“Junk” Silver Coins (35%, 40%, 90% Purity)

“Junk silver” is a term used to refer to silver coins that show wear from circulation. Junk silver coins are not particularly rare, and are too worn to be of any particular value to collectors. Though they are not considered to hold any collectible value, the silver contained within the coin has intrinsic value. These coins are a popular way for silver investors to purchase physical silver for little to no premium above the price of silver.

90% Silver Coins

“Junk Silver” coinage usually contains 35%-90% silver, with the remainder comprised of other metals. The most popular type of junk silver coinage are those minted in the United States before 1965. By 1965, the increasing value of silver caused the U.S. Mint to change the composition of US coinage. The silver content was removed; most coins minted after this date contain copper, zinc, or other metals, rather than silver.


Most pre-1965 US coinage contains 90% silver, with the remainder of the coin made of copper. Examples of 90% junk silver coins are Liberty, Mercury, and Roosevelt dimes, Liberty Head, Standing Liberty, and Washington quarters, and Franklin, Liberty Head, and Kennedy half dollars. Morgan and Peace silver dollars are also considered to be junk silver.

Any combination of $1 face value of these coins typically contains 0.715 troy ounces of silver; a full troy ounce is contained in $1.40 face value of such coins. The two exceptions are Morgan and Peace silver dollars. Each of these has .7736 troy ounces of silver.

35%-40% Silver Coinage

Other types of junk silver coins contain between 35% and 40% silver. Examples include War Nickels, produced during World War II (1942 to 1945), which have 35% silver. Kennedy Half-Dollars minted between 1965 and 1970, and also in 1976, are 40% silver.

Collecting “Junk Silver” Coins

Many of these silver coins do have numismatic value, if they are in fairly good condition or are considered to be from rare years. However, most are too worn due to circulation and handling. They may be found in pocket change, and have varying degrees of scratches and other wear. Often, they are sold by coin dealers not individually, but in bulk – either by the hundred or by the pound. The price of these “junk silver” coin bags is dependent on the current spot price of silver, since the coins’ value is dependent on the silver they contain.

Why Buy Junk Silver?

One benefit of buying junk silver coins is the small per-coin cost. For under a dollar, you can add to your silver investment. Purchasing silver in the form of bullion coins or bars requires a larger investment. Junk silver coins are often found for little or no additional cost above the price of the silver they contain, making them a cost-effective way to invest in silver.

This is a good way to buy, sell, or trade small amounts of silver, whereas silver bars usually come only in sizes beginning at one troy ounce. This has made junk silver coinage popular among those who are investing in silver to hedge against the possibility of an economic catastrophe. In such scenarios, many people believe that silver will still be recognized for its inherent value, and will become the currency of choice.

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