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The Value of Old Coins: The Best Scrap Silver

Silver investing, like all precious metals investing, is a great way to hedge against inflation and the devaluation of paper investments such as stocks, bonds, and fiat currencies. When it comes to investing in silver, people most often think of rare coins like the Morgan Silver Dollar, or jewelry. Although both of these investments are wise, you do end up paying a premium because of their special characteristics and scarcity. If you’re one of those investors who are not interested in paying a premium for scarcity or beauty and you simply want to obtain silver for the cheapest price, then scrap/junk silver coins might be right for you.

What are Scarp/ Junk Silver Coins?

So what is junk silver and what makes a coin a “Junk Silver coin”? It’s really very simple. Junk silver is an informal way of referring to coins with no numismatic value, a fancy way of saying that coin collectors have no special interest in these particular coins, but that have a value based on their metallic composition. Prior to 1965 in the United States the dime, quarter and half dollar (50 cent piece) were composed of 90% Silver and 10% copper. Silver, being a precious metal, gave these coins an intrinsic value equal to the value of the silver the coins contain. Because silver prices have increased significantly since the coins were minted the actual value of the coin far exceeds the coin’s face value. In fact, the Coinage Act of 1965, which ended silver coinage in the United States, was passed because people were hoarding the high value silver coins, causing a shortage of coinage. From the passage of this act in 1965 US coins have consisted of copper with a silvery alloy giving the coins a similar appearance to the silver coins, but having little intrinsic value.

The most commonly collected junk-silver U.S. coins (Minted before 1965)

Dollars

Morgan (1878–1904 & 1921) — 90-percent silver

Peace (1921–1928 and 1934–1935) — 90-percent silver

Half-Dollars

Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1915) — 90-percent silver

Walking Liberty (1916–1947) — 90-percent silver

Franklin (1948–1963) — 90-percent silver

Kennedy (1964) — 90-percent silver

Kennedy (1965–1970) — 40-percent silver

Quarters

Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1916) — 90-percent silver

Standing Liberty (1916–1930) — 90-percent silver

Washington (1932, 1934–1964) — 90-percent silver

Dimes

Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1916) — 90-percent silver

Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” (1916–1945) — 90-percent silver

Roosevelt (1946–1964) — 90-percent silver

Nickels

Jefferson “Wartime” (1942 (partial)-1945) — 35-percent silver

The most commonly collected junk-silver U.K. coins (Minted before 1946)

Crowns

Victoria (2nd & 3rd portraits) (1887-1900) — 92.5-percent silver

Edward VII (1902) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1927–1936) — 50-percent silver

George VI (1937) — 50-percent silver

Half Crowns

Victoria (1837–1901) — 92.5-percent silver

Edward VII (1902–1910) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1911–1919) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1920–1936) — 50-percent silver

George VI (1937–1946) — 50-percent silver

Florins (2 Shillings)

    Victoria (1849–1901) — 92.5-percent silver

    Edward VII (1902–1910) — 92.5-percent silver

    George V (1911–1919) — 92.5-percent silver

    George V (1920–1936) — 50-percent silver

    George VI (1937–1946) — 50-percent silver

Shillings

Victoria (1838–1901) — 92.5-percent silver

Edward VII (1902–1910) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1911–1919) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1920–1936) — 50-percent silver

George VI (1937–1946) — 50-percent silver

Six Pences

Victoria (1837–1901) — 92.5-percent silver

Edward VII (1902–1910) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1911–1919) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1920–1936) — 50-percent silver

George VI (1937–1946) — 50-percent silver

Three Pences

Victoria (1838–1901) — 92.5-percent silver

Edward VII (1902–1910) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1911–1919) — 92.5-percent silver

George V (1920–1936) — 50-percent silver

George VI (1937–1945) — 50-percent silver

So How Can You Buy Junk Silver Coins?

Online dealers – Do a Google search and see the fantastic number of dealers of junk silver. Coin and precious metals dealers do a thriving business on the Internet and can introduce the first time buyer to bags, half bags and quarter bags of dimes, quarters and halves. Please shop only at reputable dealers though.

eBay- eBay sells everything and old silver is no exception. Individual collectors cleaning out their surplus coins or coin shops trying to broaden their customer base sell on eBay. And many of the deals are reputable sources for non-investment grade silver coins. Why? Because new junk silver buyers can buy small quantities on eBay such as 20 pre-1964 quarters or a tube of 50 Roosevelt dimes without going too far overboard on their purchase. Word of warning though; always check the sellers and their feedback before making a large purchase.

Coin and precious metals dealers – If a face to face sale is for you, try the phone listings for coin and precious metal dealers in your area. Many will have an interesting selection of numismatic quality coins as well as worn, but perfectly valuable pre-1964 silver U.S, coins for sale. Check with the BBB if you have any concerns about doing business with a coin or precious metal dealer.

Pawn shops – Pawn shops carry a little bit of everything, the more valuable and portable the more likely you are to find it. Be aware that many pawn shops do not keep close tabs on the current prices of silver and may charge you a price well above premium.

Banks- not easy, but you can walk into a bank a buy several rolls of quarters, dimes and halves, sort through them and maybe pick out a few coins the bank or mint missed. Not a guarantee and it does take a great deal of work, but it is rewarding to find a dime or two without paying a premium.

Conclusion

A common problem with Junk Silver Coins is the amounts of silver in them. Take for instance- a Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” Dime. This silver coin has 0.07234 oz. of silver in it making it cumbersome to work out the exact value of the silver coin. To help you there are many online calculators that will give up to the minute values of different coins. Before bidding for these coins on eBay or buying in a coin shop make sure you know the current spot price of the coins you are going to buy so you know how much premium you are paying.

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