Author Topic: On the condition of coins in official mint sets of Norway, Sweden and Denmark  (Read 65 times)

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Offline Vincent

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To some of us, the condition of coins in official mint sets is an important question. If you buy a set, what exactly are you adding to your collection? Maybe you want the different versions of each coin (e.g. uncirculated, BU and proof) represented in your collection because you consider them to be different varieties. Or maybe you are specifically interested in coins that were struck to the same standard as the coins in general circulation. Either way, you need to know what the sets contain.
   I've been compiling some information on coin sets of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and I thought I might as well share it. Once compiled, it looks relatively simple and straight forward, but I had to go to some slightly off-the-beaten-track places to find the relevant information.
   In the case of Norway there's a large number of mint sets that have been issued within recent decades. To make a complete list of every single type of mint set released would itself be a task. The Norwegian Mint publishes a newsletter, Informasjon. The issue from Fall 2007 lays out the principles behind the mint sets with regard to the minting standards of the coins. Sets offered in this newsletter include 'classic coin set', 'souvenir coin set', 'children's coin set' and 'classic proof set', neither of which were novelties in 2007. In the same newsletter, the mint announced that it was releasing a 'brilliant coin set' for the first time ever, containing coins in brilliant uncirculated (BU) condition. These are not the first BU coins ever to have been minted in Norway, but it's the first time all five denominations are struck in BU version and released in one set.
   The 'brilliant uncirculated' standard is defined in the newsletter as follows: BU coins are minted one by one and struck by the dies up to three times, and both the blanks and the dies have been specially prepared in order to obtain a higher degree of lustre. As opposed to the 'brilliant coin set', the previously mentioned 'classic coin set', 'souvenir coin set' and 'children's coin set' are described as simply 'uncirculated' (usirkulert). It is indicated, though, that the coins in the regular uncirculated sets are in 'specially selected quality' ("spesielt utvalgt kvalitet"). This presumably means that the coins used for these sets have been individually checked for defects before being inserted into the sets, that they have been transported/handled more carefully than others, or that they have been struck using fresh dies - or any combination of these factors. This leaves us with three main types of mint sets for the year 2007: uncirculated, BU and proof, with BU being a novelty of that year. Thus, of the main series of coin sets, sets from 2006 or older would contain either regular uncirculated coins or proof coins. It gets a little more complicated, though, because there are some non-standard sets containing coins of multiple minting standards, and there are singles in blister packaging.
   I'll briefly trace the history of BU coin issues of Norway. From 1975 to 1997 base metal commemorative coins were of the 5 kroner denomination. Since 1999 they are of the 20 kroner denomination, supplemented since 2008 by the 10 kroner denomination. Beginning in 1986, the regular uncirculated versions of these commemoratives have been supplemented by a BU version. From 1986 to 1997 these BU coins were issued in hard plastic cases. From 1998 to 2007, a BU 20 kroner coin was issued every year in blister packaging - some of these coins were commemorative types and some were non-commemorative. A BU 10 kroner coin was minted for the first time in 2006 for inclusion in a special mint set issued on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the crowning of King Haakon VII. Only the 10 and 20 kroner coins in this set are in BU quality. Finally, in 2007, a series of annual BU mint sets was launched. The first year of each coin type in the current coin series (i.e. 50 øre 1996, 1 krone 1997, 5 kroner 1998, 10 kroner 1995 and 20 kroner 1994) was also released in blister packaging during the 1990s, but these are - as far as I know - in regular uncirculated condition, rather than BU.
   The earliest Norwegian mint sets were issued in soft plastic wallets. Norwegian sources are saying that the earliest mint set is from 1965. I have a Danish catalogue that lists also sets from 1960 to 1964. I don't know what causes this discrepancy - maybe the earliest sets were not prepared by the mint. Here's a list of the main types of Norwegian mint sets (not including the cased singles mentioned above):
- Soft plastic wallet. Uncirculated. Issued from 1960 or 1965 to 1973.
- Soft plastic, vacuum sealed. Uncirculated. Issued 1974-1980.
- Hard plastic case. Uncirculated. Issued annually since 1968. Latest set from 2018.
- Souvenir coin set. (Myntsett souvenir, a.k.a. årssett moderne). Uncirculated. Issued since 1998. Booklet-type set.
- Children's coin set. (Barnets myntsett). Uncirculated. Issued since 1999. Booklet-type set.
- Brilliant coin set. (Brilliant myntsett). BU. Issued since 2007.
- Proof set. (Proofsett). Proof. Issued since 1992.
- Proof set, export. Proof. Issued 1997-2000. The captions on these are in English.
- Proof set exclusive. (Proofsett eksklusiv). Proof. A luxury version of the proof set. Comes in a wooden box, includes a medal.
On special occasions, such as the 100th anniversary of the crowning of King Haakon VII, a special mint set in a high quality case is issued. The quality of these coins vary from set to set, and even - at least in some cases - from coin to coin within a set. Finally, the mint also offers a set of rolls with one roll of each denomination from the current year.
   The Norwegian mint has a tradition for making mint sets that contain only the coins that were actually manufactured for circulation during that year. Because of this, each annual coin set does not necessarily contain all five (since 2012 four) denominations in circulation. This applies especially to coin sets from 2010 onwards - apparently caused by increased use of electronic payment systems at the expense of physical coins.
   The newsletter from the Norwegian mint referred to above is available here: https://docplayer.me/620924-Informasjon-host-2007.html.

   Now on to Swedish mint sets. The series of official Swedish mint sets begins with the 1973 set. You can find older coin sets of Sweden, but those were privately assembled by coin dealers or collectors. Privately made sets post 1973 also exist.
   Even though the annual mint sets come in different layouts - plastic wallet, hard plastic cassette and booklet - the coins contained in the sets appear to be of the exact same minting standard across sets within each year. I have never heard of anyone making distinctions between different formats of sets with regard to the quality of the coins in them. So, while there are three different minting standards to choose from per year in the case of Norway, there is only one in the case of Sweden. The Swedish sets are simpler in that respect. The distinction made in Sweden between coins of different minting standards is not a distinction between coins from different formats of mint sets, it's a distinction between coins that came out of mint sets (which are called grade "0") and coins that came out of a mint roll (which are called grade "01/0"). The quality of the coins in mint sets is not necessarily the same across the various years from 1973 till today.
   In terms of the distinguishing features of coins in mint sets vs. coins in rolls, I've found that an article by Christian Hamrin, Kvalitetsbedömning (i.e. Grading), explains it with greater clarity than anywhere else. Referring to the coins from mint sets (i.e. grade "0" coins), he writes:

Collector quality. Sometimes called BU (brilliant uncirculated). Considerably better than ordinary business strike. The dies must be new and prepared so that they create mirror effect or high lustre. The raw exterior of the blank may be visible in a few per cent of the surface of the coin. A few hairlines may be found. Standard quality for the mint's annual sets 1982-2005.

So, the coins in these mint sets were minted using an improved minting standard that could be referred to as BU. I don't know what the date "1982" is referring to. The coins minted for sets before 1982 are certainly also of an improved quality, compared to coins minted for regular circulation. The date "2005" is worth paying attention to, though. Here's a complaint raised by "Ingemar" on his numismatic blog in 2009 regarding the quality of the coins in mint sets of recent years:

If memory serves me right, Myntverket [the mint] has in recent years strayed from the tradition of hand picking coins for the sets. Because of this, the coins in the sets have not been grade 0, they are normal uncirculated coins with various defects.

On the basis of these observations it would seem to be the case that coins in Swedish mint sets are in some form of BU condition from 1973 to 2005, but in regular uncirculated condition beginning in 2006.
   Swedish coins were minted by Myntverket in Eskilstuna, Sweden, up to and including 2007. The mint was acquired by the Mint of Finland in 2002. Beginning in 2008, the production of regular coins for circulation took place in Finland, with other minting activities (commemorative coins and medals) remaining in Eskilstuna. In 2011 the facility in Eskilstuna was closed entirely. Swedish circulation coins have subsequently (i.e. since 2008) been minted in Finland, although the 2016 coins were minted in the Netherlands. (Note that the caption on the mint set of 2008 differs from that on the set from 2007 to reflect the fact that the coins are no longer minted in Eskilstuna). These changes may have had - or may in the future have - implications for the quality of coins in Swedish mint sets, depending on the instructions received by the mints or the practices of the mints. The most recent Swedish mint set I'm aware of is from 2009.
   Swedish standard mint sets come in three different formats:
- Soft plastic wallet. (Mjukplastförpackning). Issued annually since 1973. Apparently no longer issued, the last ones are from the early 21st century. Occurs with Swedish and English text.
- Hard plastic case. (Hårdplastförpackning). Issued annually since 1978. Latest set observed is from 2009. Occurs with Swedish and English text.
- Souvenir coin set. (Souvenirförpackning). Issued annually since 1993. Latest set observed is from 2005. Booklet-type set.
There are a few non-standard mint sets from 1991, 1995 and 2000 in addition to the three main series above. Note that some mint sets explicitly use the term 'samlarkvalitet' (collector quality) to describe the quality of the coins in the sets. This could be considered an official term for the minting standard used.
   The article by Christian Hamrin, Kvalitetsbedömning, was published in Samlad Glädje 2009, an anniversary publication by Numismatiska Klubben i Uppsala, 2009. The article is available here. Ingemar's comment from his blog Ingemars Myntblogg is available here.

   Finally, Danish mint sets. They are known as royal mint sets. Since 2006 there has been three different types of sets issued annually. Here's a list of them:
- Soft plastic wallet. Issued annually 1956-1974.
- Blister in card board. Issued annually 1975-1988.
- Booklet-type set, rectangular. Issued annually 1989-2003.
- Booklet-type set (square) in card board holder. Issued annually since 2004.
- Proof set. Comes in a high quality case. Issued annually since 2004.
- Children's coin set. Issued annually since 2006.
In addition to the above there are various sets of commemorative coins and a set of frosted 10 and 20 kroner coins from 2011.
   I'll examine the coins of 2016 first. 2016 was the last year in which Danish coins were minted domestically. Beginning in 2017, Danish coins are minted in Finland. The Royal Mint's website provides this specification for the regular mint set of 2016: "The coins have been struck several times by the dies, thus they exhibit a sharper strike than the ordinary circulating coins that you'll find in your pocket.". The same website says this about the proof set of 2016: "During striking the blanks are struck at least three times, so that the coins' devices appear sharp and matte like silk.". The National Bank has produced a short video, Møntproduktion i Danmarks Nationalbank (2016), documenting coin production in Denmark in 2016. From 5:04 to 6:01 we see a minting process which is considerably slower than regular business strike (i.e. coins for circulation). If you look closely, you'll see the die being lowered down to the surface of the coin and then the coin is being struck twice. Afterwards, the die goes up, the coin is ejected and a new blank comes in. (Unfortunately, the voice-over partially conflates proof-sets with other mint sets). After 6:01 comes some footage of the ordinary business strike process (700 coins struck per minute). The slow process shown from 5:04 to 6:01 is evidently minting of coins for regular mint sets, apparently using a Gräbener press. The description on the mint's website and the footage in the video are both consistent with the term 'brilliant uncirculated' (BU).
   I don't have a lot of personal experience with Danish mint sets, because I don't collect them, but I've seen them often enough. In the 1980s I once flipped through a box full of the 1975-88 type sets in a coin shop, and the coins in the sets were all astonishingly beautiful. The coins in those sets are too beautiful to simply have been hand picked, they must have been minted using an improved minting standard, essentially BU. The same observation applies to every royal mint set I have ever seen, although - granted - I have very little experience with sets that are older than 1975. In the coin catalogue most commonly used in Denmark, Sieg's, the sets of 1956-74 are described as follows: "The coins are of a very fine quality because they are 'hand picked' and immediately inserted into the plastic wallet, for this reason they have no scratches or marks, which can otherwise be found on uncirculated coins. This is especially true for the time period 1956-1962, where the coins often occur in proof [medaljepræg] condition.". This description is arguably all over the place, with specifications ranging from 'hand picked' to 'proof'. Most likely, the confusion arises because the coin collecting community was very small in the 1950s and 1960s and numismatic terminology was not as settled and clearly defined as it is today. Nevertheless, even the earliest sets seem to be of some kind of improved quality. It's possible to find individual coins from this time period that - judging from their condition - must have come from a royal mint set, such coins can be very beautiful indeed.
   The proof set, needless to say, contains proof coins. The coins in the children's coin set is of the same quality as the coins in the regular royal mint set, it's just the packaging that's different.
   The description of the 2016 regular mint set on the Royal Mint's website is found here. The video by the National Bank is hosted on Vimeo.com and is available here: .

Addition (March 17th, 2019):
I have become aware, that the coins in the Norwegian mint set of specifically 1986, in contrast to those from all the other years, are of a particular improved quality. Note that 1986 is the year when the first BU 5 kroner commemorative coin was issued. This is probably not a coinsidence.
   I have also fixed a few typos in the text above.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 09:18:52 AM by Vincent »

Offline THCoins

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Thanks for sharing ! This is a good overview for collectors of Nordic coiange.

Offline redlock

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Thanks for putting together this information.