There are numerous coins that have been manufactured by the U.S. Mint since its inception, and many of these coins contain silver. The production of silver coins for general circulation began in 1794 and ceased in 1964, with the exception of 40% silver half dollars minted from 1965 – 1970. The value of the silver used to produce the coins began to exceed the face value of the coins, which is why silver was ultimately debased from our currency.
With almost two centuries of using silver in the production of coins, millions of half dimes, three-cent silver pieces, quarters, half dollars, and dollars were produced, and with the exception of the 40% silver half dollars highlighted above, all of these coins contained 90% silver. In this article we’ll highlight some of the silver coins that have been minted through our country’s history so that you’ll be well informed when selling silver coins.
Three-Cent Silver Pieces
The three-cent silver piece is the smallest U.S. coin ever produced. It is extremely thin and is only 14 mm in diameter. It was minted from 1851 through 1873. It can be identified by a six-point star on the obverse, or the front of the coin. On the reverse side, the denomination is stated in Roman numerals. While the silver content of the coin is only worth approximately $1, the coin sells for much more due to its numismatic or collective value.
While most Jefferson nickels are made of nickel and copper, this was not the case from 1942 through 1945. During this period, Jefferson nickels contained 35 percent silver content. This was because copper was needed to produce ammunition during World War II. While all nickels minted from 1943 – 1945 contained silver, only coins from 1942 with a mintmark have silver content.
Prior to the nickel, the half dime was used as the five-cent piece in the U.S. It was minted from 1794 through 1873; with a few changes made over the years as coin types changed. Initially, the half dime featured Lady Liberty on its obverse side and an eagle on the reverse. It was later redesigned by adding a flag to the front of the coin. The words “Half Dime” are inscribed on the reverse side of the coin.
The design of the dime remained the same as the half dime until the mintage of Barber Head dimes. The Barber head design was featured on the dime from 1892 through 1916. This was soon followed by the Mercury design through 1945, and then the Roosevelt design from 1946 through current.
Until 1916, the quarter shared many of its designs with other denominations. This lasted until the Standing Liberty design came into existence. It was minted from 1916 through 1930 and it features Lady Liberty on the front holding an olive branch and shield. A flying eagle can be found on the reverse side of the coin.
As with many of the other coin denominations highlighted above, half dollars contained the same design until 1916, when the Walking Liberty design was created. This was followed by the Franklin half dollar in 1948 and the Kennedy half dollar in 1964. The design of the Kennedy half dollar was introduced to commemorate JFK’s presidency following his assassination in 1963.
Whether selling silver coins or buying them is your ultimate goal, it’s helpful to be familiar with the different types of coins and denominations minted throughout our country’s history. Some coins, due to a lower production run or the age of the coins, can be worth substantially more than the silver content of the coins, so be sure to consult with knowledgeable and experienced coin dealers, coin investors, or other coin collectors before entering into a transaction.