Cameos and Other Textures on Canadian Proof-Like Sets

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What I have heard, and what I have seen, especially in print, led me to believe certain things about the surface textures of coins which come in Canada Proof Like sets. I knew that there was a brilliant finish, and that early sets, and probably early strikes of any issues, showed cameo contrast on the coins. The later silver coins do not always show cameo contrasts, but if not they have a really glossy polish, which is quite different from the surface of a normal uncirculated coin.

The nickel coins (from 1968) presented the mint with a problem. Nickel was a much harder metal to strike than silver or silver alloy, and the metal did not flow like silver, making it harder to strike the coins, and much harder to get superior results. Consequently, especially the 1968-1972 issues could have surface blemishes. Making up for this was the amount of cameo contrast on some of these issues. These coins are now starting to be collected for their quality, as they are now listed in the Charlton Catalogue, periodically in Canadian Coin News, and they are starting to show up on eBay.

By 1972 the Royal Canadian Mint had bought new, heavy duty presses, especially for striking the series of coins leading up to the 1976 Olympics. After that date, the presses were available for any numismatic work. During the period 1972-1977 the quality of Canadian PL Sets improved considerably. The sets became described as brilliant designs on a mirror background. There was a change in 1996-1997, when the sets came with a finish described as brilliant designs on a lined background.  From 1998, the finish reverted back to the brilliant designs on a mirror background.

This was the state of my knowledge until I sat down with a number of sets in the 1968-1993 period in November 2008. I thought that I would look at each coin with a 10X glass, and see if there was anything interesting. What follows are some of the things that I saw. They do not necessarily fit into the outline I have given above, and I am lacking much information about the reasons for what I saw, and how it was done. I felt it was more important to get the information out, maybe provoke a discussion, and hopefully more facts and explanations will be forthcoming.

1) Different Degrees of Cameo Contrast on the Same Side of a Single Coin

I found a number of coins which had Heavy Cameo country, date, and denomination, but which had central designs that were Cameo, Light Cameo, or Brilliant. These sets ranged from 1972 to 1978. The degree (or degrees) of cameo contrast on the reverse of these coins did not often match the degree of contrast on the obverse.

 I have seen many 50 cent pieces where the country, date, denomination, and ribbon bearing the motto were in Heavy Cameo Contrast, and the rest of the design was Light Cameo or Brilliant. I saw one set where, on the 50 cent coin, the country, date, denomination, ribbon, flowers below the crest, maple leafs in the crest, and the flags being held by the supporters were all Heavy Cameo, and the rest of the design was Light Cameo. These types of contrasts are found on coins from 1971 to 1978.

2) Different Texture Types

I had believed that there was only a Cameo type of contrast, which was barely noticeable (Light Cameo), white (Cameo) or white and frosty (Heavy Cameo). The finish was usually featureless except for the cameo itself.

I discovered a texture on some of the dimes which I am calling STIPPLED. It looks like the die was sandblasted, and shows changes in depth and texture. Light Stippling seems to have small pits or pocks in the surface. Stippling shows some variation in the texture, but mostly it is slightly roughened. Heavy Stippling is almost like waves on a sand dune, with variations in depth as well as density of markings. I have seen this texture on dimes from 1971 (1), 1972(1), 1973 (1), 1974(2), 1975(1), 1976(2) and 1977(2) (based on about 5 sets of each date that were examined).

The other texture, which I cannot explain, I call SNAKESKIN. It resembles snakeskin markings, except of course it is much smaller. It appears in rows which can curve, and can grow thinner of thicker. The most interesting thing is that it was on the canoe, paddlers, trade goods, and trees, but it was not on the island, which was brilliant in both cases. The patterns stayed stationary on the coin when I moved it in its pocket, so it was not a reflection off the plastic that encloses the coin.

3) ICCS Cameo P-L Sets are showing up on eBay.

I am starting to see sets of PL Coins appearing on eBay, with the coins ranging from ICCS PL64- to ICCS 66, with or without Cameo or Heavy Cameo contrast. The prices I have seen range from about $15.00 to $25.00 for a complete common date Proof Like set, usually with cameo contrasts.  The Charlton Catalogue of Canadian Coins, and Canadian Coin News Price Trends are listing these coins now. I am expecting the prices to start rising, as more people become familiar with the differences in these sets.

Because of this, I am starting to describe each coin in the sets that I sell, in 2 ways. First, I describe the reverses in each set, as that is how the set is viewed, and then I describe the obverses. Later, I describe each coin, reverse then obverse.

4) Questions

A) Is it possible to make different types of cameos by doing something to the die? I originally thought cameo was from the first strikings of a die, but now I am not sure.

B) Are there different oils, cleaning solutions, pickling agents, or chemicals that will make different surface appearances? For example, would the snakeskin pattern appear after a die has been cleaned, and the cleaner has dried in rows resembling the cloth which was being used to clean the die?

C)  Was it possible that different textures were deliberately made to appear on one coin? As I look through illustrations of coins which appear on eBay, I see some of the same patterns visible

D) Has anyone else ever reported these variations?

E) How do you grade and describe a coin with different levels or types of contrast on it.? Do you just concentrate on the centre design, or do you describe it fully? What about a coin which is Cameo on one side, and Brilliant on the other?

 5)  Is it possible to turn a coin inside its pliofilm holder, without damaging the holder?
I came across one set that had the 1 cent showing its obverse when all the other coins were showing their reverse side up. Could this have been done by someone after the coin was placed in the set? Has anyone tried to do this?

If you have any responses to the points raised in this report, please email me through the link in my profile:  Go to community, type in coinsnpaper, click on the contact me bar. I would be glad to respond

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