What is a Silver Coin?

Learn the basic definition and history of silver coins.

How long have human beings struck and circulated silver coins?

Why don’t we use silver coins still? When did silver coins stop being used?

How much is a silver coin worth? What are silver coins worth?

What does a silver coin weigh?

What are they in legal terms?

And more.


What is a Silver Coin?

Silver Coin - (n) a silver coin is a round precious metal wafer struck in a coin form by a government mint. Silver coins typically have legal tender face values within the sovereign nation in which they get produced.


How long have Silver Coins been used?

According to monetary historians, the first silver coins used by humans were struck in 600 BC by the Lydian Empire.

The first silver coins got made by a naturally found mix between gold and silver ore, called electrum.


Early Silver Coins



Why are silver coins used?

Silver gets used in coinage for the following reasons:


  • Silver is easily tradable and liquid with a low cost between buying and selling prices.

  • Silver is easily transportable with a high value to precious metal weight ratio.

  • Silver is easily divisible into small units without destroying its elemental nature and overall value. Silver coins get produced from silver bars, silver planchets, and eventually melted back down into silver bars again without losing much silver in the process.

  • A silver coin is fungible; thus one piece of the same strike is equivalent to another.

  • A silver coin has a certain troy ounce weight which is verifiably countable.

  • Silver coins are both durable and long lasting. Although .999 fine silver coins may tarnish with exposure to air, they are not subject to decay or deterioration when safely stored.

  • Silver coins have an inherent, intrinsic tangible worth and fluctuating market value.

  • Given that silver has always been less valuable than gold, silver has had a much more practical application and use-case for small everyday transactions in economic history. One primary reason why Milton Friedman stated silver’s role as money throughout history is more extensive than even that of gold.



What are silver coins worth? What is a silver coin worth?

Silver coin values get typically based on two significant dynamics.

First, a silver coin’s value gets tied to the amount of silver a coin holds or has in overall weight. Generally, the silver melt value gets based on the fluctuating silver spot price in various fiat currencies including the US dollar.

Secondly, the value of a silver coin can also get tied to its collectibility, rarity, and numismatic value. The collectibility can range from next to nothing (standard silver coinage) to scarce (museum quality).




Silver is a finite precious metal that gets only formed in star supernovas.

According to former Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, “The major monetary metal in history is silver, not gold.”

Although silver in coinage does not circulate as it did before 1965 AD, today millions of investors the world over buy silver coins and other silver bullion products as a long term investment and preservation of purchasing power.

Essential to our modern way of life, silver is second only to crude oil in the amounts of industrial and consumer products it is necessary for creating.

Thus silver coins will always hold value regardless of whether they are not highly collectible or numismatic in rarity.  

What is a Silver Coin made from?

Silver coin purities range from ancient electrum coins (naturally occurring gold and silver mixed coinage) to pre-1964 Constitutional Junk Silver Coins, to more modern day .999 fine silver bullion coins struck by various national government mints the world over.




Did you know this about Silver Coins?

Spanish real de ocho, pieces of eight coins also commonly known as Spanish dollar coins were the most highly circulated coins at the founding of the Republic of the United States of America in 1776.

Silver coins were the dominant international currencies from the 16th to the mid 19th Century.



Historical Timeline of Dominant International Currencies



What is the most popular Silver Coin today?

In terms of overall sales volumes of modern .999 fine silver bullion coins struck by government mints, the US Mint’s 1 oz American Silver Eagle Coin is the most often purchased silver coin today.

You can learn more about silver coins and why record amounts are being sold to investors today.

Get our free 21st Century Gold Rush available here at SD Bullion.


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James Anderson
James Anderson
Senior Market Analyst & Content

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 & Silver Guides and has been featured on the History Channel, Zero Hedge, Gold-Eagle, Silver Seek, Value Walk and many more. You can pick up Jame's most recent, comprehensive 200+ Page book here at SD Bullion.

Given that repressed commodity values are now near 100-year low level valuations versus large US stocks, James remains convinced investors and savers should buy and maintain a prudent physical bullion position now, before more unfunded promises debase away in the coming decades...