Index

Introduction

Welcome to The Junk Silver Guide. I hope this guide will serve as a comprehensive reference to help you learn all about junk silver. By following this guide you can easily identify junk silver coins and get the best deals when buying junk silver.

In this guide I'll answer in simple terms:
What is junk silver?
What does junk silver look like?
Where can I buy junk silver?
How much is junk silver worth right now?
How do I calculate the value of junk silver?
How do I care for my junk silver?
and much more.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I'm not a silver expert, I don't sell silver and I'm not trying to give investment advice. However, I believe silver is a great way to preserve wealth, and therefore I'd like to help people diversify into silver (and gold).

What Is Junk Silver?

All U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars minted 1964 and earlier contain 90% silver and are known as "junk" silver coins because they don't have numismatic value to collectors (they're not rare, old, minting mistakes, proof coins, commemorative coins, etc.)

Nickels minted during WWII (1942-1945) are known as "war nickels" and contain 35% silver. War nickels are generally regarded as inferior to junk silver, possibly due to the lower silver content or their often unattractive appearance (they tend to develop a thick, dull, green / black tarnish). However, due to the lower demand they often sell for lower premiums than junk silver. I'd recommend picking up some war nickels if you can get a good deal on them, but I would only allocate a small part of my silver investment to them.

Various other coins are 40% silver (most commonly 1965-1969 Kennedy half dollars), but there's generally less demand for 40% coins making them more difficult to sell and a poorer investment, so I won't discuss them.

Some people (mostly sellers on eBay) insist that junk silver is not actually "junk". The semantics vary depending on who you ask. A serious coin collector will certainly consider a typical junk silver coin as a worn out, well circulated, beat up piece of junk. The same coin wouldn't be considered junk to an investor only concerned about the silver content.

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Junk Silver Coin List

The following is a list of the most common American junk silver coins:
(click images to enlarge them)

Junk Silver Coins Details
morgan dollar front morgan dollar back

Morgan Dollar
Minted: 1878-1904, 1921
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.7735 troy oz
Note: Often sells with a higher premium due to collectibility.
Current silver melt value: $13.23

peace dollar front peace dollar back

Peace Dollar
Minted: 1921-1928, 1934-1935
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.7735 troy oz
Note: Often sells for a few dollars over silver value due to collectibility.
Current silver melt value: $13.23

barber front barber half dollar back

Barber Half Dollar
Minted: 1892-1915
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.3617 troy oz
Note: Often sells for a few dollars over silver value due to collectibility. Barber half dollars, quarters and dimes had the same face image.
Current silver melt value: $6.19

walking liberty half dollar front walking liberty half dollar back

Walking Liberty Half Dollar
Minted: 1916-1947
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.3617 troy oz
Note: Same face as the American Silver Eagle bullion coin.
Current silver melt value: $6.19

franklin half dollar front franklin half dollar back

Franklin Half Dollar
Minted: 1948-1963
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.3617 troy oz
Current silver melt value: $6.19

kennedy half dollar front kennedy half dollar back

Kennedy Half Dollar
Minted: 1964, 1965-1970
Silver Content: 90% (1964), 40% (1965-1970)
Silver Weight: 0.3617 troy oz (90%), 0.1479 troy oz (40%)
Current silver melt value: $6.19 (90%), $2.53 (40%)

barber quarter front barber quarter back

Barber Quarter
Minted: 1892-1915
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.1808 troy oz
Note: Barber half dollars, quarters and dimes had the same face image.
Current silver melt value: $3.09

standing liberty quarter front standing liberty quarter back

Standing Liberty Quarter
Minted: 1916-1930
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.1808 troy oz
Note: The date was printed too high and is often worn off. 1916 version had Lady Liberty with a bare breast. She was covered in subsequent years.
Current silver melt value: $3.09

washington quarter front washington quarter back

Washington Quarter
Minted: 1932, 1934-1964
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.1808 troy oz
Current silver melt value: $3.09

seated liberty dime front seated liberty dime back

Seated Liberty Dime
Minted: 1836-1891
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.0723 troy oz
Note: Rarely found and often sells with a higher premium.
Current silver melt value: $1.24

barber dime front barber dime back

Barber Dime
Minted: 1892-1916
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.0723 troy oz
Note: Barber half dollars, quarters and dimes had the same face image.
Current silver melt value: $1.24

mercury dime front mercury dime back

Mercury Dime
Minted: 1916-1945
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.0723 troy oz
Current silver melt value: $1.24

roosevelt dime front roosevelt dime back

Roosevelt Dime
Minted: 1946-1964
Silver Content: 90%
Silver Weight: 0.0723 troy oz
Current silver melt value: $1.24

jefferson war nickel front jefferson war nickel back

War Nickel
Minted: mid 1942-1945
Silver Content: 35%
Silver Weight: 0.0563 troy oz
Note: A subset of the Jefferson nickel series. Counterfeit and non-silver nickels lack the mint mark above Monticello's dome.
Current silver melt value: $0.96


Silver Bullion

Silver bullion rounds and bars are another option. They're generally 99.9% pure silver. They may be minted by the government (Silver Eagles) or by a private mint (rounds and bars). I recommend staying with the government minted coins because they are more recognizable and trusted. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, but is seldom used in coins and bullion.

Silver Bullion Coins and Bars Details
silver eagle front silver eagle back

Silver Eagle
Minted: 1986-current
Silver Content: 99.93%
Silver Weight: 1 troy oz
Note: The official American silver bullion coin minted by the U.S. Mint.
Current silver melt value: $17.11

sunshine round front sunshine round back

Sunshine Minting Silver Round
Note: This is a privately minted silver bullion round.

silver bullion bar silver bullion bar

Silver Bullion Bars
Note: These are privately minted silver bars.

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Alternatives To Junk Silver

Junk silver may not be the best type of silver for everyone. Fortunately, silver is available in several different types to suit different needs. The following table summarises the different types of silver that's available. Please note that these are generalizations that may change on occasion.

Referring to the following table:

Type Premiums Recognizable Counterfeit Risk Liquidity
90% Junk Low High Low High
Silver Eagles Moderate High Moderate High
Silver Dollars High High High High
Rounds (1oz) Low Moderate Moderate Moderate
Large Bars Low Low High Low

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