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Proof Set and Lunch Neck and Neck
November 14, 2007

I was sitting all alone in the Crystal Cafe for lunch yesterday. It was a slow day. There were just a few other people there eating. No one to really talk to but the waitress. As I munched away, my mind wandered back to the more than 25 years' worth of business day lunches that I have consumed on the premises. Naturally, my thinking has its own peculiar brand of numismatics and economics thrown in. A quarter century ago, the full lunch, including coffee and sales tax was $3.15 plus tip. Now, the full lunch is $8.60 plus tip. I don't have coffee with lunch any more. It is charged separately and adds $1.27 to the bill. I usually walk away for $7.33 plus tip. The current full lunch cost is 2.73 times the former cost. That is quite a steep jump. Had I been a new retiree 25 years ago, I would need almost three times the income now for lunch purposes. As a coin collector, I face similar increases, though probably for different reasons. Back in 1982, the standard proof set was $11. Now it is $26.95. That is 2.45 times the price of 25 years ago. These are remarkably similar rises. It can be argued that the proof set is an even better deal than the price indicates. That is because this year's set features five $1 coins and five state quarters. The 1982 set by contrast was a pretty small set, with just a cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half dollar in it. That's five coins then versus 14 now. Today's proof set is a little like buying a piece of pie and getting the ice cream and coffee thrown in for free. It is a good thing I am working to take these price increases in stride. I am sure the Mint does not price its coin offerings on the basis of the cost of a meal at the Crystal Cafe, but these numbers do seem to indicate that we are all in the same boat floating along on the same inflationary ocean. One thing I must remember is I could eat more pie back in 1982. Ah, those were the days. That's a whole other set of numbers.
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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News, Bank Note Reporter and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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