[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, David & John Feigenbaum. This information was originally published in 1991 in The Complete Guide Certified Barber Coinage]
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Proof Barber Halves
A total of 17,313 Barber half proofs were minted and, unlike the business strikes, a very high percentage of these were saved (47%). The mintage for individual dates range from as little as 380 for 1914 to 1,245 for 1892, the first year. None of the dates are rare today. There are at least 226 (for 1915) listed in the population reports for every date.
The most common grade is PF 64, with 2,301 certified. Many proofs exist today in very high grades. The table on page 134 shows 490 PF 67, 120 PF 68 and even two specimens PF 69! The fact that many display nice original toning may account for this.
Prior to the 1970s, collectors often put proof examples in their sets in place of the Philadelphia business-strike issues. The thinking was that the sets should contain the finest examples. After all, with their sharp details and deep mirror surfaces proofs look better than business strikes. Today proofs are usually collected as a separate set in itself. Proofs of tough-to-find P-mints are sometimes substituted in regular sets, but this is not common.
There are really no significantly better dates among the proof halves, but the 1915 continues its trend as being the scarcest year in all three proof Barber series. It’s value is further enhanced because of the scarcity of business strike issues of the same year. 1913 and 1914 proof half dollars command a slight premium as well, thanks to their mintage. Prices for PF 69 and some 68 coins are theoretical because the populations are so low. It is wise to consult the latest population reports when buying these grades.