What is “Junk Silver”?

Junk Silver 101: A Brief Overview of Junk Silver

Junk Silver is anything but junk. It’s a confusing term, but it is commonly accepted and used to describe old, circulated silver coins that have little numismatic value to coin collectors.

The term “junk” does not indicate the condition of the coins but rather signifies that they’re valued primarily for their metal content rather than any collectible or face value. These coins have no significant numismatic or collector value above their bullion content.

Keep in mind that many people today have little understanding of the history of precious metals as money, let alone have any direct memories of when silver coins where in circulation. Precious metals investors, coin collectors, numismatists, silver stackers and history buffs use the term for describing US coins that were minted prior to the 1965 debasement.

This follows the economic principle of Gresham’s Law, which states that “bad money drives out good.”

When there are two forms of commodity money in circulation and one has a higher intrinsic value than the other, people will hoard the more valuable money and spend the less valuable money.

As the silver content in U.S. coins was reduced, people began hoarding the older, more valuable silver coins and spending the newer ones.

These coins were minted from an alloy that contains 90% pure silver, are very recognizable and are frequently traded among bullion dealers, investors, preppers and anyone looking for a trusted store of value. The silver content and historical significance of these coin gives them intrinsic value that is recognized in the precious metals market.

Silver dollar coins, particularly the Morgan Silver Dollar and the Peace Silver Dollar are often excluded from junk silver unless they are very worn, damaged or consider in cull condition. Collectors are usually willing to pay a premium for antique silver dollar coins even in poor condition.

Junk Silver today is often sold at local coin shops, antique dealers and pawn shops, often at a small premium over its melt value.

European Junk Silver

The notion of junk silver is not exclusive to the United States. Other countries around the world, particularly throughout Europe, used silver coins for everyday circulation up until the early to mid 20th century when much of the world remained on the gold-standard.

In England, coins minted from 92.5% silver, or sterling silver, were introduced as early as the 12th century by King Henry II. Sterling silver was the norm for most coinage circulating throughout much of the British Empire until 1919.

Pre-1920 British silver coins are often considered “junk silver.” Locally, they are commonly known as “sterling silver” coins, have a silver content of 92.5%. Examples include the British shilling, florin, and sixpence.

Beginning in 1920, the silver content of many British coins was debased and reduced to 50%, or .500 fine silver. This continued until 1946.

Canadian Junk Silver

In Canada, the term “junk silver” typically refers to Canadian silver coins minted before 1968. These were made of 80% silver and 20% copper and include the silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, and dimes. These coins were gradually phased out of circulation as the composition changed to nickel and copper.

Some examples of Canadian junk silver coins include the 80% silver Canadian Silver Dollar, which was issued until 1967, and the 80% silver Canadian Half Dollar, which was issued until 1968.

Canadian junk silver is more commonly found in the northern border states at estate sales and coin shops. It is also readily available from most online precious metals dealers.

Buying Canadian junk silver coins is common amongst precious metals investors and “stackers” as a way to add physical silver as a store of value.

It’s important to note that the term “junk silver” can also refer to similar coins from other countries, like U.S. 90% silver coins, which have a different silver content and history. When buying or selling junk silver coins, it’s advisable to be aware of their silver content, condition, and current market prices to make informed decisions.

How much is junk silver worth?

The value of these coins is based on the intrinsic value of the amount of silver each coin contains. The word “Junk” refers only to the coins not having any value to collectors. Junk Silver is not considered scrap.

In the United States, dollar, half-dollar, quarter and dime coins that were minted prior to 1965 contained 90% silver.

Why You Should Buy Junk Silver

Many people invest in precious metals, especially gold and silver. Investing in precious metals is an excellent way to save money for a rainy day and provides more stability for saving money than putting money into a savings account with a bank.

Buying Junk Silver is also a top priority for those concerned with preparing for some sort of disaster, whether financial or societal collapse. Junk Silver is real money. Each coin is fractional silver that can be used for trade and barter in the event that it may be needed.

Before you buy junk silver it is important to familiarize yourself with the various types. Having some basic knowledge, such as which years’ coins were minted with silver and which ones weren’t will help prevent you from making major mistakes when you buy junk silver.

The most common types of junk silver coins will also have the lowest premium over the silver spot price. The two most common coins you’ll find for junk silver are the Roosevelt Dime and the Washington Quarter.

Monetary Value of Junk Silver

Bags of junk silver come in a variety of face value bags from online bullion dealers. Most dealers will carry $10 Face Value bags, $50 Face Value bags, $100 Face Value bags and $1,000 Face Value bags.

When first minted, a $100 Face Value bag of 90 percent silver coins would contain 72.3 troy ounces of silver. Through normal circulation, the coins will have some natural wear and tear that causes a slight amount of silver to wear away. It’s commonly accepted that a $100 Face Value bag of junk silver coins today will contain roughly 71.5 troy ounces of silver.

Types of Junk Silver

Prior to 1965 in the United States many of the coins in circulation were minted from an alloy that contained 90% silver. There are many coins from this time that are collected and have numismatic value in addition to their intrinsic metal value.

Circulated coins minted before 1965 that contain 90% silver that have little to no numismatic value to collectors are commonly referred to as Junk Silver.

For US Coinage, there are 3 basic types of Junk Silver:

  • 90% Silver – Dollar coins, half-dollars, quarters and dimes minted prior to 1965.
  • 40% Silver – Kennedy Half-dollar coins minted from 1965 until 1969.
  • 35% Silver – Nickel coins minted during certain years of World War II, from 1942 until 1945.

In 1965 the US Mint and Treasury departments began minted coins that were clad. Of those minted before 1965, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins were minted in 90% silver. From 1965 until 1970 Kennedy Half Dollars were minted in an alloy containing 40% silver.

From 1942 until 1945, nickel coins were minted in an alloy that contained 35% silver.