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Uncirculated Mint set packaging varies
By Cindy Brake

The term "Uncirculated Mint set" is a bit of a misnomer because the coins in the special packages were originally intended for circulation albeit they never entered circulation.

Uncirculated Mint sets have changed over the years since 1948. Starting in 1970, some years have included coins not offered in general circulation. Packaging also has varied. The pictured 1964 set is the last to contain 90 percent silver coinage.

Until 2005, coins placed in Uncirculated Mint sets were struck under the same conditions and bore the same finish as coins issued for circulation. The 2005 Uncirculated Mint set was the first of the annual sets to contain coins with what Mint officials call a Satin Finish.

Some coins in the 2008 Uncirculated Mint Sets reportedly contained missing, weak and partial edge lettering. The sets include 28 coins – 14 from each Mint – with a face value of $13.82. The 2009 Uncirculated Mint set should contain 36 coins.

In 1948 the United States Mint began offering the annual Uncirculated Mint sets. The first sets include coins dated 1947. Later in 1948, 1948 sets were offered.

"In [1948], for the first time in its entire history, the U.S. Treasury began selling complete sets of Uncirculated coins to the general public. Prior to 1947, individual Uncirculated coins were available only upon direct request," according to Ron Guth and Bill Gale in United States Proof Sets and Mint Sets (1936 - 2002).

The 1947 set includes two examples of each denomination issued at the San Francisco, Denver and Philadelphia mints, giving examples of the obverse and reverse of each coin. A total of 28 coins represent denominations of the cent, 5-cent, dime, quarter-dollar and half dollar.

The actual mintage of 1947 sets was not recorded, but is estimated at 5,000. The original issue price was $4.87. The Coin World 2009 Guide to U.S. Coins Prices & Value Trends lists a low price of $1,100 for the 1947 double set and a high of $1,400.

Originally, Uncirculated Mint sets were to contain an example of each coin struck for circulation. However, in some years, sets have included coins not offered in general circulation.

Since the release of the 1947 sets, Uncirculated Mint sets have been issued annually by the U.S. Mint except in 1950, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1982 and 1983.

However, in each of those years except for 1950, alternative sets were available, either from the Bureau of the Mint or the individual production facility.

Packaging changes

Packaging has changed throughout the years.

From 1947 to 1958 the Mint sets were double sets with coins from both the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, and through 1955, coins from the San Francisco Mint (the California facility was closed in 1955).

Coins were packaged in rectangular cardboard holders with a fold-over paper cover of pink, green or brown. The double sets were then inserted in yellow envelopes.

Two examples of each coin were included so that the obverse and reverse of each denomination from each Mint was displayed.

Starting in 1959, the Mint dropped the double Mint set when it introduced new packaging. Coins in the 1959 Uncirculated Mint sets were sealed in two Pliofilm flat packs – the Denver Mint coins in one pack and the Philadelphia Mint coins in another pack.

A cardboard disk identifying the issuing Mint was inserted in each Pliofilm holder, note Guth and Gale.

Mint officials announced that the new packaging, which displayed both obverse and reverse of each coin, made the double sets no longer necessary.

The sets were issued in this form through 1964.

A temporary replacement

In 1965, to control a shortage of coins for circulation, the Treasury decided to discontinue the production of both Proof and Mint sets, and focus all attention on the production of coins for circulation. Coining presses went back into production at the formerly closed San Francisco Mint, now designated an Assay Office, to help meet the commercial demand for coins.

To not completely disregard collectors, the Bureau of the Mint issued what it called Special Mint sets, which contained coins that were actually refinished Uncirculated pieces. The "special" finish added to these coins was much brighter than that placed on coins for circulation, but lacked the brilliant luster of genuine Proof coins. Complying with the Coinage Act of 1965, the coins bore no Mint marks (none of the coins issued for circulation bore Mint marks either).

The 1965 coins were sealed in Pliofilm packs contained in white envelopes. Each set comprised five coins: a Lincoln cent, a Jefferson 5-cent coin, a Roosevelt dime, a Washington quarter dollar and a Kennedy half dollar.

The sets were not popular with collectors.

According to Guth and Gale, three factors worked against the Special Mint sets of 1965.

First, the sets contained examples of the new copper-nickel clad dime and quarter dollar, and silver-copper clad half dollar, rather than the 90 percent silver coins collectors were used to receiving in sets.

Second, the public did not favor the "special" finish.

And third, the Mint charged $4 for the set, which had a face value of 91 cents.

The issue price was almost double the individual prices of the previous year's Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets, which cost $2.10 and $2.40, respectively (and the 1964 Uncirculated Mint sets contained twice as many coins, with examples from each Mint). The abnormally high price was primarily meant to cover the 75-cent registered mailing fee.

Some special coins

As the coin shortage continued into 1966, the Special Mint set was again the only set offered to collectors. Packaging for this set was different, as the coins came in a clear plastic holder and were held in place by raised rings of plastic. The holder was placed in a cardboard slipcase.

Some of the 1966 sets included a scarce Kennedy, Doubled Die Obverse half dollar, which can be seen by examining JFK's chin, nose, ear and eye.

Also, due to excessive polishing, some of the half dollars were missing the initials of the designer, Frank Gasparro, on the reverse.

Similar to the 1966 set, some of the 1967 sets were found to have a rare doubled die obverse coin, this on the Washington quarter dollar, which can be seen by checking the inscriptions of liberty and in god we trust. Packaging for this set was identical to that of 1966.

Back to normal

With the coin-shortage crisis ending in late 1967, the Mint once again produced both Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets in 1968, with Denver Mint and San Francisco Assay Office coins getting their traditional D and S Mint marks.

Packaging for the Uncirculated Mint sets was mostly the same as used for the 1959 to 1964 sets. However, a few packaging changes were made.

The disks identifying the coins in the individual holders as being from the Denver Mint or Philadelphia Mint were replaced with a disk bearing bureau of the mint in larger type, and smaller type identifying the Denver Mint on one version and the Philadelphia and San Francisco facilities on the other version.

The five Denver Mint coins were packaged in one pack, and in another pack the three Philadelphia Mint coins (cent, dime and quarter dollar) and the San Francisco Assay Office cent and 5-cent coin were packaged together.

Another cosmetic packaging change involved the addition of colored borders to the plastic packs. The Denver Mint pack was edged in red. The Philadelphia Mint coin pack was edged in blue.

The same combination of coins was used from 1968 to 1970. However, the 1970 set proved to contain a key date for the Kennedy half dollar series. That year's Uncirculated Mint set contained a 1970-D Kennedy silver-copper clad half dollar, which was not issued for circulation. The inclusion of a coin in the 1970 set that was not struck for circulation broke the tradition of the Uncirculated Mint set containing an example of every coin struck for circulation. This trend continued to be broken in 1971 and 1972, but where the 1970 set contained a bonus coin, the sets for the next two years were missing coins.

Eisenhower copper-nickel clad dollars were not included in the 1971 and 1972 Uncirculated Mint sets and Proof sets. Copper-nickel clad issues struck at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints were only available to collectors directly from circulation in 1971 and 1972. The 1971 and 1972 sets did have Philadelphia Mint half dollars, however.

In contrast to the 1971 and 1972 offerings, the 1973 Eisenhower copper-nickel clad dollars from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints were limited to the Uncirculated Mint sets and Proof sets of that year; none were released for general circulation.

To make space in the existing packaging, the Mint disks were dropped.

From 1974 to 1980, the Uncirculated Mint sets bore all coins issued for circulation.

The Anthony dollar replaced the Eisenhower dollar in 1979. In the 1981 sets, collectors again got a bonus: The 1981-P and 1981-D Anthony dollars were not issued for circulation, and were only available in the Uncirculated Mint sets.

No Uncirculated Mint sets were issued in 1982 and 1983. The Denver and Philadelphia Mints individually issued Souvenir Mint sets containing coins of the issuing facility. These sets were only available over the counter and not through the mail.

When Uncirculated Mint set production resumed in 1984, the Pliofilm packs were retained, but inserted into colorful packaging instead of the nondescript white envelopes used since 1962. The outer packaging was changed every year after 1984.

The 1996 set contains a bonus coin: a 1996-W Roosevelt dime, struck at the West Point Mint. The special strike was issued in honor of the 50th anniversary since the Roosevelt dime was introduced.

Although the Anthony dollar was resurrected as a circulating coin for one year in 1999, none were included in that year's Uncirculated Mint set.

The introduction of the State quarter dollars program in 1999 required a packaging change. The number of packs in a set doubled from two to four; the State quarter dollars were housed in two separate packs by issuing Mint, with the other denominations housed by Mint in the two other packs.

A new finish

Until 2005, coins placed in Uncirculated Mint sets were struck under the same conditions and bore the same finish as coins issued for circulation. In recent years, the Mint had taken a little more care in preparing dies and planchets so that coins in the Uncirculated Mint sets were a little nicer than coins issued for circulation. (Previously, coins were simply pulled from the regular production lines whenever Uncirculated Mint sets needed to be produced.)

The 2005 Uncirculated Mint set was the first of the annual sets to contain coins with what Mint officials call a Satin Finish.

Mint officials say the finish differs from that used on the coins in previous Uncirculated Mint sets.

The number of coins in the sets have climbed with the introduction of circulating commemoratives, including the State quarter dollars, Westward Journey 5-cent coins of 2004 and 2005, and the Presidential dollars since 2007.

For example, the 2005 set contains 22 coins, 11 each from the Denver and Philadelphia Mints: the Lincoln cent, two different Jefferson, Westward Journey 5-cent coins, the Roosevelt dime, all five State quarter dollars, the Kennedy half dollar and the Sacagawea dollar.

Each Mint's coins are held in soft plastic holders slipped into paper envelopes. The Mint sold the 2005 sets for $16.95 each.

The 2008 edition includes 28 coins – 14 from each Mint – with a face value of $13.82. Included are 10 dollar coins: four Presidential dollars each from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, and a Sacagawea dollar from each Mint.

The 2008 packaging is a departure from past packaging.

Housed in bubble-like enclosures, coins are slightly raised to reveal edges. Coin specifics are printed on the inside cover of each folder.

The 2009 Uncirculated Mint set should be a record breaker in the number of coins it contains: 36. Each set is anticipated to contain, from each Mint, four commemorative Lincoln cents, a Jefferson 5-cent coin, a Roosevelt dime, six District of Columbia-Territorial quarter dollars, a Kennedy half dollar, four Presidential dollars and a Native American dollar.

Annual Uncirculated Mint sales have exceeded 1 million almost every year since 1964. The only exception was in 1997 when sales dipped to about 950,000. Mintage first passed 10,000 in 1952, when 11,499 were purchased.

According to Al Doyle, Coin World market analyst, "Annual Uncirculated Mint sets are often taken for granted."

Still, he notes that hobbyists "pay well above face value for Mint sets" because "they are a convenient way to obtain each year's circulating coins."

Doyle adds that "Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets from the past – especially those related to a birth or anniversary year – are always appreciated."

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