Junk Silver Coins

October 31, 2008

If you are new to coin collecting you may, from time to time, come across the terms 'junk silver coins' or 'junk silver' and wonder exactly what it means. Well on the most basic level junk silver coins are coins that are worth more at the value of their silver content rather than based on any sort of collectable value. The term is especially common among coin collectors from the US because there are still US coins with silver content found (rarely) in circulation. In the USA up until 1964 dimes, quarters, and half dollars all contained 90% silver by weight. From 1964 onward circulation dimes and quarters contained no silver at all, while half dollars contained 40% silver up to and including 1970.

In most other countries coinage with intrinsic silver value was removed from circulation 40 or more years ago, and in most cases it was demonetized. For example, coins from Great Britain contained 92.% silver up until 1920. From 1920 to 1946 they were 50% silver and after that time they contained no silver at all. In Australia up until 1946 silver coins contained 92.5% silver, from 1946 to 1964 they reduced to 50% silver, and after this time Australian coins contained no silver at all. The exception to this is the Australian round 1966 50 cent coin which contained 80% silver.

OK so given all of this exactly when does a coin become junk silver? Well there's no hard and fast rule, but generally it is when the silver bullion value exceeds the collectable value. So, as the price of silver goes up more coins could be considered junk silver and tradeable on bullion value alone. In the USA junk silver is usually bought and sold on some multiple of face value, so 90% silver coins might be sold at 9 times face value, valuing a dime at $0.90 quarter at $2.25. In other countries where the silver coinage has been demonetized you would usually buy based on calculated silver weight multiplied by the current silver bullion value.

I'd just like to add one thing in conclusion. What is junk silver to one collector may be quite collectable to another. Young coin collectors, new coin collectors, or collectors on a budget may well be very happy putting together coin collections from well circulated 'junk' silver coins. The hobby does not need to be expensive, and putting these sorts of sets together can be rewarding and fun. It can also provide for more obtainable goals than the ones more advanced coin collectors can set for themselves. So what is one collectors 'junk' may well be another collectors 'treasure'.

Posted by mnemtsas at October 31, 2008 5:59 AM
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