First released in 1986, Proof American Silver Eagles are made out of silver bullion and stamped multiple times to showcase extremely fine details and bring the face of the coin to a mirror-like polish. Coins are made exclusively at the United States Mint and are handled by employees with white gloves so as to not smudge or obscure their surface. They're sealed to preserve their value and are sold from the United States Mint in a velvet box with a certificate of authenticity.
The United States Mint is the only producer of authentic Proof Silver Eagles. Beginning production in 1986, each coin is made out of high-quality silver bullion. Coins are made out of one troy ounce of .999 fine silver and are stamped with extraordinarily fine detail.
The dies used to stamp the coins are examined under a microscope and polished by hand using three different types of diamond dust to ensure sharp detailing. The blanks for the coins are then washed and hand-inserted into the press, one by one, where they're stamped multiple times to bring out the finest points of the iconic design. They also come with a frosted design with glass-like background for the highest contrast.
The United States Mint was established in 1792 under the Coinage Act, and it was the first building erected under the Constitution. Its continued practice of minting coins has lead to an extremely stringent and in-depth process in order to create some of the highest quality collectors coins in the world. The process of creating the Proof American Silver Eagles has been fine tuned over the three decades that the coins have been produced and shows the result of centuries of craftsmanship cultivated by United States Mint employees.
There is only one design for the coin, and it is reused every year to preserve a sense of continuity. The only variation is the year of the coin, and any damaged incurred by its removal from the seal it comes in. All the coins are made from the same silver purity, and weigh the same. This means that all the coins made have, in theory, the same value, though some are sold for higher amounts depending on many factors such as mintage numbers, key dates or other variations.
The obverse design features a full-length profile of Lady Liberty in stride, designed by noted artist Adolph A. Weinman. She's enveloped in the folds of the United States Flag, with her right hand outstretched, and the other clutching branches of laurel and oak. The rays of the sun are shown in the background. On the other side is the iconic heraldic eagle perched behind a shield, with arrows in the left talon and olive branches in the right. This was designed by United States Mint Sculptor and Engraver John Mercanti. For the new 2015 Silver Eagle Coins, however, there has been talk of a design change which would affect the reverse of the coin. While a new design has not yet been approved, there is definitely a possibility that it will be changed.
For collectors, Proof Silver eagles are one of the most sought out coins available. Each year, only a limited amount are minted, and they're only available through the US Mint during the year they're produced. Afterward, they can be sold by private collectors and dealers. Coins still with the original box and certificate of authenticity can be sold for larger sums of money than they're actually worth — the coin itself only has a face value of $1. Since they're small, they're easy to collect, and their beauty makes them desirable for both serious and small time collectors alike.
Proof American Silver Eagles are available the year of their minting through the US Mint only, but after that, coin sellers and collectors, both private and corporate, are able to buy and resell the coins to investors and collectors alike. Because of that, the coins are typically easy to find and buy, however those still in the original casing with the certificate of authenticity are much more valuable, and tend to sell at higher rates.