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At first glance, mint sets and souvenir sets look very similar to each other.
But, in fact, there are some very important differences between mint sets and souvenir sets.
Facts About Mint Sets
- Mint sets have been produced by the U.S. Mint since 1947.
- Mint sets include uncirculated examples of (usually) all the denominations and designs minted for circulation in a given year.
- Before 1959, mint sets included 2 examples of each coin.
- Mint sets made from 1947 through 1958 were housed in cardboard holders.
- Since 1959, U.S. mint sets have been packaging one example of each circulating design (with a few exceptions) in soft, cellophane packets.
- Mint sets can be bought each year form the U.S. Mint online, by mail-order, or in the Mint’s gift shop.
Facts About Souvenir Sets
- Souvenir sets were made for a few decades, up until 1998.
- Souvenir sets come in a single cellophane package and include coins only from the mint at which the souvenir set was purchased.
- Generally, souvenir sets are sold only at the mints’ own gift shops.
- Compared to the tens of millions of mint sets that have been produced since 1947, a far lower number of souvenir sets were ever produced. In fact, according to the production figures reported in this Coin World article, there were some years when only a few thousand souvenir sets were made for and sold by any one mint (Philadelphia or Denver). According to the article, the numbers reported are likely incomplete.
What Comes In A Souvenir Set?
In the mid-1990s, I was able to purchase souvenir sets of Susan B. Anthony dollars by mail from the U.S. Mint. I bought my 1995 souvenir set directly from Philadelphia U.S. Mint gift shop.
Souvenir sets — which include only the coins made at one mint — feature 5 coins (cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar) and a bronze medal which honors the mint that produced the coins in the set. The single cellophane package was sold with an envelope.
The price for purchasing a souvenir set was $4. For that, you got 91 cents in face value and the special bronze mint medal. From buying the one set, you would obtain, in effect, one-half of an official U.S. Mint set. By buying both the Philadelphia and Denver souvenir sets in a single year, you end up building a “complete” mint set.
1982 And 1983 Souvenir Sets
While the souvenir set market is not particularly large, there is one segment of the souvenir set collecting realm that has drawn much attention for years: 1982 and 1983 souvenir sets.
Why? Because the U.S. Mint did not produce mint sets during those years.
The number of surviving uncirculated examples of coins from those 2 years is relatively low. Therefore, there is much demand for 1982 and 1983 souvenir sets among those wishing to obtain uncirculated specimens of those coins.
There is also high demand for 1982 and 1983 souvenir sets from those wanting a complete run of “official U.S. Mint-packaged” coin sets to fill the gap in their collections between the 1981 and 1984 mint sets.
Beware of “unofficial” or “privately packaged” 1982 and 1983 coin sets. “Private” 1982 and 1983 coin sets are numerous and can easily be found on the market. While most likely do contain the uncirculated coins they claim to include, they are not official U.S. Mint products.
Again, the only 1982 and 1983 coin sets officially produced by the mint are souvenir sets.
Official 1982 and 1983 souvenir sets include bronze medals with depictions of the U.S. Mint facility from which the coins come. Many of the private sets include a stamp inside the cellophane packaging that bears the phrase “Philadelphia minted coins” or “Denver minted coins.”
Also, the official Philadelphia cellophane packages have 2 blue strips on the edges of the plastic. While the official Denver souvenir sets do not have colored strips, they will have a Denver bronze mint medal.
1982 and 1983 souvenir sets are selling on eBay for between $50-120 dollars apiece, depending on the year and mint. as well as the condition of the coins. Private sets usually sell for lower prices.
Where To Buy Souvenir Sets
Some coin dealers have souvenir sets on hand. If you are going to travel to a coin dealer to look for a souvenir set, you may be better off calling the store first to see if the dealer has any in their inventory.
There are many coin dealers who sell merchandise online which advertise souvenir sets. Especially if you are buying the 1982 or 1983 Philadelphia or Denver sets, be sure to look for any photographs of the sets to check and see if what you are buying is an “official” mint souvenir set or a “private” set.
Here’s a video I made about mint sets and souvenir sets:
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!