At one time, all coins were made of 90% silver. This includes nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars. Old coins that were once circulated through the money system that are made up of 90% silver are now referred to as “junk silver”, and are a highly sought after investment Once a coin has been circulated and used as currency, it loses its collectible value, and is only worth the silver it contains.
There have been a number of different silver coins that have been issued by the U.S. Mint in previous years that contain 90 percent silver. Other than those 90 percent silver coins found in proof sets, and coins that were minted just for collectors, there are only a few of these coins that are common enough to be purchased in bulk quantities. In the silver trade, these coins are known as junk silver, but the actuality is that this term is a misnomer, since junk silver can be highly prized.
Purchasing 90% Silver
These 90% silver coins are typically sold in rolls and bags according to their face value. They don’t have a great deal of numismatic value, since they are not considered rare and many are in poor condition. Most collectors have no interest in junk silver. These coins have little or even no value to a collector.
Most are usually only worth the posted face value of the coin or possibly an amount that is equal to the value of the silver that they contain. This value is known as the silver-melt value of the coin. As an investment, this is what makes 90% silver junk a good option. The coins will always be worth at least their face value, even if the market price plummets and silver is worth nothing.
Usually, bags of 90 percent silver junk are sold in $1K face value bundles. This is around 715 ounces of pure silver, slightly less than the minted original weight of 723, since some leeway is given for the wear-and-tear of the silver coins. Junk silver bags that contain larger denominations, such as dollars or half-dollars sell for more than bags of nickels and dimes.
Surprisingly, the reason is not because of the difference in face value, but because of the difference in wear. Dimes and nickels are more heavily circulated than other coins. Coins have a proportionate amount of silver in them, regardless of how they are struck. For this reason, a $1k bag of silver dollars can have the same intrinsic value as a $1K bag of quarters. This is because a quarter dollar has 25 percent of the silver that a silver dollar has – and thus, it all works out proportionally by face value.
The 90% junk silver coins that are in circulation today are made up of different strikes that are available in non-rare and low-grade quantities that are ideal for investing. These coins can include:
- Mercury Winged Liberty Head Dime, 1916-45
- Roosevelt Dime, 1946-64
- Washington Quarter, 1932-64
- Walking Liberty Half Dollar, 1916-47
- Franklin Half Dollar, 1948-63
- Kennedy Half Dollar, 1964
- Morgan Dollar, 1878-1921
- Peace Dollar, 1921-35