100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins Series: 1965-1967 Special Mint Set Coinage, Ultra Cameo

The year 1965 was an interesting one when it comes to United States coinage. Why? Five words: The Coinage Act of 1965. Mandating the end of silver coin circulation and putting forth the production of copper-nickel-clad coinage instead, the United States Mint dealt with a number of decisions regarding the task of increasing production by so much, which in the end, proved to be immense. One of those decisions led to not producing any Mint or Proof Sets from 1965 to 1967.

In the next exciting chapter of our blog series following the 100 Greatest United States Modern Coins as put together by Whitman Publishing, we take a look at coinage produced from 1965 to 1967 that made its way into a ‘special set’. With authors Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett in the driver’s seat of this fourth edition publication, we take a look at a “scarce” group of coins that have more eye appeal than most coins out there.

#27 - 1965-1967 Special Mint Set Coinage, Ultra Cameo

While in the midst of transitioning to copper-nickel-clad production that would ultimately replace silver coinage, silver coins continued to be struck until 1966 as the replacement of all currency was thought impractical and impossible. This led to a remarkable amount of coins being produced at not only Philadelphia but also Denver and San Francisco. In 1965 alone, over 1.8 billion quarters were struck compared to the entire history of silver quarter coins (1796-1964) being a total of 4.4 billion coins. Between the three years of 1965-1967, over 4.1 billion quarters would be produced.

To cope with the unprecedented amount of production occurring, the Mint decided to remove mintmarks from coins as well as not produce Mint or Proof Sets during those three years as well. However, in order to keep customers happy, they decided to produce Special Mint Sets that would be a hybrid of both the Mint and Proof Sets. Coins in these sets are described as considerably different from set to set which makes sense as the Mint decided to put less effort in packaging as well as production quality while also nearly doubling the price of prior years’ Mint and Proof Sets in order to deter the demand. Some coins appear to have a “satin surface” while others resemble circulation strike coins or Proof finishes. Those that have proof like finishes are said to have been early strikes made with fresh dies.

Those coins that are referred to as “cameo” are said to have a contrast between the design and the blank portion of the coins. Those that resemble the sharpest of those designations are called ultra cameo or deep cameo. SMS coins from the 1965-1967 sets that have the sharpest of the contrasts between the design and blank portions are not only out there, but they can be valuable because of their resemblance to the highest of quality Proof struck coins out there. Only a few dozen of the ultra cameo examples have been found for the cent, nickel, dime, and quarter from the sets. The 1967 Kennedy half dollar seems to be more readily available in the condition.

This coinage series has moved considerably since its first edition ranking of #43.