proof coins

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The history of proof coins in the United States is a fascinating journey that reflects the evolution of American coinage and the changing tastes of collectors and investors. It began in the early 19th century when the U.S. Mint, in 1817, first produced what would become the first known proof coins. These coins were struck as special presentation pieces with the primary purpose of demonstrating the exceptional quality of American coinage to foreign dignitaries and officials.

At the outset, the production of proof coins was sporadic, with only select denominations and years receiving this special treatment. However, as the 19th century progressed, proof coins became increasingly important in numismatic circles. Their appeal lay in their impeccable quality and craftsmanship, which made them highly sought-after among collectors. During this period, proof coins were not intended for general circulation; instead, they were meticulously handcrafted by skilled craftsmen who ensured that each coin had sharp details and a mirror-like surface. The striking process was repeated multiple times to achieve this level of perfection.

Proof coins also featured unique finishes that set them apart from their circulation counterparts. These finishes included the “brilliant proof” and “matte proof” varieties, each contributing to the coin’s distinct appearance. In 1866, a significant change occurred when the U.S. Mint introduced the “With Motto” proof set, incorporating the motto “In God We Trust” on the reverse of the coins. This motto has since become a standard feature on most U.S. coins, reflecting the nation’s values and beliefs.