Junk Silver FAQs - Everything You Need To Know

What is Junk Silver?

The term junk silver refers to circulating dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins minted until 1965 that contain 90% silver content and half-dollars struck from 1965 to 1970 with 40% silver in their metallic alloy. They are, sometimes, referred to as Constitutional Silver as well.

A few of the most common junk silver coins include 90% silver Mercury Dimes and Roosevelt Dimes, Washington Quarters and Barber Quarters, Kennedy Half-dollars and Barber Half-dollars, Morgan and Peace Dollars.

Junk silver coins are typically low-graded and carry little numismatic value. The term "junk" can sometimes be misleading. It doesn't necessarily mean the coin is in a bad condition. It just means it doesn't have an appeal with coin collectors. Junk silver, however, is not the same as scrap silver. 

What is a fair premium for junk silver?

Premiums on junk silver are constantly fluctuating based on a number of variables. The dominant variables are supply and demand. In times when demand is low, supply is usually high and the premiums will be lower when looking at historical premiums of junk silver. 

However, the inverse is also true. Because these products have not been minted since the mid-1960s, the supply can dry up very quickly in times when there is a very high demand for silver. In these cases, premiums for buying and selling junk silver can skyrocket.

In our opinion, the best premium to pay is always the lowest premium. At SD Bullion, we are constantly offering high-quality pre-1965 quarters and dimes at the lowest premiums online.

Is junk silver a good investment?

First of all, it's worth noting that Constitutional Silver coins will typically have lower premiums than bullion coins or bars. Thus, if you are looking to acquire the most silver for your dollar, junk silver could be a sensible way to do so.

These coins may also be worth buying if you are new to the market and cannot yet afford the more expensive bullion, such as gold coins or platinum coins.

It is noteworthy that these coins can share a market with coin collectors. Many of these enthusiasts seek even low-grade common-dated coins to complete their collection. Having extra potential buyers can prove beneficial when reselling. Also, there's the chance (however small) that the coin dealer who sold you the bag or roll of coins overlooked a mint error or a specific mint year, making that specimen worth more to a collector. In such cases, those numismatic characteristics can cause the coin to be worth substantially more than its intrinsic value (precious metal content).

Besides, junk silver coins are still considered legal tender and have a face value. Many investors consider them a smart choice to be prepared in case of a widespread economic collapse. They are still money and could be used as a bartering item if needed.

Finally, because they have a face value, these coins will never be worth less than that. It's unlikely to happen, but it is possible that the silver spot price might drop below the face value. Nevertheless, like any other coin, junk silver will continue to be worth at least its denomination, even if its intrinsic value drops below that.

Check out our post about the Junk Silver Prices

How much do you get for junk silver coins?

The answer to that question varies according to the silver spot price. Precious metal brick-and-mortar retailers will usually offer around 90% of the price of silver. Of course, the reason is that retailers have a series of business costs to cover and still need to make a living. If they don't turn a profit when reselling, they might be out of business.

Our recommendation is to seek out the major precious metal dealers online in order to obtain better bid prices. Make sure you find yourself a trusted dealer. Please consider SD Bullion. Our team is constantly buying and selling bullion. Check out our sell to us page to learn more. 

Should I invest in junk silver, silver bars, or silver bullion coins?

Silver bullion bars are ingots of pure silver. Silver rounds are basically bars shaped like a coin. They are not legal tender and do not have a face value. In order to be considered investment-grade silver bars and silver rounds, they should be .999 fine or higher. They typically contain lower premiums than silver bullion coins. Overall, they are preferred among those who want to maximize their investment in terms of pure silver per dollar.

Investing in modern silver bullion coins, such as the American Silver Eagle or the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf, is definitely among the most popular options when it comes to silver investment. Much like junk silver coins, silver bullion coins are minted and issued by a sovereign government. They are legal tender and have a face value.

Nevertheless, most silver bullion coins, like the ones mentioned above, are sold in weights of at least one troy ounce. That amount is much higher than the silver content in a silver dime, silver quarter, half-dollar, or dollar coin. In other words, 90% junk silver could be a better entry point into the silver market.

To sum up, 90-percent of silver coins are nostalgic. One of the benefits of junk silver is that it could potentially share a crossover market with coin collectors, which increases its liquidity. They can be spent as money in case of an outright economic crisis. They will never be worth less than their face value, even if the intrinsic value attached to the silver spot price drops below that. 

It is important to point out, however, that 90% of silver coins are not IRA approved, like investment-grade silver bullion bars and coins. The IRS established a minimum of .999 fineness for bullion to be used to fund retirement accounts.

What US coins are 90% silver?

Basically, any dime, quarter, half-dollar, and silver dollar coin the US Mint produced for circulation prior to 1965 with a 90-percent silver alloy.

The list includes:

  • Barber dimes;
  • Mercury dimes;
  • Roosevelt dimes;
  • Barber quarters;
  • Standing Liberty quarters;
  • Washington quarters;
  • Barber half dollars;
  • Walking Liberty half dollars;
  • Franklin half dollars;
  • Kennedy half dollars (only in 1964)
  • Morgan dollars;
  • Peace dollars;

 It is noteworthy that any varieties or mint errors in the coins from the list above will substantially increase their value to a coin collector and, therefore, should be separated and sold for more than their intrinsic value.

When did the US Mint stop producing silver coins?

As the prices of silver inflated around the middle of the 20th century, the United States Government began measures to debase the US dollar and disassociate it from the silver standard. The Coinage Act of 1965 was culminating to introduce the country to a fiat currency-based economy, which meant a monetary system not linked to any commodity. From 1965 to 1970 the US Mint still produced 40% silver Kennedy Half-Dollars, the last coins produced with silver intended for circulation.

What junk silver coins should I buy?

First of all, the amount of silver each coin contains was directly correlated to its face value during the silver standard. As the years passed by and the prices of silver inflated, these coins became more valuable than their original face value.

Nevertheless, the higher the denomination, the more silver it contains. For instance, each silver dime contains 0.0715 troy ounces of pure silver. 90% silver half-dollars contain 5 times the amount of silver in a dime or 0.3575 pure silver. Any combination of silver dimes, silver quarters, and half-dollars that add up to $1.00 in face value contains a total of 0.715 troy ounces (22.2 g) of pure silver.

The exception is 90% Silver Dollars (both Morgan and Peace). They contain 0.7734 troy ounces of pure silver, slightly more than the other types of coins combined into $1.00. However, depending on the condition and coin grade, silver dollars might contain higher premiums than other low-grade silver coins. Keep that in mind if your goal is to maximize the amount of pure silver you own.

Bottom line is, if you decide to invest in silver dimes and silver quarters, you might end up with a bigger stack than if you had purchased silver dollars for the same investment size. So, depending on how much you are deciding to invest, higher denominations might be less inconvenient, or easier to store.

Moreover, 40% silver Kennedy Half-Dollars and 35% war nickels typically carry higher premiums for their numismatic value. If you want to maximize your investment in terms of dollar per silver content, 90% silver could be the way to go.

SD bullion ships amounts of dimes, quarters, and half-dollars in convenient rolls or bags for your benefit.

How many junk silver coins does it take to make an ounce of silver?

First of all, when it comes to precious metal content, the preferred unit of measure is a troy ounce, which is slightly heavier than a regular ounce.

That being said, here is a table showing how many junk silver coins it takes to make 1 troy ounce of silver (the same amount in American Silver Eagle coins):

Denomination

Troy ounce per specimen

How many to 1 troy oz

Silver Dime

0.0715

14 coins

Silver Quarter

0.17875

5.6 coins

90% Silver Half-Dollar

0.3575

2.8 coins

40% Silver Half-Dollar

0.1475

6.8 coins

Silver Dollar

0.7734

1.3 coins

Note: the number of coins to make 1 troy ounce is a close approximation as the actual number involves more decimal places.

 What is the melt value of the junk silver coins?

The melt value of 90% and 40% silver coins vary according to the fluctuation spot price of silver. At the time of writing this article, the current silver price is around $26 dollars per troy ounce. That means the melt value of each coin would be as follows:

Denomination

Troy oz per specimen

Silver Spot Price

Melt Value per coin

Silver Dime

0.0715

26

1.859

Silver Quarter

0.17875

26

4.6475

90% Silver Half-Dollar

0.3575

26

9.295

40% Silver Half-Dollar

0.1475

26

3.835

Silver Dollar

0.7734

26

20.1084

If you would like to get a more accurate melt value, download our spreadsheet. You can type in the current spot price of silver at the time of your reading to find out exactly the updated melt value.

Is it illegal to melt junk silver coins?

As of the time of writing of this article, it is not illegal to melt down old silver coins. The United States Mint does not produce them anymore and, therefore, their melting wouldn't affect the availability of their denominations in daily commerce.

Is it worth melting junk silver coins?

It is probably not worth it for a couple of reasons. Junk silver coins are still legal tender with a face value. Even in the unlikely possibility that the prices of silver drop to near zero, they will never be worth less than their denomination.

Also, US junk silver coins were minted by the United States Mint, which is a world-renowned institution. The amount of silver in these coins is well-known. However, by melting them down for scraps, or even for the private production of silver bars, there is no reliable way of telling how much silver is on them. It would be easier to liquidate them in the form of US coinage than as a private refinery product.

What else can I do with my junk silver coins besides selling them?

You could accumulate them and save them for a moment of need. They could also be served as a starting point for a coin collection or even as a gift for a loved one who is just learning the ins and outs of the bullion market.

However, if you own a furnace and protective equipment, you could melt them down to manufacture your own items, like bars, rounds, or jewelry. Just keep in mind what we covered in the previous section. If your goal is to resell them for the silver content, it would probably be easier to do so in the form of US coinage.

Where can I sell my junk silver coins for melt value?

You can try to get good prices for your junk silver coins by selling directly to a bullion investor or collector. However, the safest choice is to look for a trusted coin dealer or broker.

Keep in mind that precious metal dealers need to cover a series of business costs so they might not be able to meet the melt value.

As mentioned before, SD Bullion offers industry-leading rates. Talk to our agents at 1-800-294-8732 or check out this page for more information.

Is it better to sell junk silver coins for melt?

The answer to that question depends on the coin. As mentioned before, the price of junk silver is connected to the silver spot price. However, it might be worth going through your collection to search for mint errors or scarce mint years. In some cases, those specimens could be worth more than their melt value.

Also, higher-graded coins, even from common dates, have slightly higher premiums, so you could get better prices for them.

If you have additional questions related to junk silver or other silver products as a whole, make sure to contact our customer support. We are available from Mondays to Thursdays, from 8 am to 6 pm, and on Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm. We offer customer support over the phone at 1(800)294-8732, via our live web chat feature on the bottom right of your screen, or through email at sales@sdbullion.com.

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James Anderson
James Anderson
Content Director

A bullion buyer years before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, James Anderson is a grounded precious metals researcher, content creator, and physical investment grade bullion professional. He has authored several Gold

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