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Junk Silver Coins, A Beginner guide to Buying

Updated on July 5, 2011

Junk Silver Coins

Precious metals have taken off as one of the soundest investments during our current economic troubles. The price of gold has consistently gained by leaps and bounds and silver has made great gains as well. This is good, but also makes it difficult for you and I to afford entry into that market. Junk silver coins provides a good alternative.

What is junk silver?

Coins such as quarters, dimes, dollars and nickels at one time were made from real, 90% silver. Junk Silver is a term used in western society to describe old silver coins that were in circulation, in other words used as currency and therefore have no market value besides the value of the silver metal the coin contains.

Uncirculated coins, coins that were never used by the public as money, have a collectors value or historic value because they are not worn out or dirty. Therefore they are considered to have additional value beyond the silver content. In summary, the value of a junk silver coin is derived only from the value of the silver content of the coin and has no value as a rare or collectible coin.

Investing in silver has several benefits. With the uncertainty in the future value of the United States Dollar and the economic instability seen around the world, investing in precious metal such as silver and gold is seen as insurance against the wildly fluctuating values of paper currency. You make investments with the goal of profiting from your investment. Junk silver coins are an easy, relatively low cost way to enter the silver market or add silver to your investment and savings portfolio.

As a side note, although not within the scope of this article, when considering Where To Buy Junk Silver Coins, think estate auctions, ebay, and pawn shops, for starters.

Junk silver coins
Junk silver coins

Why Buy Junk Silver Coins?

The idea behind buying junk silver coins is that it’s a vehicle to invest in silver without having to pay the premium cost associated with collector grade coins. Additionally, should paper money continue to decline in value which would not be a surprise given the Federal Reserves fetish for printing money, the United States’ debt to China, and that many nations back their currency with the declining U.S. dollar, silver and precious metals would continue to hold their value.

Junk silver can be purchased in any quantity. This  feature alone makes it a great entry level vehicle for adding silver to your portfolio. If you were to buy newly minted silver coins, there is a cost associated with the minting process, which will tack on a premium of around 15% to the cost of the silver. Silver bars are another way to own silver without the minting costs, however the cost can be high due to the quantity, and incur a 5% premium over the spot price of silver.

Junk silver coins are physical silver that you can keep in a safe place, and is easily accessed whenever the need arises. Many methods of buying silver, such as Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) or Perth Mint Certificates are based on a promise that you own a given amount of silver. However you don’t have physical possession of the silver. This is a popular and viable way to invest in silver in ordinary times, but if you’re concerned that banks and governments will not be able to keep their promises when it comes to certificates or promisary notes, physical silver is a safer bet. You won’t have to rely on someones promise to deliver your physical silver or its equivalent value.

Junk silver coins retain their face value and remain legal tender regardless of the price of silver.

Junk Silver Coins, then, can be used as an investment for profit, or a hedge against the devaluation of currency.

You can easily see the wisdom of owning silver given today’s economic circumstances.

What are Junk Silver Coins?

In the United States, junk silver coins are regular currency, just like the coins we kep in our pocket today, that was most often minted before 1964 and, unlike today’s coins, contain 90% pure silver.
Note: Any U.S. silver coin with a combined face value of $1.00 has a 99.9% silver weight of 0.715 troy ounces. Silver coins contain about 90% silver, so any combination of coins with a $1.40 face value, at 90% silver content, will contain a full try ounce of 99.9% silver.

Some of the more common junk silver coins, listed with their weight in ounces, are as follows:

Weights of common Junk Silver Coins:

U.S Coins:                                       OZ.

Mercury Dime (1916-1945)             0.0723
Silver War Nickel (1942-1945)        0.0563
Roosevelt Dime (1946-1964)          0.0723
Washington Quarter (1932-1964)   0.1808
Liberty Half Dollar (1916-1947)       0.3617
Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963)     0.3617
Kennedy Half Dollar (1964)             0.3617
Kennedy Half Dollar (1965-1970)    0.1479
Morgan Dollar (1878-1921)             0.7735
Peace Dollar (1921-1935)               0.7735
Eisenhower Dollar (1971-1976)       0.3162

Canadian Junk Silver Coins:

Dime (1920-1967)                           0.0599
Quarter (1920-1967)                       0.1499
Half Dollar (1920-1967)                   0.2999
Dollar (1935-1967)                          0.5997

Important terms:
Troy ounce: Precious metals including gold ans silver are weighed in troy ounces.
Spot price: The value of one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver or 999% fine.

SIlver Morgan Dollar

Silver Morgan Dollar
Silver Morgan Dollar

Who Invests in Junk Silver Coins?

Anyone can buy junk silver coins, however it is ideal for people without much money to invest. Junk silver coins can be purchased in any quantity, from a few individual coins to what is termed “bags”. Junk silver bags contain approximately 715 ounces of silver, with a $1000 face value. These bags will track pretty close to the spot value of silver, saving the buyers premium found with other methods. Bags will sometimes even lag behind a sharp increase in spot value due to the liquidity of junk silver.

Junk silver is popular with survivalists. In the event of a catastrophe or economic collapse, survivalists believe that silver coins would provide an alternative to paper currency, which would likely lose its value since it is not based on any commodities or precious metals. Where paper or fiat currency is subject to deflation or hyperinflation, silver will always have an inherit value and can act as a a medium of trade in the eventuality that fiat currencies become obsolete.

Figure out the value of your Junk Silver coins:

Take the face value of the coins, and divide it by 1.40. Then multiply that by the current market value of silver, and the resulting answer is the value of your silver coins in today’s market.

For example, if I had 5 dollars in silver coins, I would divide that by 1.40, resulting in 3.571428 repeating.
Next, I multiply that figure by $30, which is the market value of silver as of this writing. The value of my coins, in troy ounces of silver, is $107.12.
Not bad for $5 worth of coins!


Silver is used heavily in industry and manufacturing. It’s been said that almost 95% of above ground silver has been used by industry, leaving only about 300 million ounces of the 12 billion ounces of above ground silver remaining. This lost silver is gone, and is unrecoverable. This, combined with economic instability around the world, point to a stable and strong, if not bullish, market on silver.
The signs are good for silver to increase in value. Like any investment, buying junk silver does entail risk. Traditionally, precious metal has held it’s value fairly well over the years. However it seems that not holding some silver or gold has risk these days also, thanks to our monetary leaders.

Helpful Junk Silver Video, Features

Video: What is Junk Silver


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    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      A good hub. I was especially pleased to see the chart on relative weight of silver American coins. Useful, informative, and well-written.

    • profile image

      Tyson 3 years ago

      Awesome info on junk coins and if you want a awesome deal on silver and gold coins check out this website www. they have great deals on silver and gold and junck silver too.

    • profile image

      Kate 3 years ago

      Unfortunately, silver coins are not easy to cecollt. Silver content is rather side effect for cecolltor: the coin may be a garbage quality, but noone will sell it to you for less than silver value. The only silver coins that I got for less than silver value are from the bank rolls. Rarely, you can find silver coin in a roll, esspecially old one. Also in US some people do not know that some silver coins were still minted after 1964. I am not sure how it was in Canada though. ANother thing, foreign silver coins not many people will know the actual silver content. So you may get lucky and get the coin for less than silver spot price. Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Celina 3 years ago

      That's a nice Kennedy half. You're right that is a proof coin. The s mint mark stands for san frassinco, that's where proof coins were minted for a while, im not sure if proof coins are minted there anymore.

    • profile image

      Sara 3 years ago

      yeah i made several msaeikts on vid i was trying to make it perfect i just bought around 8 new proof gems, cameo, and some older coins indian heads, buffalo nickles . Ill be making videos of unboxing them and reveiws just waitiing for my new camera to get hear through mail also waiting for coins so stay tunes most of these coins i bought off ebay really cheap and nice coins like gem proofs and cameo coins trust me im going to make several videos on coins.thanks for the support views

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      After the great melt down of silver coins we really do not have a good handle on how many of which coins are still available, so some of these coins can carry a premium in lower grades.

    • profile image

      A FRIEND 5 years ago

      What are Junk Silver Coins?

      In the United States, junk silver coins are regular currency, just like the coins we kep in our pocket today, that was most often minted before 1964 and, unlike today’s coins, contain 90% pure silver.

      Note: Any U.S. silver coin with a combined face value of $1.00 has a 99.9% silver weight of 0.715 troy ounces. Silver coins contain about 90% silver, so any combination of coins with a $1.40 face value, at 90% silver content, will contain a full try ounce of 99.9% silver.


    • John-Rose profile image

      John-Rose 5 years ago from USA

      Another good Hub. You can still get silver War Nickels for free. I pick up a box of nickels a couple times a month and usually get one or two silver nickels per box.

    • profile image

      The Dude 6 years ago

      A lot of good info here, thanks!

      There's a convenient junk silver calculator here:

      to make those calculations a lot easier. The page also has a nice gallery of junk silver coins.

    • Mike Dale profile image

      Mike Dale 7 years ago from Far northern California

      Thanks Herbivorehippi, I'm glad you found the material useful!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

      This is really great information and very thorough! Rated up for sure!