The 1979 proof set is the first to feature the Susan B. Anthony dollar.
This is also the year of 2 different types of proof sets — as the U.S. Mint changed (very slightly) the appearance of the ‘S’ mintmark on the coins in the proof set.
Proof sets from earlier in the year (called 1979 Type 1 proof sets) show mintmarks that look nearly blob-like. The S mintmark just isn’t well defined in these sets. 1979 Type 1 proof sets are worth around $8 to $10.
Later in 1979, the U.S. Mint enhanced the S mintmark so that it looks clearer. 1979 Type 2 proof sets contain the clearer S mintmark and are somewhat scarcer than the Type 1 proof sets. The 1979 Type 2 mintmark was used until mid-1981. 1979 Type 2 proof sets are worth $100 to $120.
What Coins Come In The 1979 Proof Set?
Both the 1979-S Type 1 and 1979-S Type 2 proof sets contain the same 6 denominations, including:
- Lincoln cent
- Jefferson nickel
- Roosevelt dime
- Washington quarter
- Kennedy half dollar
- Susan B. Anthony dollar
The verdict was still out on the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979 — which had just been released in July of that year. However, there were already doubts about its long-term success, as the public made its preference clear that it preferred using the dollar bill to dollar coins.
The Kennedy half dollar was dwindling in circulation by the late 1970s, but it was still a regular-production coin that could be obtained from most banks during that era.
The other coins, including the Lincoln cent, Jefferson nickel, Roosevelt dime, and Washington quarter were all regularly circulating then as they are today.
What Makes The 1979-S Type 2 Proof Set Valuable?
As mentioned earlier, the 1979-S Type 2 proof set is scarcer than the 1979-S Type 1 proof set, thus making the “Clear S” proof set more valuable.
Both the 1979-S Type 1 and 1979-S Type 2 contain only 6 proof coins — so they are equal from that standpoint. The clear difference (both literally and figuratively) is that the 1979-S Type 1 proof coins exhibit a filled, or blobby-looking “S” mintmark from the San Francisco Mint while the the 1979-S Type 2 coins show a clearer “S” mintmark.
The appeal for the 1979-S Type 2 proof set is three-fold:
- These proof sets are scarce, so the demand for these sets outstrip supply.
- The “S” mintmark is far more legible on the 1979 Type 2 proof sets than on the Type 1 sets.
- Diehard proof set and modern coin enthusiasts want examples of both the 1979 Type 1 and Type 2 proof sets.
For a 1979-S proof set to really be valuable, it must contain the 1979-S Type 2 dollar — which is the rarest of the 1979 proof coins with the “Clear S” mintmark.
How To Spot A 1979-S Type 2 Proof Set
So, how do you know if you have a 1979-S Type 2 set?
It’s actually pretty easy to distinguish a 1979-S Type 1 proof set from the Type 2. Check the serifs (or bulbous tips) of the “S” mintmark:
- If the serifs touch the inside of the “S,” making the “S” look something like a solid rectangle or number “8” with the center loops mostly filled in — then you’ve got a Type 1 proof set.
- If the serifs of the “S” appear more distinct and you see 2 black holes inside the top and bottom of the “S” mintmark, giving it the appearance of something like a clear number “8” — then you’ve got a Type 2 proof set.
How Many 1979-S Type 2 Proof Sets Were Made?
There are no defined mintage figures for the 1979-S Type 1 proof sets versus 1979-S Type 2 proof sets individually, but collectively the United States Mint assembled and distributed 3,677,175 sets. They were originally issued for $9 each.
Some estimates suggest 400,000 to 500,000 of the 1979 proof sets contain the Type 2 “S” mintmark, though the introduction of the “Clear S” came over a period of time. Of the 6 denominations in the 1979 proof set, the 1979-S Type 2 proof dollar is the rarest.
Super scarce 1979-S Type 2 proof sets are those which exhibit the “Clear S” mintmark on all 6 denominations.
With the increasing prevalence of third-party coin grading companies since the 1980s, many collectors and investors have been breaking their 1979 proof sets to divvy up the coins with the hopes of scoring top grades for their 1979-S Type 2 coins.
This has meant that 1979-S Type 2 proof sets still in their original government packaging are becoming increasingly scarce. Some folks therefore pay premiums for extra nice 1979-S Type 2 proof sets still in their original red plastic display cases.
More Info On Proof Sets
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you find more info about 1979 proof sets:
- Proof Coins & Proof Sets: What You Need To Know
- Proof Sets & Mint Sets: What’s The Difference?
- Like The 1979 Proof Set, The 1981 Proof Set Has 2 Types
- Cameo Proof Coins & Deep Cameo Proof Coins
- What Are Impaired Proof Coins?