Whether brand new to the world of coin collecting or a seasoned numismatist, silver proof sets are an excellent choice to collect, containing stunning proof examples of the coins issued for circulation each year, struck from either 90% or 99.9% fine silver by the historic San Francisco Mint. Discover more about where silver proof sets came from and which are the most highly sought-after sets to collect!
The History of U.S. Proof Sets
The United States first began minting proof sets in 1936. In the early years, these sets included 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars. When the United States Mint stopped striking circulating coinage in 1964, proof sets similarly stopped containing 90% silver coins and instead included clad coinage. However, starting in 1992, the United States Mint began annually issuing silver proof sets that again contained high-composition silver, in addition to clad proof sets. Although the U.S. has continued to produce silver proof sets consistently since 1992, some sets include notable issues and the amount produced yearly has directly impacted their general collectibility. Keep reading to learn more about U.S. silverproof sets.
Are Silver Proof Sets Real Silver?
Whether an avid coin collector or novice, many people wonder, “Are silver proof sets real silver?” The answer is a resounding yes! At least in part. Though the silver composition has varied throughout the years, silver proof sets from the U.S. Mint contain dimes, quarters, and half dollars struck from high-quality fine silver. Specifically, dimes, quarters, and half dollars, included in silver proof sets from 1992 to 2019, are 90% fine silver. After 2019, the silver composition increased to 99.9% fine silver. Meanwhile, the pennies, nickels, and Native American Dollars included in these sets are struck from a copper-nickel composition.
What Is the Value of Silver Proof Sets?
Silver-proof set values are contingent upon more than just their metal makeup. The rarity of the set is one of the largest contributing factors to the overall value. The quality of the coin matters as well. Coins in sealed containers and kept in pristine condition are more appealing than worn, exposed versions. In addition, some silver proof sets include special features. The number of coins issued in each silver proof set can vary as well, depending upon the coins included within it. For example, the 2009 silver proof set is the largest to date, including a total of eighteen coins. Meanwhile, the 2021 silver proof set included just seven coins.
Modern Silver Proof Sets
Each year, the U.S. Mint releases a new silver proof set which contains a proof example of the circulating coinage struck in a given year struck by the historic San Francisco Mint. The sets typically contain a Lincoln cent, Jefferson Nickel, Kennedy Half Dollar, Roosevelt Dime, a Native American Dollar, and examples of the various quarter designs issued that year. Since 2019, the dime, quarters, and half dollar have been struck from 99.9% pure silver, while the remaining coins are struck with a clad composition.
The Most Sought-After Silver Proof Sets
The most sought-after United States Mint Silver Proof Sets issued after 1992 are often those with lower mintage numbers or special features.
1992-S Silver Proof Set
The 1992 Silver Proof Set is notable because it marked the return of silver proof sets, which hadn’t been issued since 1964.
1999-S Silver Proof Set
One of the most prized sets is the 1999 United States Mint Silver Proof Set, which is appealing to collectors due to the inclusion of five first years of issue 50 State Quarters. The 1999 set was the first silver proof set to include releases from the 50 State Quarters series, making it a landmark issue in U.S. Mint history. The 1999-S set contained five state quarters at 90% silver: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut.
2009-S Silver Proof Set
The 2009 U.S. Mint Proof Set is notable for being one of the largest with 18 pieces, which include four one-year-only Lincoln Cents with Bicentennial designs in addition to four Presidential Dollars, and six Territory Washington Quarters.
2012-S Silver Proof Set
The 2012 Silver Proof set is particularly interesting. This set is notable compared to the sets issued in the years surrounding it simply because of its relatively low mintage rate. For most sets, the U.S. Mint continues to sell the set in the current year of production and for one year following. But, in 2012, this set stopped selling in early 2013, meaning fewer sets sold.
Certain Prestige sets, from the mid-1990s, which are a separate release from the Silver Proof Set, such as the 1995-S, 1996-S, and 1997-S, are also considered appealing to collectors due to their relatively low mintage and the inclusion of commemorative silver dollars. For example, the 1996 set included the 1996 Olympiad Silver Dollar and Half Dollar as special releases and only had a mintage of 55,000, making it a notable Prestige Silver Proof Set.
Please note that the value of these sets can fluctuate based on a number of factors. Always consult with a trusted coin dealer or numismatic professional when buying or selling coins.
The U.S. will continue to be a reliable source of silver-proof sets. However, for those looking to broaden their collecting scope, Japan and South Africa have also minted regular silver proof sets worth exploring. While there are many years and editions of silver proof sets for collectors to track down and obtain, they are a great place for newcomers to start building. ModernCoinMart makes it easy to find and buy new and historic collections throughout the years and become acquainted with the numismatic community. Start searching for your next silver proof set here, or begin with our collector’s starting guide to learn more.