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The 5 Best Silver Coins to Have & Why When the SHTF

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The 5 Best Silver Coins to Have & Why When the SHTF

There are a variety of reasons why individuals choose to purchase and invest in silver coins. They do so to protect against a declining currency, a hedge against inflation, and to diversify their investment portfolio, but at the end of the day, many of our customers are just looking to protect themselves and their family when the SHTF.

If this is the reason you’re investing in silver coins, then you’re in good company, as many of our customers are investing specifically for this reason.SHTF EMP Silver coins

One large online dealer has an online catalog of 46,000 products, and this doesn’t account for all the type of items available in the marketplace. With this many options, it can be overwhelming for folks who are simply looking to purchase silver coins to protect in a worst-case scenario.

Unfortunately, there are a multitude of potential worst-case scenarios to protect against. We’ve listed a few above, but other risks include an EMP attack, a collapse of our banking system (we’re already starting to see fractures), the seizing of our credit markets, the loss of our world reserve currency status (again, already in the works), hyperinflation, and the rollout and adoption of a central bank digital currency, just to name a few.

In this article, we’re going to identify what we believe to be the 5 best silver coins to own when the SHTF and why. The why is just as important, as it’s easy for someone to toss out an arbitrary list of coins without support for their recommendations. We hope that this information will help to narrow down your choices if your ultimate goal is to prepare for a SHTF scenario.


Mercury Silver Dimes

At the time of this writing, I’ve owned the company for 13 years, but began investing and collecting years prior. One of the coins that I’ve always personally been drawn to is the Mercury silver dime. There are several reasons for this.

To begin with, the Mercury silver dime1921-mercury-dime was produced from 1916 – 1945, which means that they’re instantly recognizable as being 90% silver coins. The reason being is that all U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars issued in 1964 and earlier are composed of 90% silver.

In a SHTF scenario, it’s important that you own silver coins that are easily identifiable as being silver. While regular investors and collectors know how to instantly identify silver coins, the general public is not as familiar with them. This helps to clear up any potential confusion as to if the coin is silver or not.

While not necessarily important from a SHTF perspective, the design of the Mercury dime is among the most beautiful coins ever produced with an image of a “winged liberty” on the face of the coin. The term “Mercury” came about later, as at first glance, it appears the god “Mercury” adorns the face of the coin. Not only are these coins beautifully designed, but there’s also the possibly of collecting them for their numismatic value. In particular, the 1916-d, 1921-p, 1921-d and 1942/41 Mercury dimes are well known in the industry and are in high demand, with the 1916-d and 1942 over 41 being the most popular and valuable.

Notwithstanding their design, the Mercury dime is also a great choice in the event we find ourselves with a worthless currency and the inability to transact through other means, such as debit or credit cards. The small size or denomination of the coins is ideal for small purchases. For example, you may have a local farmer that sells eggs and is only willing to accept silver coins. A couple Mercury dimes will probably buy you a dozen eggs, or at least close to it.

Let’s say you have a slightly larger purchase to make and the individual selling the product or providing the service is charging the equivalent of an ounce of silver. If you happen to have Mercury silver dimes, you’re in luck, as 14 of them (at least those in circulated condition) equal exactly an ounce. That also means that 7 are equal to half an ounce. If you can remember these numbers, you should be in great shape if we happen to experience a barter situation – at least until a new currency is established and adopted.


Standing Liberty & Washington Silver Quarters

We’re including two quarters as recommendations simply because neither is a perfect option, but both are still good options. The reason being is that Standing Liberty silver quarters are oftentimes quite worn and have a decent bit less silver content than a standard circulated Washington silver quarter.Standing Liberty Quarter

Many of these coins are dateless (no – they’re not alone on a Friday night) due to the date being a high-point on the coin and one of the first areas to wear away. Secondly, they are all at least 90 years old at the time of this writing and are much more scarce than Washington silver quarters. Lastly, decent condition Standing Liberty silver quarters with full dates sell at a premium, as they have some collectible value, so in many cases, it’s not the most cost-effective way to stack silver.

That being said, if you’re able to acquire some decent condition full date Standing Liberty silver quarters at a decent price, we recommend doing so, as they’re instantly recognizable as silver coins considering that they were only produced until 1930. Also, like the Mercury dimes, there are some key date coins if you want to expand your investment beyond the silver content of the coins.

Washington silver quarters are also a good option, but not ideal, as the design of this coin hasn’t changed since they were first introduced in 1932. That being said, a trained eye can easily identify silver versus clad (nickel-Washington 90 Silver Quartercopper) coins based solely on appearance. However, for the untrained eye, a simple date check (remember – silver coins were produced until and including 1964) or a check of the edge of the coin will tell you if your coin is silver.

In fact, the edge check is a great way to check multiple coins at one time. You can sandwich the coins together, hold them at each end and check the edges for traces of copper. Copper will be quite evident, as it will be brown in color and will typically encompass half the edge of the coin. On the other hand, 90% silver quarters will have a solid silver stripe or edge. Using the sandwich approach is a great way to easily identify which of the coins are silver or not.

Silver quarters, or the monetary equivalent can be used for a host ofbarter gold and silver coins after shtf purchases and services, such as a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas or a dozen eggs, just to name a few. Approximately 5 ½ quarters are equal to a troy ounce of silver, so it doesn’t work out quite as nicely as the silver dimes. On a positive note, quarters allow you to carry around fewer coins and are less likely to be lost than a pocket full of dimes. If you want to round for simplicity purposes, realizing that you may leave a little money on the table, remember that approximately 6 quarters is equal to an ounce.


Franklin Silver Half Dollars

Much like the Mercury dime, I’ve personally been drawn to the Franklin silver half dollar for years. In this case, it’s not because of the design of the coin, as it features an image of an elderly Benjamin Franklin on the front…come to think of it, I’ve never seen a younger picture of Benjamin Franklin, but because like the Mercury dime and Standing Liberty quarter, it’s instantly recognizable as a 90% silver coin. Franklin Half Dollar 90% silver coin

However, unlike the Mercury dime and Standing Liberty quarter, Franklin half dollars generally don’t exhibit a significant amount of wear. The reason being is that they were only produced from 1948 – 1963 and weren’t circulated for long before our coinage was debased of silver beginning in 1965. Once silver was debased from U.S. coins, those containing 90% silver were hoarded and stored away by the public.

This is referred to as Gresham’s Law, which is a principle stating that “bad money drives out good money.” In other words, people will keep and save the more valuable money and use and spend the perceived less valuable money. Certainly, any coins composed of silver will be in greater demand than coins composed of base metals, such as nickel and copper.

To circle back to our discussion on Franklin half dollars, these coins generally exhibit little wear, which means that they’ll have much more silver content than some other half dollars, such as Barber halves, which were issued from 1892 – 1915. If you stack up 20 Franklin half dollars next to 20 Barber half dollars, you’ll see that the Barber half dollars may only be 80% as tall as the Franklin half dollars. Like the silver quarters, there’s not a nice round number of silver halves that equals an ounce. In this case, it’s approximately 2.75 half dollars, so if you don’t mind leaving a little money on the table, just remember the number 3 and you’ll be in good shape.

What about Walking Liberty and 1964 Kennedy half dollars? These are also fine options, and in fact, the Walking Liberty half dollar would be just as good of an option as the Franklin half dollar were it not for the level of wear on many of these coins. While Walking Liberty halves produced in the 1940’s tend to have moderate wear similar to that of Franklin half dollars, the older dates can exhibit considerable wear, which means less silver content.

The challenge with 1964 Kennedy half dollars (the last year half dollars were produced with 90% silver) is the same issue that you run into with the1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar 90% Silver coins Washington silver quarter. The issue is that the coin isn’t instantly recognizable as silver unless you check the date.

Furthermore, it can be a little more difficult to differentiate between 1964 Kennedy halves and 40% halves produced from 1965 – 1970, as many of the 40% halves don’t have an identifiable copper stripe. That being said, 1964 Kennedy halves have the least  amount of wear of the coins we’ve discussed, and are great options if you’re transacting with someone who is more familiar with silver coins.

Why would you want half dollars instead of dimes and quarters? For one, you’ll need less of them to transact, making transporting them less cumbersome. Secondly, someone may insist on larger denomination coins if it’s a decent sized transaction. Thirdly, they’re great for moderate size purchases, such as a meal, a bag of vegetables, or possibly a pound or two of meat. Lastly, they’re the most popular of the three silver coins we’ve highlighted thus far, so even if you don’t end up needing them for a worst case scenario, you’ll likely have a broader market when the time comes to sell.


Morgan Silver Dollars

U.S. issued Morgan silver dollars are an iconic coin and are one of the most popular coins among investors and collectors alike, making it an ideal choice for a SHTF scenario. These coins were minted from 1878 – 1904 and again in 1921. Coins produced in 1904 & earlier tend to be more valuable, as fewer of them were produced. In contrast, over 80 million 1921 Morgans were minted between the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints. These coins are much more prevalent and tend to exhibit less wear than those produced in the 19th century and early 20th century.

If you’re a collector, a 1921 Morgan silver dollar probably isn’t of much interest to you due to the large number produced, but since our focus is primarily on a worst case scenario,1921-D Morgan Silver Dollar 90% Silver coin they’re every bit as good as the earlier minted coins in terms of recognizability. Considering that this is an iconic coin, most people familiar with history have at least seen a Morgan silver dollar, if not owned one or two themselves.

While these coins are a great option, especially for those individuals who are less familiar with which coins contain silver, they do have a couple of minor drawbacks. The first being that they tend to sell at a decent premium over the underlying silver value. The premium fluctuates based on supply and demand in the marketplace. At times when they’re incredibly popular, the premium may be a bit cost prohibitive when compared to the other denomination coins we’ve discussed.

Another issue is that a Morgan silver dollar contains .774 troy ounces of silver. This is a bit of an odd weight and can be a bit confusing for folks who are trying to determine how much silver is in the coins. It’s not as clear cut as the other options, where we can estimate with reasonable accuracy the number of coins that are in a troy ounce of silver. However, my assumption is that a Morgan silver dollar is going to be a high demand coin in a SHTF scenario and will likely trade as if it’s an ounce coin.

What about Peace silver dollars? These are also great coins and are a good substitute if you’re not able to get your hands on Morgan silver dollars. The drawback is that fewer people are familiar with these coins, as they were produced for a limited amount of time relative to Morgan silver dollars. That being said, if you’re able to acquire these coins at a reasonable price strictly for investment purposes, by all means, jump at the opportunity.

What types of products or services could Morgan silver dollars be used for? On the surface, a dinner out (assuming it still exists), a chicken or two (egg laying hens), a partial tank of gas, or possibly lawn care. A silver dollar provides you with a lot more options for larger transactions, and out of all the coins that we’ve highlighted so far, may be in the highest demand, as it’s instantly recognizable as a silver coin. After all, the coin does have the word “silver” in it.


American Silver Eagles

American silver eagles have been produced by the U.S. Mint annually since 1986 and are the official 1 oz silver bullion coin of the United States. Not including burnished, commemorative and proof silver eagles, the U.S. Mint has produced roughly 625 million of these coins through 2022. This is clearly a popular coin.

During Covid, the U.S. Mint ceased operations of American silver eagles for a time, which caused inventory to quickly dry up in the market and premiums to skyrocket. Even though other silver coins were available, a large percentage of the investing public still wanted to acquire American silver eagles, even at elevated prices.2023 American Silver Eagle .999 silver coin

When the Russia-Ukraine conflict started, inflation peaked in mid-2022 and the banking crisis began in early March of 2023, demand for these coins far outpaced supply. While premiums have subsided a bit and inventory is a bit more plentiful, premiums are still high relative to their historic average and have remained elevated over the past year.

While you’ll pay more for American silver eagles than privately-produced bullion and 1 oz foreign silver coins, there’s no denying the popularity and recognizability of these coins. This is clearly what you want in a worst-case scenario. It’s important to have silver coins that other people desire. If you and your family are in need of food, a 1 oz American silver eagle may be the difference between eating your next meal or not.

Not only are American silver eagles extremely popular, but there’s no denying the size and silver content of the coin, as it’s stated on the coin. At exactly an ounce, there’s no guess work as to how much silver is in the coin. Furthermore, the spot price of silver can easily be found on any financial website or television program. If the spot price of silver goes up, you’ll know that your buying power has increased and vice versa.

In normal times, you can expect to pay less and receive less for off-quality silver eagles. These are coins with various issues, such as contact marks, toning, tarnishing, staining, milk spots, etc. However, in a SHTF scenario, the condition of the coin may be of little importance, as long as the coin is recognizable. If you’re strictly purchasing silver eagles for investment purposes, stick with the uncirculated variety. However, if your primary intent is to use it for bartering purposes, and it ultimately comes to that, you may be able to save a few bucks by going with a lower quality coin.


In conclusion, people tend to invest in silver coins for a variety of reasons, but we’re hearing from more and more people that are strictly looking for the best silver coins to have in a SHTF scenario.

We began our discussion with Mercury silver dimes, which are a great choice for smaller transactions. They’re easily recognizable as silver, as they were only produced until 1945, and possibly the best reason for owning these coins is exactly 14 are equal to an ounce.Cyber Attack SHTF and silver coin usage

Standing Liberty and Washington quarters are also good options, but not as ideal as Mercury dimes, as these coins tend to exhibit a bit more wear or aren’t instantly recognizable as silver. However, they do serve a purpose and shouldn’t be discounted.

In our opinion, the best half dollar option is Franklin half dollars, as they tend to exhibit little wear and are instantly recognizable as silver, as they were only produced until 1963. Walking Liberty half dollars can also be good choices if you’re able to find them with minimal wear. 1964 Kennedy halves have the least amount of wear, but they’re not instantly recognizable as silver coins.

We then turned our discussion to Morgan silver dollars. This is an iconic coin that is popular among investors and collectors alike. The 1921 Morgan silver dollar is more prevalent than 1904 and earlier silver dollars and can usually be purchased for a bit less. The Peace silver dollar also makes for a great choice, but not as much of the investing public is familiar with this coin.

Last, but not least, is the American silver eagle. This is the most popular 1 oz silver coin in the United States, and possibly the world over. In times of crisis, more people turn to the American silver eagle more than any other coin. The large number of coins produced over the years means that these coins are widely recognized and accepted.

We hope that this article helped you to narrow down your choices if you’re trying to prepare for a SHTF scenario.

The reality is that these coins are just as good of an option if you’re simply looking to invest in silver. We also mentioned that some of these coins contain numismatic value, which also makes them appropriate for coin collectors. Regardless of your reason for investing in silver coins, Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers can help.

We keep our finger on the pulse of the market and can provide guidance to help identify the best options for you and your unique circumstances.

Contact us today at 404-236-9744 to see why we’re the leading coin dealer in metro Atlanta and beyond.

Atlanta Gold and Coin Buyers

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Tony Davis
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation, and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at atlantagoldandcoin.com to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at sales@atlantagoldandcoin.com or at 404-236-9744

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