Official & Unofficial Soviet coin Mint Sets (1957-1991)
The following information originally originates from a Russian numismatics forum, http://www.coins.su and most of this information is from this link: http://www.coins.su/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8323 Special thanks go to Basilio and нахалёнок for allowing me to translate the contents into English.
A few years ago, Soviet mint sets are deemed to be almost valueless, if not worthless for many dealers who tried to sell them. Many sets overtime have become brittle or broken up as the Soviet mint packaging technology was not as advanced as today. There are two different type of packaging which are the soft plastic sheet and the hard plastic acrylic casing. Soft plastic sheets were used from 1962 to 1975 and 1985-1991 whereas hard plastic casings were used from 1974-1991.
A couple of years ago, 100 dollars for any mint set is said to be insane. Now it doesn't seem to be the case. Just last year, a 1970 mint set has broken the 500 dollar psychological mark and is usually hitting around 650USD steadily.
Because of the limited plastic technology that the Soviet had at that time, soft plastic sheets from 1962-1969 are usually found in brittle condition which often meant that many of these sets were broken up over time. Also as some coins were not commonly found in circulation, a fair amount of sets were broken up for this reason. Hard plastic casing aren't much better off as packaging used for the coins have often led the coins inside to tone and leave ugly stains. Because of the outer paper packaging around the hard plastic mint set that is made just too ridiculously tight, a fair amount of such mint sets are found without their external paper packaging. And finally, poor production control meant that mint employers aren't too careful at all times and fingerprints can be found in mint sets!
A 1975 kopek that is in the hard plastic mint set with awful stains on the edges. Personal collection
Fingerprint on the 50 kopek, from the 1967 commemorative set. A mint set means that it's supposed to be the best condition for collectors right? Not necessarily true so you better check what you are buying! Personal collection
Ultimately, the best mint set without the mentioned defects will being in the best prices. Various other factors such as varieties, errors etc all add to the extra value, so it's quite difficult to determine the real value, considering the hot Russian numismatic market at the moment. Currently most of the buyers are Russians, Americans, Germans and ex-Soviet bloc who are willing to pay the maddest price ever recorded in history.
Interestingly, most of the sets sold are coming from the US and UK. Does that mean most of the Soviet sets sold were exported to these two countries?
A certificate mentioning the 1967 Great October Revolution set. Notice the line "remaining mintage" stored in the Central Bank of Russia... Personal collection.
To add more trouble to understand the difficulty of obtaining such sets, there are no proper records or catalogues of how many sets were released, kept in the Soviet Bank vaults (if not sent to the metal refinery) or even broken up by major numismatics companies such as the Franklin Mint to be repacked under their packaging. I have been advised by Basilio that a new catalogue about Soviet mint sets will be released soon in Russia.
The first known official set was released by the Bank for Foreign Trade of the USSR in cupboard.
1957 (click for a larger picture) Basilio
This is a set of coins withdrawn from circulation since January 1, 1961. (hence deducible that the set was only prepared in 1961)
In 1958, trial coins of 2, 3 and 5 rubles were minted as well as other coins in aluminum. There are rumors that mint sets in velvet boxs were presented to high rank officers but this is not confirmed.
1961 (click for a larger picture) Basilio
Similar to the 1957 set, this coin features Soviet coins in circulation since 1961. Note that in 1961, a new currency reform was undertaken. More information can be read here: Destination Russia. Minor coins from 1-3 kopeks were kept in circulation whereas 5 kopeks and above were subjectable for an exchange at the bank as the ruble depreciated by 10 times.
The purpose of the 1957 and 1961 sets are unknown as well as to where, whom they were intended for. It might be an attempt to preserve such coins but apparently most of the coins have minor bag mark defects that were stored in bank bags.
On the cardboard, there are signs in both Russian and English so it is highly likely that these were intended for sales abroad. There are some version that were intended only for foreign banks as samples. These are quite rare.
Unconfirmed 1961 set
Unknown manufacturer, 1961 set. Have only seen two sets for auction and both are 1961 "set". Personal collection
1962 (click here for a larger image) Basilio
Argued as the first official mint set issued by the Leningrad Mint, this set is packed in soft transparent plastic with a round medal of the Leningrad Mint. However there is no 50 kopeks and 1 ruble coin in this set (although there is information about their existence)
Coins in this set seem to be minted in different preparation as the color and reflectivity differ, suggesting that it was intended to be for collectors.
This is a rather difficult set to obtain. The plastic used in this set is of poor quality, often cracking up over time as well as leaving ugly stains. To find such sets without spots might prove to be very difficult.
3 kopeks of the 1962 coin is one of the more difficult coin to find from circulation, hence several 3 kopeks are cut out from mint sets to put into collections.
There is no proof that a 1963 mint set exist. In 1963, only 1 and 2 kopeks were released. Perhaps it was meaningless to pack only 2 coins as a set although in the following year 1964, there is a mint set with just four coins & 1 medal.
1964 (click here for a larger image) Basilio
Only four coins are packed + one mint medal. Quality of coins have improved compared to 1961. However the plastic quality still remained to be poor.
This is a difficult set to obtain.
1965 (click her for a larger image) Basilio
There is a slight difference of how the coins are packed in this set as coins are more tightly packed instead of how loose they were packed previously.
Many coins of this year, 3kopeks to 20 kopeks are relatively difficult to find in circulation which makes this set rather valuable.
1966 (click here for a larger image) Basilio
1967 (click here for a larger image) Personal collection
1968 (click here for a larger image) Personal collection
1969 (click here for a larger image) Personal collection
From 1966 to 1969, production of the coins from the Leningrad Mint started to increase and these coins are much easier to find in circulation compared to 1965. Unfortunately due to the terrible plastic packaging and as well as the storage, it's quite difficult to find them in good condition. In general, mint set from 1967-1969 are relatively easy to find, 1969 being the easiest.
In the 1967 mint set, serious errors of 1967 rubles are found with 1966 edge. .
1966 and 1967 3 kopeks to 20 kopeks are not commonly found in circulation. In latter years of 1968 and 1969, 5 kopeks to 20 kopeks are also not commonly found in circulation.
The biggest change of the sets is most probably the plastic film technology. Coin sets in such soft plastic sheets practically are much harder to tone and the quality of coins have improved - more likely brilliant uncirculated.
All mint tokens are round and are from the Leningrad Mint.
1970 - The rarest out of all mint sets, especially if one does not consider different version sets or with errors.
There are mint sets of 1972 and 1974 that come in envelopes to mark the first day of the Moscow Summit between Brezhnev and Nixon in 1972 and space program in 1974 (Buran?). Circulation of such sets are said to be at 300 sets each.
1974 mint set in soft plastic sheet is relatively difficult to find. By 1974, hard plastic casing were released to the public.
1974 soft plastic mint set with an extra cover - not known if it's official or not. Click here for a larger image.
Personal collection - special thanks to redshaddow.
By 1974, the first "polished" mint sets are minted in proof-like condition. Mint tokens in this set are no longer round but in squares with rounded corners. There are two different type of mint tokens, one of which is minted in bronze, only used in 1974 and another minted in aluminum-bronze, which is more commonly used in the rest of mint sets. There are various color mint packaging which only adds on to the interest of why it was done. The early sets were packed tightly into leather-like materials (likely to be vinyl), which is why it leaves ugly toning and spots on the coins.
1974 mint set with bronze mint token. (click here to enlarge) Basilio
1974 mint set with aluminum-bronze mint token. (click here to enlarge) Basilio
1974 mint set with blue background, not commonly seen. (click here to enlarge) Mark70
1975 mint set in soft plastic sheet will be the last coin set to be released in such way until 10 years later in 1985, when similar packaging are created again. An extra bar is in this mint set which is already used in the 1974 hard case mint sets. The token in the 1975 set is not circular but instead in square form. It is not known if there are indeed mint sets in soft plastic sheets minted in 1976-1984.
There are special hard case mint sets for 1972,73 and 74. It is not known to where it was marketed to but these sets are not commonly seen. Basilio has only seen it once or twice.
1972 hard case (click here for a larger image) Basilio
1973 hard case (click here for a larger image) Basilio
1974 hard case (click here for a larger image) Basilio
The coin qualities are relatively poor but with beautiful patina which is not shown. The boxes, cardboards are all "natural", mint tokens are light and the extra bar just denotes as "Mint set" without any year denoted on it. It may be possible that in the end of the 1990s, the remainder plastic cases were used to prepare such mint sets but currently this remains as speculation.
By October 23, 1974, Moscow was voted to hold the XXII Olympics against Los Angeles. The Leningrad mint took this opportunity to pack mint sets of 1974-1980 and release them as special Olympics mint sets to the US. The 1980 mint set has a special bar token to commemorate the Olympics event. It could have been possible that earlier mint sets were also shipped around the same time.
Certificate for 1974 mint set by Paramount (click here for larger image) Basilio
|Click each individual photos for larger images.
Most sets are in red plastic cases but since 1976, there are some that are in black, which in general are much better sealed and in better condition but such sets are not commonly encountered.
Interestingly, it seems that Franklin mint has imported a lot of 1976 mint sets to be repacked under their packaging:
Packaging done by Franklin Mint Basilio
Since 1981 red plastic replaced the black version and only in 1987 do we see a brief come back. In 1991, both the Leningrad and Moscow mints made the cases in light pink.
Soft plastic mint sets returned back in 1985 and were regularly made yearly. In 1988, Moscow Mint has started to pack coins instead of Leningrad Mint only. Some amazing errors were found in the later generation mint sets but these are not commonly seen. One such example is a 1989 mint set with 1988 5 kopeks
For 5 straight years, the mints created errors with the edge inscriptions of 1 ruble and 50 kopeks:
1990 with 1989 dated edge (rather common)
1988 with 1989 dated edge (very very rare)
1988 with 1987 dated edge (most common) (Leningrad Mint)
1989 with 1988 dated edge (not too common) (Leningrad Mint)
1990 with 1989 dated edge (very rare) (Moscow Mint)
1985 set (click here to enlarge) Basilio
1986 set (click here to enlarge) Mark70
1988 set (click here to enlarge) Personal collection
Moscow Mint set token in 1990 mint set Personal collection
Prices seen recently on eBay, 2007 (prices are rounded to the nearest 10, prices quoted in USD unless denoted)
Note that prices here should only be used as a rough guideline, not as catalogue value. It is difficult to say that if the current market is heating up too fast that a price crash would be inevitable.
1957 cardboard: 150-200
1961 cardboard: 150
1962 plastic sheet: 350
1964 plastic sheet: 350
1965 plastic sheet: 60-100
1966 plastic sheet: 60
1967 plastic sheet: 30
1967 plastic sheet of commemorative set: 20
1968 plastic sheet: 30
1969 plastic sheet: 30
1970 plastic sheet: 600-650 (perhaps too overrated as many sets of 1970 are seen, compared to 1962, 64, 71-74)
1971 plastic sheet: 250
1972 plastic sheet: 200-250
1973 plastic sheet: 150
1974 plastic sheet: 150 (not commonly seen)
1974 hard plastic, yellow outer cover, blue inner: 1000 euros!
1975 plastic sheet: 250-300 (2006)
1976 hard plastic, red outer cover, red inner: 150
Most sets usually around 20-30 dollars-ish unless they are rare varieties or with error coins.