What is junk silver?

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What is junk silver and should I buy it? www.TheSurvivalMom.comDo you have a coin jug at home? Perhaps it isn’t a jug, per se, but a coffee can, glass jar, or maybe even an old fashioned piggy bank? It might be holding far more money than you realize!

If you spend much time surfing various survival/prepper message boards and other forums, you’ll no doubt run across the term “junk silver.” People want to know, “What is junk silver? And, should I buy it?”

The term refers to coins containing a high amount of actual silver, unlike most common coins minted today.

Here’s the cool part. If you have a coin jug at home, odds are you probably have at least a few junk silver coins in there. While you won’t see them every day, they do still crop up regularly.

In general circulation, though, few of these silver coins can be found.

What is junk silver?

Here in the United States, junk silver coins are basically any coin (except pennies and nickels) minted in 1964 or earlier. Given that half-dollars and other larger coins are somewhat rare in most of our daily lives, we’re basically talking about dimes and quarters. If a coin is categorized as junk silver, it does not have any numismatic value to collectors.

The value in junk silver is the silver itself, not the coin’s appearance.

The only silver nickels in recent history are the “wartime” ones produced in 1942-1945. Even then, they only contain about 30% silver, whereas most junk silver coins contain 90% silver.

If after looking at the mint date you still aren’t sure if the coin is silver, a silver coin sounds very different from a non-silver one when dropped on a table. The sound is hard to describe but once you’ve heard it, you’ll recognize it pretty quickly going forward.

Why do preppers focus on junk silver?

Why is it important to know about junk silver? Well, for starters, junk silver is a very easy way to get started with collecting precious metals for possible use as an alternative currency, should there come some sort of economic collapse. It takes just a few seconds at the end of the day to examine the coins in your pocket before you dump them into your coin jug.

On top of that, junk silver coins are worth far more than their face value. Generally speaking, if you have $1.40 in face value of junk silver coins, you have one troy ounce of actual silver. As of this writing, an ounce of silver is going for about $18.00 or so. I use Kitco to check prices when I’m getting ready to buy.

Now, honestly, that’s not a completely true comparison as junk silver coins aren’t actually worth the full silver spot price. But, those dimes and quarters are worth a ton more than what you’d get from a candy vending machine.

At my house, we have two separate jars, one for pennies and one for all other coins. I’ll usually glance through my spare change, checking mint dates, before tossing the coins into the appropriate jar. But, because I’m human and might miss seeing a junk silver coin, we’ll have one of our children dump out the jar and check each coin before we cash in the change. Often, they’ll find one or two coins we missed. The junk silver coins are stored away under lock and key, just in case we need them someday. If nothing else, they’ll be nice for the kids to have someday.

Here’s a plan for purchasing junk silver

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.

If this is new to you, then start by purchasing just one or two ounces of junk silver.

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. 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.


8 thoughts on “What is junk silver?”

  1. Thanks, Mom.

    Hey, another good source you might want to provide your readers is the Silver Coins Value page at Coinflation.com (one of my favorite bookmarks). There’s an up-to-date table of junk silver values there, as well as a calculator folks can use to check the value of their individual silver coins. Each link in the table takes the reader to a page where he/she can view the history and metallic composition of the coin series (e.g., Mercury dimes), as well.

    Thanks again,

  2. Good idea. Folks should also check their pennies as pre 1983 are copper. Commodities will have value in a collapse scenario. Also the Nickel in nickels pre 2011. This post from survival blog is helpful.
    http://survivalblog.com/nickels/. I am of the mind that metallic coins have a value that paper does not.

  3. I have been going through my change for 3 years. I use mostly cash for my purchases so I get a lot of change back over time. I have yet to find a silver dime, quarter, half dollar, or dollar. I did find a silver certificate (paper of course) and a war nickel.

    I still like the article because it motivates people to use cash instead of plastic. When people buy things with credit cards, vendors raise their prices to pay the fee. Using cash also helps people save their money. I have emptied out my jug a few times to pay down the principal on my student loans.

    I also like how the article helps educate people on silver, which of course is real money. I have given silver coins to my family and friends. While they appreciate the gift, they still don’t realize silver’s value. That’s why I started making candles with silver coin prizes.

    They are excited to see what their prize is worth and will research silver on their own. They learn that a silver coin is worth 12-20 times its face value! Also, like the article says, once you hold real silver, its easy to see that it is real money, not like the zinc counterfits circulating today.

  4. Don’t forget to check for pennies minted in 1982 (some) and before. These contain copper not the mildge in todays pennies. Also nickels are good to save as well. They contain metal that at one time was worth more than a nickel. I don’t know about today, but still a nickel will likely be worth something more than a nickel if the economy goes North.

  5. Go to the bank and get some rolls of dimes or quarters, and you might find a winner in there! I found a war nickel in my change, about a month ago, and there are more treasures to be found. Be sure to check your change every night and you will be surprised at what you have accumulated. The weak economy means that more people are cashing in their old coins, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled (listen for the tell-tale clink)– who knows WHAT you might unearth!

  6. With junk silver will be easier to trade than having the 1oz. silver coin. But don’t get me wrong what the mind set will be is how many silver coins is it going to take get a car!

  7. I’m with Bobster…I haven’t gotten a silver coin in change in at least 10 years [and even very rarely back 40 years ago when i was a paperboy – maybe one every 2-3 weeks then]. Most people who use cash are too aware of silver coins to let one slip by. Haven’t seen a silver certificate in the same 10 years, either. I used to get one of those every 1-2 months as a kid.

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