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Junk silver


Junk silver is an expression used by coin collectors to describe a silver coin that has limited value as an investment coin, and no value as a numismatic piece.

Junk silver coins are ultimately more valuable as scrap metal than as collectable items. They will often have 90% (900 fineness) pure silver content or less. The term however refers to its value rather than condition; junk means low value because of the low silver content, and does not mean junk in terms of being damaged.

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The American 'Peace Dollar' a common junk silver coin.

An American ‘Peace Dollar’ is a common junk silver coin.

A junk silver coin is generally bought purely for investment purposes, as something that can be sold as scrap silver when the price is high.
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What is junk silver?

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Junk silver is determined by its condition and its silver content. If it contains higher than 90% pure silver, it will be more desirable, but less will be deemed junk - a less than technical term but common parlance. Mint or perfect condition silver coins are worth considerably more than coins classed as junk silver, as you would expect.

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The American 'Morgan Dollar' is considered a junk silver coin.

The American ‘Morgan Dollar’ is another commonly found junk silver coin.


90% silver coins

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The term 'junk silver' originated with US collectors, but has travelled to the UK and other nations in recent years. It is commonly used in the US due to the nation's large quantities of 90% silver coins. Silver coins including Dollars, silver Dimes and Quarters are often classed as junk silver. This is because for 175 years – until 1965 – it was legally required for all US silver coins to be at least 90% pure.

The term ‘coin silver’ was actually derived from the decision by the US to strike their coins in 90% silver. The overwhelming majority of these coins were 900 fine silver, but there was a Kennedy Half-Dollar struck in .400 fine (40%) silver, and a Jefferson Nickel as low as .350 fine (35%) silver.

In the UK, silver coins produced between 1920 and 1947 were struck in only .500 pure silver – 50% purity. These debased silver coins could therefore be classed as junk silver if their condition were poor enough.

The UK standard of Sterling silver coins can also sometimes be classed as junk silver, but at .925 fine (92.5%) purity they are usually above the generally accepted quality threshold.

From 1919 onwards, Canada began striking its currency in .800 fine (80%) pure silver, and these were further debased after 1968 to .500 silver, with circulating coins removing silver altogether and switched to nickel.

Australia had its own term of ‘post-silver’ which was used from 1946 – 1964. Post-silver was .500 silver, so these coins would certainly be classed as junk silver. The Swiss 1/2, 1, and 2 Franken coins used 83.5% silver purity from 1874 to 1967.
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Selling junk silver
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Because junk silver is not collectible, coin dealers will show little interest in handling it. The best prices are therefore usually available through bullion dealers, who will buy the coins based solely on their precious metal content.

BullionByPost will buy junk silver coins for competitive prices, based on the current market silver price. Once you have determined the quality of your silver coins, simply call our team on 0121 634 8060 and they’ll be happy to give you a quote.