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What Is Junk Silver?

June 3, 2014 0 Comments

Junk silver” is a loose term that is used throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It generally applies to any silver coin that is being collected or sold strictly for its silver content. Often times, these junk silver coins are worn, exhibiting scratches and nicks from being in circulation and have no numismatic value other than the weight of the silver in the coin (in the United States, older coins are made of “90% silver” – which is another term for “junk silver”). This is different from scrap silver such as old jewelry, silverware, and tea sets that are melted down and refined. Junk silver coins benefit from their recognizability as older legal tender, which gives credibility to their authenticity.


90% silver coins are a very popular item here at Golden Eagle. Those looking to make small investments in silver are drawn to the coins because they carry a low premium and can be bought in lower quantities. We have many customers who purchase a small amount of junk silver coins each month on a recurring basis. The reasons why people are collecting these coins can be generally broken down into two categories: Investment or Survival.

90% Silver Coins As An Investment:

Just like purchasing a silver bar or silver coin for an investment, 90% silver coins carry with them the same investing principles:

– Low Premiums – since the coins are bought solely for their silver content, they have lower premiums than silver bullion coins such as the American Silver Eagle.
– Hedge Against Inflation – a single 90% Silver Quarter was worth its face value of 25 cents in 1964. Now, that junk silver quarter is worth 15 times that.

90% Silver Coins As A Survival Tool:

Many survivalists stockpile water and food in the event that there is a major global catastrophe (natural disaster, economic collapse, etc). 90% Silver Coins are also collected and stored as a method of bartering. The thought is, in a catastrophe there would need to be a method to trade for everyday items. Since junk silver coins are easily recognizable and because they contain silver, many survivalists believe that these coins will be a necessary item to have in case of an emergency.

What U.S. Coins are 90% Silver?

In the United States, all coins that are currently produced for circulation contain no silver. But in the past, all coins contained silver at one point (with the exception of the penny – which contained copper). To break it down simply, prior to 1965, generally any coin minted (aside from the penny and nickel) contained 90% silver.

– Dimes – pre-1965 U.S. dimes containing 90% silver: Liberty Head, Mercury, and Roosevelt.

– Quarters – pre-1965 U.S. quarters containing 90% silver: Barber/Liberty Head, Standing Liberty and Washington.

– Half-Dollars – pre-1965 U.S. half-dollars containing 90% silver: Liberty Head, Walking Liberty, Franklin, and Kennedy.

– Dollars – Morgan and Peace dollars containing 90% silver: all minted between 1878 and 1935.

– Kennedy Dollars from 1965 – 1970 contain 40% silver.

– War Nickels from 1942 – 1945 contain 35% silver.

How To Calculate The Amount of Silver in Junk/90% Silver

The easy way to calculate how much silver you have is to add up the face value of the coins. For example, if you have 4 quarters, you would have $1.00 face value of quarters. For every $1.00 face value of 90% silver coins you will have .715 ounces of silver. You could have 10 dimes, or 2 half dollars, and you’ll still have .715 ounces of silver per $1.00 face value. You can even mix and match the denominations (i.e., 3 quarters, 2 dimes and a nickel).

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