Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an organ-specific autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreatic islets are selectively eliminated. T cells specific for beta-cell antigens are the mediators of this precise cellular destruction. However, antibodies to beta-cell proteins are also generated and may be used for predicting disease in at-risk populations. Over the past two decades, numerous beta-cell proteins and lipids have been implicated as autoantigens in patients or in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, a well-studied animal model of T1D. Here, we present a review of these antigens, accompanied by their T-cell epitopes, where known, and a discussion of our current understanding of why particular self-proteins become disease-inciting antigens. Although two dozen beta-cell antigens have been identified to date, few of these have been confirmed to be recognized by pathogenic T cells early in the disease process. Further identification and characterization of initiating beta-cell antigens targeted by pathogenic T cells should be a priority for future studies.