and the much rarer and highly valuable platinum. Gold proof coins share the high quality and bullion grade of other proof coins.

Platinum Bullion Coins

Platinum coins are among the most valuable, and most difficult to obtain, type of coin bullion. Platinum can often bear an appearance that is similar to silver; with platinum having a white-silver colour. Platinum coins are rare, difficult to obtain and highly valuable. Proof platinum coins share the same characteristics as other, more easily obtainable coins, and can be highly prized among collectors and investors.

Bullion Grades

All types of bullion, including bars, ingots and coins, can be divided into different bullion grades These grades categorise coins, bars and ingots and other bullion into different grades based on the amount of wear that is visible on the item. This can be particularly relevant for bullion coins, as it can be important for coins to have discernible markings. Proof coins are not to be found in the lower grades of bullion, and often have very high bullion grades.

  • Bullion and coins can be graded as almost good, good and very good. These grades will show a considerable amount of wear, and coins at this grade are rarely considered proof. For a coin to reach the very good category, the raised markings around the edge of the coin, known as ‘rims’, need to be intact.
  • Fine and very fine coins and bullion show some signs of wear, though are largely intact.
  • The majority of proof coins fall into the uncirculated grades, which show little if any sign of wear. Any proof coins below this are often considered undesirable, as the pristine quality of proof coins is one of their key characteristics. Choice and perfect uncirculated coins are the very highest grade, and perfect uncirculated proof coins are the most desirable.


Particularly for investors, the fineness of a metal in coins is a key element of a coin, or any type of bullion, to consider.

  • The fineness of a bullion item represents the amount of the precious metal, be it platinum, gold or silver. .999 is considered to mean purity, with the highest fineness of many bullion items ranging between .995 to .999.
  • Gold is often measured in carats, or karats, and 21 carat gold is the most common type of gold used in bullion coins, with 24 carats being pure gold.
  • Coin silver, meanwhile, is the most common type of silver used in silver bullion, and has a fineness of between .800 and .900. Britannia silver is that which has a fineness of .958, and is also sometimes used in bullion coins, particularly the British Silver Britannia.

How to Buy Proof Coins on eBay

  • Proof coins are a popular kind of coin amongst both investors and collectors, due to their high quality and grade, and a wide range of proof coins, sets and bullion coins is available on eBay. Proof coins can be found in the Collectables & Antiques section, under Coins, while bullion coins can be found under Bullion/Bars. Items can be arranged by categories such as price, condition, metal type and the region of origin. It is also possible to choose between the Auction and Buy it Now buying options, offering flexibility in how a proof coin can be purchased.
  • Key information about proof coins, such as the denominations in a set or the fineness of bullion coins, is generally prominently displayed in the item listing. Further information can be accessed on the item page, along with information about the seller such as item reviews and feedback ratings. This helps to ensure that a purchase can be made with confidence. If any further details about an item are required, it is possible to ask the seller a question on this page.
  • If a specific proof coin is required, it may be easier and more effective to make use of the search function available at the top of every page. Searches can return results from the entire site, or from within specific categories. Further information on effective use of the search function can be found on the Search Tips page.


Proof coins are made to a considerably higher standard than many other types of coin, and their defined markings and polished shine make them an attractive choice for collectors and investors alike. A wide range of proof coins can be found on eBay.