Proof coins are among the most popular annual United States Mint offerings. Struck by specially prepared dies and made with polished planchets, proof coins are beautiful, highly collectible examples of the coins we carry every day in pocket change. Proof coinage is known to have been made by the United States Mint as early as 1817, but the first proof sets weren't officially issued until 1858.
Proof sets have come and gone over the years, with a major hiatus between 1917 and 1935 and the modern proof set era starting in 1936. While a few other breaks in production have occurred over the years, most recently from 1965 through 1967, virtually every year reaching back to the late Great Depression era has a proof set representing it.
Many collectors build collections of proof sets. In recent years, the market for proof sets has softened a bit, giving collectors a more affordable opportunity to start or expand their collections of proof sets. Many collectors use 1936 as the starting point for their proof set runs, though those who are working on a tighter budget may prefer starting with 1968, the year that proof coin production was moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Coin dealers sell vintage proof sets while current-year proof sets can be purchased directly from the United States Mint.