“Junk silver” coins are circulating US silver coins in fair condition. Because they are worn due to circulation and are not particularly rare, they are not considered to hold numismatic value over the value of the silver within the coin. Such coins are popular among people who wish to buy silver coins at very little over the spot price of silver.
90% Silver Coinage
Silver coins known as “junk silver” contain 35% to 90% silver. The most commonly-collected junk silver coins are U.S. coins minted prior to 1965. Most of these coins contain 90% silver and 10% copper. 90% junk silver coinage includes Roosevelt, Mercury, and Liberty Head dimes; Washington, Standing Liberty, and Liberty Head quarters; Kennedy, Franklin, and Liberty Head half dollars; and Peace and Morgan silver dollars. After 1965, the increasing value of silver resulted in a change of the composition of U.S. coins, mainly to copper and zinc, removing the silver content.
Any combination of such coins with a $1 face value usually contains 0.715 troy ounces of silver. A full troy ounce of silver is found in $1.40 face value of 90% silver coinage. There are two exceptions to this rule: Peace and Morgan silver dollars each contain .7736 troy ounces of silver.
35%-40% Silver Coinage
Other examples of US junk silver have 35% to 40% silver. Though the silver concentration in such coins is significantly lower, they are still regularly collected for their silver content. Kennedy Half-Dollars produced from 1965 to 1970, and again in 1976, contain 40% silver. War Nickels, produced during World War II (1942-1945) contain 35% silver.
Many of these coins do have collectible value, if they are from particularly rare years or are in good condition. However – particularly as these coins are all at least 40 years old – most have too much wear from circulation to hold any numismatic value. Many are still found in pocket change. They may also be purchased in bulk – by the hundred or by the pound – from coin dealers. The price of “junk silver” bags moves along with the current price of silver, because the value of the coins lies in the bullion value of the silver they contain.
Benefits of Junk Silver
One benefit of this method of silver investment is the small purchase price. Investors can purchase a single coin at a time – adding to your investment for under a dollar – whereas buying silver bullion bars or rounds requires a larger investment. In addition, junk silver coins may be found for little or no premium above the value of the silver they contain.
Junk silver coins are a way to purchase or trade small quantities of silver. In contrast, silver bullion is usually only available in sizes of one troy ounce or larger. As a result, junk silver is particularly popular among investors who are concerned about the potential of an economic catastrophe rendering the present currency worthless. In such a scenario, junk silver has an inherent value that many people believe will continue to be recognized, unlike modern U.S. currency which is not backed by precious metals.