We regularly meet with customers who have a wide variety of silver coins, and without fail, one of the most frequently asked questions that we receive is if we buy coins for their silver value or their coin value. The answer is actually “yes” on both accounts, as some coins are more valuable due to the age, mintage and condition, while others are strictly traded for their silver content, which are commonly referred to as “junk silver” coins. If you’re new to selling silver coins, you may not be familiar with which coins should sell at a premium and which coins are merely traded for their silver value. In this article, we’re going to identify silver coins that you shouldn’t sell for their silver content and those that you should in hopes that you’ll make a well informed decision when the time comes to sell your coins.
The following coins should not be sold for strictly for their silver value unless otherwise noted:
- Morgan & Peace Silver Dollars – Morgan and Peace silver dollars are U.S. minted 90% silver coins that were produced from 1878 – 1935. At the time of this writing, the current spot price of silver is $14.89, which means that the silver value of the coins is roughly $11.50. Unless your silver dollar is holed or in some other way defaced or damaged, you should never sell these coins strictly for their silver content. They are much more valuable as coins; even high production years, such as 1921 Morgan silver dollars and 1922 and 1923 Peace dollars. We recommend that you view the Rare Coin Guide resource on the homepage of our website to determine if you have any low mintage or rare coins that may sell at an additional premium.
- Type Silver Coins – Type coins typically refer to U.S. coins minted from 1792 – 1916. With the exception of worn or damaged coins, most silver coins produced during this date range will sell at a premium over their silver value. Older type coins will typically sell at a high premium than more recently produced type coins, but the most important factors affecting the price of these coins are their production number and condition. It should be noted that even a common date type coin can be quite valuable if in high end condition. As you’ve probably guessed, Morgan and Peace dollars are considered type coins, but there have been plenty of other U.S. silver type coins produced throughout the years.
- Lower Mintage Silver Eagles – Most individuals are under the impression that all American silver eagles were created equally, but that’s not the case. There are a few lower mintage silver eagle coins that sell at an additional premium due to their production numbers and the demand for these coins. The four dates that are in higher demand are 1986, 1994, 1995 and 1996, but only the 1996 coin sells for a premium in less than uncirculated condition. For those individuals who are interested in reading more about better date silver eagles, we recommend that you check out this article.
- Proof Silver Coins – While not always the case, in most situations, proof silver coins will sell at a premium to their underlying silver content. Case in point are proof American silver eagles, which can sell at two to three times their underlying silver value, modern issued U.S. proof silver dollars, and proof silver coins minted in 1964 and earlier. This doesn’t necessarily apply to modern issued silver dimes, quarters and half dollars minted from 1992 through current, which may or may not sell at a premium due to the number produced.
While there are plenty of examples of silver coins that shouldn’t sell for their silver content, there are also a handful of silver coins that trade based on their silver value. Below is a partial list of silver coins that should be sold for their silver value:
- Pre-1965 Silver Coins – U.S. dimes, quarters and half dollars minted in 1964 and earlier are composed of 90% silver and are commonly referred to as “junk silver.” This doesn’t apply to type coins and lower mintage or uncirculated coins, but most common date circulated condition coins minted from 1916 – 1964 trade strictly for their silver value. Over the years, we’ve seen differing levels of demand for these coins. Demand tends to be greatest when silver prices are depressed, such is the case at the time of this writing, but regardless of the prevailing silver price, these are among the most commonly traded silver coins in the industry.
- 40% Half Dollars – Half dollars minted from 1965 – 1970 are composed of 40% silver, and are also referred to as “junk silver,” but demand for these coins is less than their 90% counterparts due to the lower silver content. As such, you should expect to receive a lower payout on a relative basis for these coins. Many individuals are unaware that half dollars minted during this time frame contain silver, and on occasion, they can still be found in circulation.
- Common Date American Silver Eagles – We highlighted above a few American silver eagles that commonly sell at a premium, but silver eagles minted from 2001 through 2015 are considered common date coins and generally trade at close to their silver value. We offer a small premium above the silver value of the coins when we purchase these coins, but for the most part, the value of these coins is derived from the underlying silver content. At the time of this writing, demand for silver eagles is fairly high, so you may pay a slightly higher premium than normal when purchasing these coins.
- Foreign Silver Coins – Most silver coins produced by foreign countries trade for close to their silver value, but there certainly are exceptions. Examples of foreign issued silver coins that trade at close to their underlying silver content include Canadian silver maple leaf coins, UK silver britannias, Mexican silver onzas, and Australian koalas and kookaburras, just to name a few. At the moment, demand in China for gold and silver coins is extremely high, so many back date Chinese silver pandas will sell at an additional premium. Additionally, similar to the key date silver eagles, some foreign countries produced lower quantities of silver coins in certain years, so be sure to always do your research prior to selling these coins.
In conclusion, we’ve highlighted a few silver coins that contain numismatic or collectible value above and beyond their underlying silver content, and a few that trade primarily for their silver content. When selling silver coins, you should always expect to receive a premium for Morgan and Peace dollars, as well as for type coins in average condition or better. Additionally, we noted four American silver eagles that typically sell at an additional premium as well as a few proof silver coins. We also discussed a few coins that generally trade for their underlying silver value, including 90% silver coins, common date American silver eagles, 40% half dollars and foreign-issued silver coins. We hope that the above information will help you to maximize your payout when the time comes to sell your silver coins.