What Is The Silver Content In Coins?

So you want to know the silver content in coins that interest you as silver investments. That's wise. It's always smart to learn about something before you buy it. Hopefully I have already done the homework for you.

First, it’s important to draw a distinction between pure silver and alloy silver coins. Pure silver coins are 99.9% silver bullion. Coins with less silver are considered alloy silver coins.

Junk Silver Coins Dimes - Roosevelt

US 90% Silver Coins (Dimes)

Refineries add a base metal(s) such as copper to pure silver during production. The finished coin is a silver alloy that's more durable ... which is very important for circulating coins.

The second distinction is between numismatic (rare) silver coins and silver bullion coins.

The latter are usually purchased as a means of investing in silver bullion.

Silver investors generally view the silver content in coins as a means of storing wealth. They have little interest in collectible or rare coin values.

Let’s start with alloy silver coins since they are generally cheaper – per ounce – than pure silver coins.

Junk Silver Coins Removed From Circulation

Junk silver coins are the most frequently-traded alloy silver coins. In the past, government mints around the world made alloy silver coins for their currencies.

The key words in the above paragraph are “in the past.” Today’s coins used in everyday commerce are made with far less expensive materials.

Consequently, the older silver coins disappeared from circulation due to their silver values. They include US nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars. These coins (w/silver weights) are subdivided below.

  Denomination   Silver   Purity   Silver Weight   (uncirculated)1   Silver Weight   (circulated)2
  Pre-1965 Dimes    90%     0.0723 oz.     0.0715 oz.
  Pre-1965   Quarters    90%     0.1808 oz.     0.1788 oz.
  Half Dollars
   90%     0.3617 oz.     0.3575 oz.
  Morgan & Peace
  Silver Dollars
   90%     0.7734 oz.     0.7644 oz.
  1965 - 1970
  Half Dollars
   40%     0.1479 oz.
  Mid 1942 - 1945   Jefferson
  Wartime Nickels
   35%     0.0563 oz.

1NOTE: A coin's silver weight when it left the mint (uncirculated).
2NOTE: Estimated average silver weights of heavily circulated coins. Use
           these weights if you are estimating silver coins that show wear.
           I assumed 35% & 40% silver coins didn't wear at the same
           rate as 90% silver coins. So I didn't estimate their weights.

Junk Silver Coins Sold In Bulk Amounts

Different packaging is used when you buy junk silver coins in bulk amounts. Silver bullion dealers use the face values of coins (i.e. 10¢, 50¢) so it's easy to buy/sell these silver coins in large quantities.

You can buy a roll or bag of silver coins. For example, you can purchase a $10 roll of quarters (i.e. 40 quarters). Or if you want a large amount of silver, you can buy a $1,000 bag of silver coins (i.e. 10,000 dimes).

Estimated silver amounts (total silver content in coins) in the above examples are 7.15 oz. (roll of quarters) and 715 oz. (bag of dimes).

A combination of circulated 90% silver dimes, quarters & half dollars with a face value of $1.40 is about equal to 1 troy ounce of silver.

Silver Content In Coins Heavily Used

Let’s return to the table above since it includes both uncirculated and circulated silver weights of 90% silver coins.

The difference between the two weights is a silver coin heavily used (circulated) by the public has lost a little of its silver. So it weighs less than when it was newly minted (uncirculated).

Dimes and quarters were circulated the most. So circulated weights are used to estimate the silver content of dimes and/or quarters sold in bags.

For instance, a bag of silver coins (dimes and/or quarters) with a $100 face value has about 71.5 oz. of silver (i.e. 400 quarters x 0.1788 oz.).

Assorted Junk Silver Coins

Assorted US 90% Silver Coins

Silver Content In Coins Moderately Used

Half dollars were handled less than dimes and quarters so some dealers use uncirculated weights as estimates.

However, I believe it's more accurate to find the average between the circulated and uncirculated weights since half dollars were used to a moderate extent by the public.

Using this approach, a bag of silver coins holding 90% silver half dollars with a $1,000 face value has a silver weight of 719.2 troy ounces. This number was calculated as follows:

  • 2,000 half dollars x 0.3617 (uncirculated weight) = 723.4 oz.
  • 2,000 half dollars x 0.3575 (circulated weight) = 715.0 oz.

If you add the two numbers (723.4 + 715) you get 1,438.4 ounces. Then divide that number by two (1,438.4 ÷ 2) and your answer is 719.2 ounces.

You can sometimes use the above method to figure the silver weight of silver dollars. Ask your dealer about the condition of the silver dollars so you can more accurately estimate their silver weight before buying them.

Remember these are estimates of what you should expect. You won't know the exact weights until you receive your junk silver coins and weigh them.

Please click here for more details on:

  • Weighing your junk silver coins.
  • Standard silver coin bag sizes w/silver weights (quick guide).

Are You Getting A Fair Price?

How much does the silver content in coins cost on a per ounce basis? To find out simply divide a dealer's price by the number of ounces.

For example, a bag of 90% half dollars with a $1,000 face value and a $25,000 price will cost you $34.76 per oz. ($25,000 ÷ 719.2 oz. = $34.76).

Then compare your per ounce cost to the silver spot price for one troy ounce of silver to see if your silver bullion dealer's price is fair. Please click here to learn how dealers determine silver bullion prices.

US 90% Silver Coin (Kennedy Half Dollar)

A cautionary comment ... mint dates are essential to knowing the silver content in coins. For instance, Kennedy half dollars dated before 1965 are 90% silver. Those dated from 1965 thru 1970 are 40% silver.

The silver coin melt value is the price a refining company is willing to pay for scrap silver coins it intends to recycle.

Pure Silver Coin Weights Are Easier To Understand

Pure silver coins are also popular options for holding wealth. Nonetheless you should expect to pay a slightly higher premium when you buy them.

Australia Silver Coins Kookaburra

One advantage of uncirculated pure silver coins vs. junk silver coins … it’s easier to quantify the silver content in coins with standard silver weights.

For example, to determine how many junk silver dimes equal ½ oz. of silver you must do the math (0.50 ÷ 0.0715 = 6.99). The answer is 7 dimes.

However, if you have a ½ oz. Koala Silver Coin the silver content is self-explanatory.

The traditional pure silver bullion content in coins issued by government mints is one troy ounce. Nevertheless there are a few countries that issue fractional silver coins. They also mint silver coins greater than one ounce.

Country Silver Weight1 & Coin Name Multiplier2
Australia 110 oz. Koala    10.0
Australia 12 oz. Koala, Lunar    2.0
Australia 2 oz. Kookaburra, Lunar    0.50
Australia 5 oz. Lunar    0.20
Australia 10 oz. Koala, Kookaburra, Lunar    0.10
Australia 12 kg. Lunar    0.06
Australia 1 kg. Koala, Kookaburra, Lunar    0.03
Australia 10 kg. Lunar    0.003
Mexico 120 oz. Libertad    20.0
Mexico 110 oz. Libertad    10.0
Mexico 14 oz. Libertad    4.0
Mexico 12 oz. Libertad    2.0
Mexico 2 oz. Libertad    0.50
Mexico 5 oz. Libertad    0.20
Mexico 1 kg. Libertad    0.03

1NOTE: Not all silver weights are issued every year. For example, the 2 oz.
           Kookaburra was minted in 2009 but not in 2010 or 2011.
2NOTE: This column was included so you can compare the per ounce silver
           cost of the coins listed. Multiply a coin's price by its multiplier. Mexican Silver Coin

All of the coin series in the above table include a 1 oz. silver coin. Other countries that issue 1 oz. pure silver coins are Austria, Canada, China and USA.

Visit here for more info about silver bullion coins.

Now you know the silver content in coins that are frequently traded in the precious metals marketplace. And how easy silver coin values are to calculate.

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