Action Step: Buy junk silver

image by tarap

This action step is designed to help you dip your toe in the world of precious metals. It’s a lot easier than you might think.

I used to be very intimidated by the thought of buying gold or silver because I had never collected coins and had never been in a coin store in my life. Chris Slife, of Howling Coyote Silver Company, gave me a great tutorial, which I posted here and here, and I made my first venture into the world of precious metals.

This Action Step is to purchase one or more ounces of junk silver. Junk silver is just quarters and dimes that are dated 1964 or earlier. These coins are 90% silver and are an easy way to begin buying precious metals. They may also come in handy someday when the dollar is devalued because they are easily recognizable as legitimate silver based on their date and denomination

Purchasing either silver or gold is also a smart way to preserve your wealth, since the dollar has been declining in value over the past several decades. This trend will continue and will likely accelerate as the federal government pumps massive amounts of “new” money into the money supply. The value of the dollar is never going to increase, so you might as well invest in precious metals as you can afford to, because those will always have value.

So, here’s the plan.

1.  Visit a local coin store and ask to see a pre-1964 quarter or dime.

2.  Compare that coin with a quarter or dime you have in your pocket. It will look and feel different.

3.  Ask how much one ounce of this junk silver will cost. Be prepared for the store to add a “premium” to the actual cost of the silver. That is just their profit and every precious metals dealer charges a premium, but it isn’t always the same from dealer to dealer. If you’re a bargain shopper, call around and ask various dealers what their premium is on one ounce of junk silver. Be aware that the premium will likely decrease if you buy a larger quantity.

4.  Keep track of current prices of both gold and silver by checking these. Unless you see a very big dip, don’t worry about the little ups and downs. This Action Step is one you should take every month, or more frequently, if your goal is to set aside a little gold or silver at a time. Some months the price will be a little lower, some months it will be a little higher. When you see a significant dip and you have the money, make another purchase.

5.  Make a habit of checking the prices of gold and silver frequently. Become familiar with the going rate and what consists of a, “big jump,” or a, “bargain price.”

6.  Store  your precious metals in a very safe and secure place, but not a safe deposit box at the bank. Whatever you purchase, keep the information to yourself. As you accumulate more coins, store them in more than one location, so if a burglar ever finds one stash, he won’t be aware of others.

Easy peasy.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(37) Readers Comments

  1. What about old silver utensils? Are they worth buying (ex. thrift shops)?

    • I would buy them in order to have silver utensils to use. Some people believe that molecules of silver are ingested when these utensils are used, boosting the immune system. Since we know silver has anti-bacterial properties, I believe this has some credence. The melt value of silver flatware, though, isn’t so great that you would want to collect it in lieu of coins.

    • If it’s solid silver — YES. These are very rare.

      If it;s silver plate — what she said. ;)

  2. What ia the reasoning behind not storing in a bank safe deposit box?

    • The federal government has confiscated items in safe deposit boxes. Also, in certain types of crises, you may not be able to get to the bank or have access to your box when you need it.

  3. You can also just get rolls of dimes and quarters from the bank. Though the silver ones aren’t common, they do show up on occasion, and you can of course cash in the coins again after looking through the rolls. My granddaughter and I had fun ” treasure hunting” through rolls of coins.

  4. Gold today is about $1735 per ounce. a couple decades ago it was $255 an ounce. I believe it will soon be $2000 an ounce. Buy Now? Silver today is around $32 an ounce. It was just up to $35 an ounce. Buy now? TWO years ago it was $14 an ounce…should have bought then. Just some thoughts—at todays gold value…a dime size coin is worth $173– a quarter size coin is worth $433–a half dollar sized coin about $867. NOT what I would consider pocket change. If you invest in gold you need to consider what your options are. NOW silver. Junk silver coins are 90% silver pre 1964 coinage. If silver coins are 100% silver a dime sized coin is worth $3.20– a quarter sized $8.00–a half dollar sized $16 and a dollar sized coin $32. To find the junk silver value just take the dollar value of the “pure” silver and multiply it times 90%. 90% silver coins in the dime size and quarter size ARE GOOD sizes for “pocket change.” At todays’ prices if you lose a dime sized coin from a hole in your pocket you are out $3.20…a same sized gold coin–$173!! Well…that stinks. Junk silver coins (minted in the United States are easily recognizable and will be excellent for bartering if need be. There are also some post 1964 coins with a 40% silver content so, be aware of your purchase. I personally see no reason to melt down silver, unless there will be werewolves to exterminate. I have not been advised of this scenario—yet. But, I have heard there will be no shortage of zombies so I would advise investing in plenty of lead. And as a side note–CHINA is purchasing over 40% of the world’s daily lead uses. AND tin,timber, steel, concrete, etc. You get the picture..They have already purchased billions of $$$ of Ag, Au, H20 and millions of acres of land HERE in the U.S. They are now ranked #1 in the world in almost every category that is ranked. the U.S. is ranked #14…YEP…#14. That MORE THAN STINKS. Have a nice day ;0) Shadowfaxhound

    • Multiply face (dollar) value by .712 to find silver content not .9 (90%)

  5. Jefferson “war nickels”, made from 1942 to 1945 contain 1.75 grams of silver (the metal nickel was needed in the war effort). They differ from regular nickels by having a fairly large mint mark above monticello’s dome on the back side.
    I have stocked up on these things on ebay by buying just above, and sometimes under, actual silver melt value.
    The web site coinflation.com is a handy go to tool for current melt value on various coins.
    Good hunting, everyone!

    • I do the same thing Jim, and have obtained some real beauties while doing so~!

  6. Good article. I have bought from different places online. The one place I liked the most was http://www.providentmetals.com

    I have no affiliation. They just provided me with honest, quality, dependable service.

    • I’m with you, Tony, concerning Provident Metals. I’ve looked into dozens of different sites over the past three years, and while there may be good deals elsewhere occasionally, Provident usually has a lower premium as well as lower shipping rates.

      Like Tony, I have no affifliation with Provident, just a satisfied customer.

      Great advice concerning not using a safe deposit box. There are numerous situations where you might not be able to readily have access to the bank.

  7. The best place and price that I have found to buy silver and gold is APMEX, American Precious Metals Exchange. I have no affiliation with this company. I have had great results from them.

    • I love Apmex too!

  8. One thing to be on guard about is FAKE junk silver. There are actually Asian counterfeiters now making worthless US coin lookalikes, to sell to the unsuspecting. The quality is getting so good even dealers sometimes get fooled if they’re not careful. Of course it began with larger coins, but there are even fake silver (dated 1964 or earlier) Roosevelt dimes out these days. If you’re buying bulk, best to go to a reputable coin dealer.

    If you’re buying in bulk from a person you don’t know, have them meet you at your favorite coin shop. Since most coin shops have surveillance cameras inside and out, it will make it less likely you will get fakes — or robbed. If you know the coin dealer, they will probably be willing to look over the coins with you. When I do this, I make sure I make it worth my dealer’s time (I usually give him/her the equivalent of $ 15 per hour).

    There are a few useful guides out there that help you spot fakes.

    Another one is here.

    But in all, acquiring a quantity of coins for investment can be interesting and fun. If you have young kids, get them in on it, too.

    • My dad was just telling me about the fake coins out there. I wonder in a collapse how people will be able to tell the difference? For example, if I sell food or items and someone is paying in junk silver, how can I ensure it’s real? I suppose having a magnet and other silver coins handy for comparison would be a good start.

  9. Thing thing to remember is that an ounce of silver is worth … an ounce of silver. That’s all.. It never changes. It is the dollar that is changing, depreciating. The nickel candy bar of 1964 when silver left our money. is now a dollar – and it’s smaller. A gallon of gasoline was a quarter in 1964. Now that gasoline is $4 a gallon, in Federal Reserve Notes. But that junk quarter will get you nearly two gallons. What changed? The purpose of putting your money in silver is not to have it go up in value. It is to hold your wealth while the dollar is being whittled away by inflation.
    So don’t be happy that your silver is going up in value. Be thankful that you had the foresight to protect yourself from what is causing it to go up in value.

  10. Excellent article, especially about the premiums and not keeping the “stuff” in a safety deposit box. With an IRA we wanted to buy silver but couldn’t buy collectibles, which is what the pre-1964 is considered. We instead used a company to set up an IRA-LLC so it could hold American Gold and Silver Eagles and I could hold them at home as the manager of the LLC. You might want to cover that in an article some time. You have a clear way of explaining things.

    Their facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Check-Book-IRA-LLC/441054732597953

  11. I have squirrelled away some silver coin, but not too much. I think it’s a good investment for a normal future. However, in any collapse situation, you can’t eat it, drink it, shoot it or burn it. The average person wouldn’t know a junk coin from a regular coin. They certainly wouldn’t give you food, ammo or shelter for it.

  12. The article did not mention pre-65 half dollars that I read but they were mentioned in a comment. Benjamin half dollars are real “jewels” IMO. For bartering purposes silver dimes are the best however. Smaller and more easily lost but the best bang for the buck IMO.

    I have noticed a higher “premium” on the the Benjamin halves and Liberty halves as well. I like them but primarily stick to dimes and quarters. Just buy a roll of silver Roosevelt silver dimes and keep them in the roll so as not to lose them until the time comes to use them. “Premiums” also seem to be more prevalent in the Mercury dimes. Junk silver is junk silver so I have to wonder why the “premiums” over “normal” ones in purchasing Mercury dimes and silver half dollars.

    I have purchased some Kennedy halves dated 1965-1970 that are 40% silver. They could possibly be a better bang for the buck like the Roosevelt dime IMO but I sure like the 90% Benjamin half better.

    Anyway, good luck in your purchases. There is no telling what governmental entities will do to thwart those that purchase junk silver. Keep your stash in a safe place and I don’t mean a bank. Bury it if you have to and save for a “rainy day”.

  13. Coins are almost always sold as a function of FACE VALUE, not ‘by the ounce’. I would highly recommend NOT dealing with anyone who sells said coins by weight. As stated above, fresh uncirculated US 90% coins would have .72 of a troy ounce of silver per $1 in coins (dimes, quarters, & half dollars). Obviously, most of the coins are going to have some wear on them, most of them being more than 50 years old…Looking at it another way, it would take around $1.40 in US 90% silver coins (brand new) to make a troy ounce.

    • I think you stated it backward there. I think you mean that you should only deal in weight and not face value as it is the weight that changes thus changing the actual silver value.

      • Nope, you buy junk silver by face, not weight

        • The standard in the junk silver market is that $1.00 face value of (pre 1964) junk silver coin contains 0.715 ounce of actual silver (this is generally accepted to account for the average wear loss of such coins). Hence, 2 quarters and 5 dimes (or 4 quarters or 2 halves or 10 dimes) are worth 0.715 times the current “spot” price of an ounce of silver, plus the seller’s premium. Example: spot $30.00 X .715 = $21.45 actual silver “melt” value X 1.04 (assuming a 4% seller’s premium) = $22.31 sale price. Also, if you wish to sell this same pile of coin to the same dealer, they will likely offer you about 3-5% less than “melt” value, like so: $21.45 X .96 = $20.59 sale price. For the math challenged, go here:


          and use their handy calculator. Kapisch?

  14. Check out this nifty silver coin value calculator:


    It is good to check value of coins on e-bay. Keep in mind that in many states there is sales tax to consider. Here in California it can be as high as 9.75%! Best to buy out of state in these circumstances.

    • In California, if you spend $1500 on silver coins at one time from the coin dealer (for me it’s Fresno Coin) you don’t have to pay sales tax. I know that’s a lot of money to spend but you get 9% more since you don’t have the tax.

  15. Thanks for the succinct writeup. If I might add something that I think you all would find helpful, my friends and I started a social project to help communities learn what small-value silver barter feels like. We make stylish and collectible Silver Dime Cards with a handy price table on the back, as well as a free app for iPhone or Droid. Check us out at Don’t Tread On Meme! Best wishes, everybody.

  16. If you wish to expand beyond US coins I compiled a huge amount of data on world coins from the past two centuries in my book on junk coins. As far as I know it is the only one available.


  17. Many folks tell me how much they are “making” buying gold and silver. As other smart folks have said here, you are storing your value, not making money. I hate seeing these metals increase in price even though I keep both. When gold/silver “price” increases, it really means the dollars per hour I earn are decreasing. In this case, I really have a net loss unless I could get paid in these metals.

  18. I would love to hear in your clear way what to do like this in Canada. Have you covered that before at all? I’m not experienced at silver coins so it’s a little intimidating, and it’s obviously going to be different here. Thanks for any help or references.

    (free prepping e-books daily on my blog)

  19. After this critical election I have decided to start prepping. This is excellent information, I am curious if you all still keep money in the bank. How do you store the gold/silver? Safe?

    • My level of trust in banks has dramatically declined, Jane, so I don’t keep a whole lot of cash in the bank and have decided to minimize money in retirement accounts as well. Desperate governments around the world have found ways to pilfer money from those accounts, and I don’t trust ours to be any different. As far as storing gold and silver, I recommend dividing it up and storing it in multiple locations in your home and property. Just don’t forget where it’s hidden! There are a lot of very creative hiding spaces I’m sure you can come up with. A safe is okay, but make sure it’s bolted to the ground, and I still wouldn’t store ALL of ANYTHING in it.

  20. I’m really glad to see folks pointing out the difference between “making” money and “insuring” your savings. It’s frustrating to hear people say “my house is worth 50 grand less than when I bought it”. Well….are you planning on selling your house anytime soon? No. Then it hasn’t “lost” a darn thing! The only time you “lose” money on ANY investment (purchase) is when you attempt to sell that item. At which point, it’s worth whatever you can get someone to pay you for it. Until the moment you sell it, it hasn’t “gained” or “lost” anything!

    • Great point, Lisa. I think the drop in home values has/had a demoralizing effect on people, although what you say is absolutely true.

    • I believe the same can be applied downturns in the stock market. In ’08 people with 401Ks talked about “losing” 30% etc. but did they really? On paper yes. To me you have not “lost” unless your initial investment is eaten. I guess there will be some with a different perspective. While people have hit it big with the stock market to me the 401Ks are just another way to suck it in then suck it out. I believe it all tied into the meeting that took place on Jekyll Island in 1910.

  21. In past comments, 2 people mentioned sales tax when buying silver. The dealers that I’ve bought from told me that it’s against federal law to charge tax when exchanging or “selling” U.S. currency, which includes silver eagles and junk silver. Maybe not many have heard this? Like purchasing a U.S. flag, no sales tax should be charged, anywhere in the country. As a symbol of patriotism I suppose.
    It made sense to me. If you’re being charged sales tax for exchanging one form of currency for another… I’d look into it.

  22. This is a really great post and I agree with everything (the other posts on the survival mom website are also great). I’ve found a couple other fairly good posts about buying junk silver on other sites, but they always seem to be limited to the basic info. That’s enough for some people, but other people may need more details. I’ve created a website that provides all the details someone will need to buy junk silver (and other silver).
    The website has a junk silver list with pictures, calculators, a glossary and much more. The future of the dollar doesn’t look good, so I hope the info in this post and in my website can help people buy silver so they’re prepared for the future.
    Kevin :-)

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