When it comes to evaluating older proof coins, one of the features that's of particular significance is the cameo contrast. Early proof coins were produced with a sandblasted or chemically etched die so that the finish of the die was frosted. As the finish wore down through the stamping process, the coins produced shifted from frosted and contrasted surfaces to mirrored finishes. The proof coins with a higher cameo contrast, or more frosted finish, are highly prized as the earliest proof coins in the production run. Here are the things you need to know to evaluate the cameo contrast on the proof coins in your collection.
Ultra Cameo Contrast
The most precise, intense frosted finish on proof coins can be rated as ultra cameo contrast. This is typically reserved for the first couple of coins produced by a new die. The finish is strongest on these pieces because it has not yet been worn down through production. You'll know this finish by the marked definition in the lines and the sharp, even frosted finish across the entire surface.
Deep Cameo Contrast
The deep cameo rating is assigned to the next few coins in a production run. These coins will show a strong frosted finish that's unbroken. You should be able to clearly see the contrast between the mirrored and frosted sections without any diminished lines between the two. The slightest fading or any brilliance in the finish will disqualify the coin from a deep cameo classification.
Cameo + Contrast
If the coin has moderate, consistent frosting on both sides, it might be classified as a "Cameo +" finish. For this designation, the recessed areas should all have the same amount of frosted finish with no reflected brilliance or disruptions.
The cameo rating is reserved for coins that have moderate or light frosting on the surface. These coins may have some small sections where the frosting is faded, leaving some brilliance behind. Both sides of the coin must still have moderate frosting for this classification, though.
The last few coins on the proof line will be considered brilliant proofs. These are the coins that have large brilliant sections across the surface, if not the entire surface. This mirrored finish rates the coin as a brilliant proof.
If you've just recently acquired your first proof coins, or you're new to the valuation process for your collection, understanding these ratings is essential to making sure that you're given fair appraisals of each coin. Talk with a rare coin specialist, such as someone from J & S Gold and Diamond Exchange, to have them inspected closely if you need professional guidance.
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