Coin collectors are attracted to United States Mint Proof Sets that have been available since 1936. One of these sets contains a sample of every coin produced in a single year. Over the years, there have been a few breaks or changes in production.
Between 1936 and 1942, a set included that year’s design of the cent, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar. In 1942, during World War II, the Mint offered a six-coin option that included the silver wartime nickel. There were no proof sets struck from 1942 until 1950 when production of the traditional five-coin sets resumed. From 1973 through 1981, a dollar coin was included, beginning with the Eisenhower dollar and replaced in 1979 by the Susan B. Anthony dollar. It is interesting to note that the Susan B. Anthony dollar was not produced for general use in 1981 although it did appear in the sets of proofs.
When the Mint introduced the 50 State Quarters program in 1999, they decided to include in the proof set for each year all five quarters struck that year. This meant creating nine-coin sets that were presented split across two sleeves. In 2004 and 2005, sets also contained two Lewis and Clark nickels. The four Presidential dollars were added in 2007, but the largest proof set of 18 coins was produced in 2009 with the featured four different reverses of the Lincoln cent, commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Another interesting variation was created starting in 1992, when the US Mint offered the Silver Proof Set, including the dime, quarter, and half dollar coins struck in the traditional composition of 90% silver. These sets have continued to be offered through the present day and provide a numismatic and precious metals combination product.
These proof coins are processed in a way that creates a sharper definition to the rims and design. Modern designers also make use of chemicals to create shiny, smooth blank fields and, perhaps, a frosted effect on the image. No matter what year the sets were produced or how special the occasion, they have a beauty of their own.