"Seeing the recent articles on E-Sylum reminds me of something I noticed years ago in the way that proof mintages have been reported in the Red
Book & the way they are reported now. Look at an old red book & you will note that the mintage figures reported for business strikes do not distinguish
whether the amount listed includes proofs or not. Next, compare any given coins mintage figures in early editions with more recent ones & all business
strike mintages are now listed as less by the amount of the proof mintages. So the mintages did not really change; they are simply reported more accurately
"There are however instances where some mintages did truly change (sort of)...
"Take the case of an 1879 quarter in proof which early editions of the Red Book report at 250. Back in the day (in the early 1970’s) when first
traveling to shows it was well known that something was wrong with this mintage figure. There were way too many on the market; pretty much an equal amount of
this year as other comparable years of the era. We would advertise them as “the lowest reported mintage figures” of the series, which at 250 pieces simply did
not compare with all others from 1858 to 1891 - those with much higher published figures. Who were we to question the Red Books reporting? Well at some point
this figure was indeed questioned & now the figure listed is 1100. So, were 850 pieces suddenly minted over a century late? Was a hoard discovered??
"As another example, this past week we had a client interested in an 1858 seated dollar in proof that is on the market & he mentioned there were
210 pieces minted. I shot back, correcting him, saying there were only 80 pieces (it takes a real old-time coin weenie to remember random mintages). Later I
was curious if this might be a case of changing mintages. Sure enough, the 80 piece number I recalled was correct in my ‘early Red Book mind’ only to be
changed to what is now considered more accurate - 210 as reported in recent editions.
"The reporting of mintage figures in the 19th century, proofs in particular, was not always accurate. Through research, new information comes to light,
new documents discovered & although mintage figures do not technically change, they do become more reliable & accurate."
"Tom’s letter presented the procedure very accurately. The Whitman editors always strive to include the latest information in all of their
books. Some of this comes from dedicated readers who share their research and insights to help keep the books as accurate and up to date as possible. “Best
estimate” mintage figures are presented in italics, and given as a guide when there is no more reliable information.
"Making these adjustments is an on-going process. The move to segregate the Proof figures from the Uncirculated totals came about as a well-considered
decision to change from the past, and make those listings more accurate and understandable. The needs and desires of readers are always carefully considered
when making major editorial changes and are often reviewed by a number of numismatic experts."
Thanks! Reverse-engineering the myriad changes to the book over the years could be an interesting project. It's important to know it's an
ever-evolving work, with far more than mere price updates from year to year - it's the accumulated experience of decades of dedication. -Editor