Proof silver coins, among the most beautiful examples of any coin issued, are highly collectible. Known for their stunning level of detail and expert craftsmanship, many proof coins are beautiful works of art, prized by both precious metal investors and coin collectors. They are often considered to hold excellent potential for long-term investment.
A proof silver coin usually contains the same volume of silver as its non-proof counterpart. For instance, a one ounce Silver American Eagle coin contains 1 troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. This is the case whether it is a proof coin or regular-issue version.
Proof vs. Uncirculated
Many beginning collectors mistakenly believe that a proof coin is the same as a regular-issue coin, but has not been handled, leaving it in the same unblemished state in which it left the mint. However, such unblemished coins are actually known as 'uncirculated,' rather than 'proof.' Uncirculated coins are free from wear, but the design and production of such coins is no different than other examples of the coin. A newly-minted proof coin is considered to be both uncirculated and proof, and it is typically worth more than an uncirculated business-strike coin.
Proof coins, meanwhile, are created using an entirely separate process from regular or “business strike” coins. Such coins are meant specifically for collectors and investors, and are never expected to be used in circulation. Modern proof coins begin with a special, highly detailed die. Polished coin blanks undergo a special minting process involving gloves, lint-free material, and other precautions to minimize the risk of blemishes affecting the finished coin.
It is though that the first proof coins were minted in 1819. Originally, the proof minting process was intended to create “prototypes” to test a new die set. They were the first coins minted of a particular coin design and year. Often, these coins were sent directly into circulation, along with other non-proof examples of the same coin. However, today the process for minting proof coins is distinct, and the appearance of a proof coin typically differs from its business-strike counterpart.
Today, many proof coins are sold directly by the mint, at a premium cost above the price charged for non-proof examples of the same coin. Produced in limited numbers, they are highly collectible due both to their beauty and their rarity. Some of the most popular silver proof coins ever minted are the Proof Silver American Eagles, first introduced in 1986. As with many proof silver coins, the American Eagle features a highly detailed, yet softly frosted image on a mirror-like field.
Graded Proof Coins
As a result of their highly collectible nature, many investors send their proof coins for grading. Most proof coins are given the grade PR or PF to denote a proof coin, rather than the MS (mint state) given to other coins in the same physical condition. Assuming that it has not been handled since leaving the mint, a proof coin will usually be graded between PR60 to PR70, depending on the appearance of the coin. If it has received wear or damage through handling or cleaning, it may be graded lower than PR60; for this reason, it is important to avoid handling a proof coin to maintain its value.