Are Prooflike gold coins an interesting future collecting trend or are they yet another piece of clever marketing hype? Yes and possibly yes. Business strike gold coins are usually frosty or satiny in texture. Occasionally, a group of coins are struck from newly-polished dies and they show reflective surfaces. Such coins are termed as “prooflike” by collectors. There are certain issues, such as gold dollars from the 1870’s and 1880’s and three dollar gold pieces from the same era that are frequently encountered with prooflike surfaces. This is due to the fact that these issues have low mintage figures and most were struck from fresh, new dies.
In the case where most examples of a specific date come prooflike, a coin designated as “prooflike” is, in my opinion, not interesting nor is it worth a premium. The one exception might be in the case where a coin has a very reflective or “deep mirror” surfaces.
Other issues are rarely seen with prooflike surfaces. As an example, a small number of New Orleans eagles from the 1840’s are found with very reflective surfaces.
In the case where only a fraction of examples of a certain date come prooflike, a coin designated as “prooflike” is, in my opinion worth a premium. It can be worth a significant premium if the prooflike surfaces add considerably to the coin’s overall eye appeal.
What about very common coins like 1904 double eagles that are sometimes seen with Prooflike surfaces? In my opinion, if a 1904 double eagle is slightly prooflike or reflective only on one side it is worth no premium. If the coin is very reflective and actually resembles a Proof, then it is worth a premium. This begs the question: exactly how much of a premium? At this point it is hard to say. No one really knows how rare Prooflike coins are, on a relative and absolute basis. As the grading services collect more data from submissions of prooflike gold coins, perhaps it will be possible to know the answer.
My advice on Prooflike gold is to go ahead and buy pieces with very reflective mirror surfaces but just don’t get caught up and pay huge premiums in a market for which value levels are still highly speculative.