The term “junk silver coins” can be very misleading to anyone not familiar with the bullion industry. After all, how could a bag of “junk” cost thousands of dollars? It is only when we discover the nature of the contents of the bag that we realize that junk silver coins are anything but junk.
Junk silver is the term used to describe silver coins that have little or no collectible or numismatic value. What separates them from “junk” is their silver content. On the surface, junk silver bears a remarkable resemblance to the nickels, dimes and quarters we carry in our pockets every day. In fact, prior to 1965, those same nickels, dimes and quarters were minted with real silver. Today’s pocket change is merely a collection of metal alloys, and has no value beyond the denomination stamped upon its face. Junk silver, on the other hand, is 90% pure silver. Common types of junk silver are:
- Morgan and Peace dollars
- Liberty Head “Barber,” Walking Liberty, and Franklin half dollars; Kennedy (40%) half dollars
- Liberty Head “Barber,” Standing Liberty and Washington quarters
- Liberty Head “Barber,” Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” and Roosevelt dimes
- Jefferson “Wartime” nickels (35% silver; 1942-1945 only)
Junk silver is most commonly sold as a collection of random pre-1965 circulated silver coins in fair to good condition. The coins are sold in what are commonly known as 90% dealer bags, with a combined face value of $1, $100, $500 or $1000. Unlike one ounce Silver Eagle coins, junk silver contains only 0.715 troy ounces of .999 fine silver per $1 face value. Consequently, the most common bags and their corresponding silver content is as follows:
- A $1 bag of 90% junk silver contains 0.715 troy ounces of .999 fine silver
- A $100 bag of 90% junk silver contains 71.5 troy ounces of .999 fine silver
- A $500 bag of 90% junk silver contains 357.5 troy ounces of .999 fine silver
- A $1000 bag of 90% junk silver contains 715 troy ounces of .999 fine silver
As previously explained, a bag of junk silver can cost thousands of dollars, despite the collection of coins within it having a face value far lower than that. This results from the current spot price of silver, which can be seen at the top of every page on this site. Since junk silver is anything but “junk”, its real value is calculated by multiplying the spot price by the number of ounces of silver contained in the bag.
Junk silver bags can be purchased from nearly all bullion coin dealers. Just as with any other product we purchase from a dealer, junk silver is not without its dealer markup. However, what makes 90% junk silver bags a popular investment is the fact that premiums are extremely low compared to other bullion, mainly due to junk silver’s low collectability value. Junk silver bags can be purchased for pennies over the spot price per ounce, whereas premiums for 1 oz. silver coins can be a few dollars over spot.
Another attraction of junk silver is its resemblance to coins in circulation today. Junk silver coins are recognizable to anyone who has ever held a US coin in their hand yet, at the same time, is distinguishable from its modern-day counterpart because of its pre-1965 date. This makes junk silver easily interchangeable due to its familiar appearance and proven silver content. Junk silver is especially attractive to survivalists and doomsday proponents, who believe that in the event of a total economic collapse and/or world war, fiat money will become worthless due to hyperinflation and junk silver, due to its real value stemming from its silver content and low denomination, would be the most easily interchangeable precious metal for daily goods such as food, water, cooking oil, gasoline and clothing, among other necessities.
We have learned that “junk silver” is merely a way to refer to silver coins that have no collectible value, yet contain a truly valuable pure silver content. Junk silver is a valuable asset for any investor, be it a survivalist, a bullion expert, or anyone who is interested in safeguarding his/her hard-earned cash in a genuinely safe form: precious metals that will always maintain value and are free from the whims of stock portfolios and the roller coaster ups-and-downs of the stock market. Junk silver’s small denominations and universally recognized authenticity make it ideal for those who want to save a little money for a rainy day.