The pure beauty of American Silver Eagles is a sight to behold, and traditional silver bullion bars are at once a marvelous keepsake as well as a rock-solid store of lasting value. And yet, ever the advocate of the underdog, my heart belongs to the woefully misnamed and underappreciated “junk silver,” which really isn’t junk at all.
By definition, junk silver is circulated coins whose value is derived solely from the content of the silver; in other words, there’s no numismatic value (i.e., value based on rarity, beauty, special marks, historical value, or collectability).
And while an American Silver Eagle is supposed to contain 99.9% pure silver, the most sought-after junk silver coins are typically expected to contain 90% silver. That’s because many U.S. dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and silver dollars minted prior to 1965 contained 90% silver. (40% junk silver coins, struck between 1965 and 1970, are also available but not considered top-tier.)
Owning 90% junk silver coins as part of one’s investment portfolio can provide surprising benefits. For instance, most junk silver still has currency value: it’s easier to get a store merchant to accept an old silver dollar than a silver bullion bar as payment, even if the bar’s worth more.
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Junk silver, like other physical precious metals, can be utilized as a hedge against an economic or currency collapse, and because of its small denominations (dimes, quarters, etc.), junk silver can more easily be bartered for everyday items during survival times.
Additionally, due to their precious metal content, junk silver coins can be counted on to maintain their value over the long term better than paper fiat currency. Plus, it’s not difficult to track the price of junk silver coins, as it typically trades within -5% to +5% of the silver’s spot price.
Besides, while the “purer” silver collectables may be viewed as possessing greater beauty (which, in any case, is in the eye of the beholder), junk silver is just plain fun. The more popular junk silver coins have colorful names, such as the Jefferson War Nickel, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, the Mercury Dime, the Peace Dollar, and the Washington Quarter.
And, just like traditional silver bullion, junk silver will increase in value as an investment when the spot price of silver goes up. So I say give it a try: find a reputable auction or dealer and pick up a bag or two of junk silver. You just might find, as I did, that there’s nothing junky about these little investable treasures.
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