When buying silver coins, it is important to know that they are available with a range of silver purity levels. One level of purity that has been used by the US Mint for coins is 90%. These are coins that were minted for use as currency and were in circulation and remain legal tender to this day.
It was only in 1965, when the US government stopped using silver in the production of coins, that these 90% silver coins started falling out of circulation. As the silver was replaced by a cheaper nickel component, people began collecting the pre-1965 silver coins as their intrinsic value was higher than that of the newer coins, despite both of them having the same face value.
These 90% silver coins are still available today and accepted as legal tender, however it is highly unlikely you will see them in circulation. This is due to their relatively high market value compared to their face value, thanks to their high silver content.
As these coins have been circulated in the past, they show signs of use and can be worn or damaged in places. Because of this they are referred to as junk silver. This doesn’t mean they are worthless, it simply means they hold no value as collectable coins. They are instead valued on their silver content alone.
Examples of 90% Silver Coins
While there are lots of different 90% silver coins on the market, there are some common ones that you will often come across when researching this form of precious metal. Some common examples you might see widely available include:
- Barber Half-Dollars
- Walking Liberty Halves
- Franklin Halves
- Barber Quarters
These are all examples coin with a 90% purity level, which are readily available to buy from leading online precious metal dealers.
When buying this type of junk silver, they are available in different packages, bag sizes and quantities. Due to their relatively low intrinsic value per coin, you get a lot of coinage for your money. Some popular options for buying these coins in quantities larger than a single coin include:
- 20 Coin Rolls: Barber Half-Dollars are one coin that is available in a roll of 20. As these coins are legal tender the roll has a face value of $10. Their grade is advertised as ‘average circulated’ due to their years spent in circulation. Despite having a face value of $10, a 20 coin roll of Barber Halves will set you back about $250.
- $1,000 Face Value Bag: if you want to purchase a large quantity of junk silver then a bag of coins with a combined face value of $1,000 is your best bet. These bags usually contain just one denomination of coins, for example all dimes, or all quarters. Due to the weight of these coins you will get about 715 oz. of pure silver per bag, no matter what denomination you receive. A bag this size will cost you a lot more than the $1,000 face value of the coins, as they currently sell for about $22,300 per bag.
- $1 Face Value Selection: this works on the same principal as the $1,000 bag but on a much smaller scale. This is a great way to make a small purchase of junk silver and get a number of coins at the same time, although they will usually always be of the same denomination, for example, all dimes or quarters. Currently costing around $23 this is a very affordable way to get started with precious metals.
While 90% is one of the highest purity levels found in junk silver coins, there are also lower purity level coins available such as the 40% and 35% varieties.