Understanding Junk Silver: What to Look For

Some of the best and most profitable junk silver was minted in the United States, mostly prior to 1964. While it is rare to find junk silver coins still in circulation, it is possible to obtain them easily – we’ll talk about that in a few minutes. First, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly traded junk silver coins.

The Silver War Nickel – Minted between 1942 and 1945, Silver War Nickels contain .0563 ounce silver. Manufactured from 35% silver, 9% manganese, and 56% copper, they are marked with P, D, or S mint marks above Monticello’s dome on the reverse side. Some 1942 nickels were manufactured without silver content. These will not have a mint mark and are not considered to be junk silver.

Mercury Dimes – Containing .0723 ounce silver, these dimes were minted between 1916 and 1945. These dimes are extremely easy to come by, and although they are decorated with the face of a young Lady Liberty, her winged headdress caused her to be confused with the god Mercury.

Roosevelt Dimes – Also containing .0723 ounce of silver, Roosevelt Dimes were minted between 1946 and 1964. Originally composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, just like the Mercury dimes, they were minted at West Point, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia.

Washington Quarters – Containing .1808 ounce of silver, these quarter dollars were minted for 32 years, between 1932 and 1964. These quarters look exactly like the Washington quarters still minted today, but they contain 90% silver and 10% copper.

Liberty Half Dollars – These popular coins contain .3617 ounce silver. Also referred to as Walking Liberty Half Dollars, they were minted between 1916 and 1947. In perfect condition, some of these coins are worth more than $10,000.00 to numismatics. As junk silver, they are worth more than ten times their face value.

Franklin Half Dollars – Minted between 1948 and 1963, these half dollars also contain .3617 ounce silver. This series is popular with collectors, so if you do get one of them, check to see whether it might be more valuable as a collectible rather than as junk. Take a look at Benjamin Franklin’s upper lip with a magnifying glass – if it appears that he has buck teeth or an overbite, you have a valuable “Bugs Bunny” Franklin Half Dollar!

1964 Kennedy Half Dollar – Unlike later Kennedy Half Dollars, these half dollars contain .3617 ounce silver. Struck just two months after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, these special coins are worth about ten times their face value as junk silver, and are also in demand with collectors.

1965-1970 Kennedy Half Dollars – Containing just 0.1479 ounce silver, these coins contain 60% copper and 40% silver. As junk, they are worth about four times their face value, depending on the current price of a troy ounce of silver.

Morgan Dollars – Minted between 1878 and 1921, Morgan Silver Dollars contain .7735 ounce silver. Depicting Lady Liberty on the front (obverse) side and an eagle holding arrows and an olive branch on the reverse, these dollars are named for their designer, George T. Morgan. Weighing in at a hefty 26.73 grams, these coins contain 90% silver and 10% copper. As junk silver, they are worth more than twenty times their face value. Collectors sometimes pay thousands of dollars for a Morgan Dollar in mint condition.

Peace Dollars – Minted between 1921 and 1935, Peace Dollars also contain 90% silver and 10% copper; the silver content is .7735 ounce.
Beautifully designed, with a crowned Lady Liberty on the obverse and a perched eagle on the reverse side, these silver dollars were the last to be minted for circulation in the US. Some of the best examples are worth up to $10,000.00 or so to collectors.

Eisenhower Dollars – Minted between 1971 and 1976, the Eisenhower Dollar was never circulated, and many of these dollars have no silver content, particularly if they are worn. Issued as collectibles only, they are commonly referred to as “Ikes.” If you get an Eisenhower dollar and if you have a gram scale, you can check to see whether your dollar contains silver or not. Silver Ikes weigh in at 24.59 grams; those with no silver content weigh in at 22.68 grams. Those with silver content contain 40% silver and 60% copper; they are worth around $9 as junk silver.

Canadian 1920-1967 Dimes – These contain .0599 ounce silver.

Canadian 1968 Dimes – Interestingly, these dimes contain 50% silver. Though they are worth a little less than their predecessors, they are worth about ten times their face value as junk silver. Canadian dimes minted after 1968 have no silver content.

Canadian 1920-1967 Quarter Dollar – Containing .1499 ounce silver, these early Canadian Quarters are a nice find.

Canadian 1920-1967 Half Dollars – These Canadian fifty cent pieces contain .2999 ounce silver and are worth well over ten times their face value.

Canadian 1935-1967 Dollars – These silver dollars contain .5997 ounce silver. Depending on the current silver price, an early Canadian silver dollar could be worth close to twenty times its face value.

These are just some of the most common examples of junk silver coins. Coins minted for circulation in other countries may contain enough silver to be worthwhile; both for their collectible value and for their silver content. For example, sterling coins minted until 1919 in Canada and the UK, and until 1945 in Australia, are 92.5 percent silver. Look for crowns and half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpence, and three-pence pieces to add to your junk silver collection.

Next: Why Invest in Junk Silver?Previous: What is Junk Silver?

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Understanding Junk Silver: What to Look For

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