Every year since 1936 the U.S. Mint has sold proof coins in sets for that particular year. They usually contain one proof-quality coin of each denomination struck for circulation that year. In 1983, the Mint also began issuing proof sets of commemorative coins called “Prestige Proof Sets,” and were offered until 1997. When the Mint resumed commemorative coin proofs again in 2005, they were renamed “Legacy Proof Sets.” Then, in 1992, the Mint began issuing Silver Proof Sets that include 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars. A special “Premier” silver proof set included premium packaging. The “premier” setswere discontinued in 1998.
So what is a Proof Coin?
Proof coins are the first coins struck from a new set of dies to test, or “proof,” them. They are made by all mints worldwide, including the earliest U.S. coins dating back to 1792, but were not generally collected in sets for sale. Proof sets were struck at the Philadelphia mint until 1968, when production shifted to San Francisco.
The term “proof” refers to the process of making the coin, rather than its quality. In fact, proof coins are graded by certification agencies that rate their centering, detail, and other aspects. And that grading affects the coins’ value, just like any other.
Proof DiesProof dies are typically polished to a mirror finish and often treated with chemicals or other substances to make certain parts of the design take on a frosted appearance. Most are double-struck under increased pressure, resulting in sharper rims and designs than production coins. Then they are individually handled to avoid damage.
Proof sets should not be confused with Mint Sets, which are uncirculated coins of mint quality, but are not proof sets. From 1965-1967 the mint made Special Mint Sets instead of proof sets.They were better quality than the regular uncirculated coins in mint sets, but lower than proof quality. The Philadelphia and Denver mints also sell annual "souvenir sets" from their production runs. They generally are not of high collectible (numismatic) value except for the 1982 and 1983 sets, because no mint sets were made those years. Private dealers package “year sets” which are priced based on the value of the individual coins in the sets.
Are Proof Sets Good Investments?
As with most other coins, whether a proof set has collectible value depends on its rarity, quality, and many other factors, especially errors. For instance, since 1968, at least seven proof sets have been released with missing mint marks or other errors that drive up their value to collectors, sometimes to many thousands of dollars. Proof sets prior to 1970 have some coins with silver content, causing them to sell at a premium. More recent common proof sets sell at a slight premium over their face value.
Proof Sets Are Always Great Gifts
Whether for collectors or just the special people in your life, proof sets make great gifts, aside from their numismatic value. A current year set is a perfect commemorative gift for a wedding, birthday, or other special occasion. Sets from past years make special reminders of life’s memorable moments.
The Great American Coin Company offers U.S. Proof Sets for every year from 1971 to the present. All come in official U.S. Mint hard case packaging and make great additions to your collection or for gift-giving.
Don’t wait to get your holiday order in, though. Our inventory is constantly changing, and some items sell out quickly, so be sure to check back often. And whether you’re looking for a unique way to express your feelings, are a collector, or are an investor, be sure to browse the huge selection of U.S. and foreign coins and banknotes available online from The Great American Coin Company®.