What Is Junk Silver?

Junk silver coins are circulated U.S. coins that contain 90% silver and were typically minted before 1965. Junk silver is not junk at all. Rather, they’re coins that have no numismatic—a fancy word for collectible—value and derive their worth exclusively from their content of silver. 

Sounds confusing, right? Well, think about it this way.

We’ve all come home from work and emptied our pockets of change and tossed it atop a dresser or into a change jar. 

That overflowing jug of old shiny pieces of money is probably filled with junk silver. You might be a silver collector and don’t even know it. 

If you were to dig through that jar and find any coins minted in 1964 or before, you could potentially sell them not for their face value of 10 or 25 cents, but for the value of the amount of silver in the coin. 

Junk Silver History

Prior to 1965, all dimes, quarters, 50-cent pieces, and dollar coins were made with silver. The dollar coins were even called silver dollars. 

Then, with the Coinage Act of 1965, the U.S. Mint changed its recipe, eliminated silver from many coins, and began manufacturing coins by using a mix of nickel and copper. 

While many pre-1965 coins have become rare, sell for king’s ransom, and are highly sought after, most junk silver coins are in poor condition and are of no interest to collectors. 

Today’s silver coin market, especially for those looking to invest in the Silver IRA, is quite different. IRS guidelines for IRA storage  require investors to purchase new coins. Although they’re uncirculated and in perfect condition, this type of coin still derives its value primarily from silver content and not collectibility. The market refers to them as bullion coins. 

Today’s Silver Coin Market

The Silver IRA—a popular investment vehicle used to own physical silver inside of a retirement account—allows for newly minted bullion coins that are not numismatic, but it does not allow for the pre-1965 junk silver coins. Conversely, that in-demand, rare silver dollar coin, which may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a numismatist, is not allowed in the Silver IRA. 

Junk Silver Coins

People often ask where to buy junk silver and how they can spot a junk silver coin. While the term junk silver typically applies to any U.S.-minted silver coin manufactured before 1965, in technical terms, any silver coin issued by the government and intended for circulation but is now solely valued for its bullion (meltdown value) is a junk silver coin

The date is the easiest clue to check. All dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars before 1965 can qualify as junk silver. Visually, if the edge of a coin has a solid silver strip, it’s likely silver. If you only see traces of copper, the coin is probably 40% silver. 

Here is a list of popular coins that were once in wide circulation but are now considered junk silver:

  • Barber Dime (1892-1916)
  • Barber Quarter (1892-1916)
  • Roosevelt Dime (1946-present)
  • Mercury Dime (1916-1945)
  • Kennedy Half Dollar (1964-present)
  • Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963)
  • Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916-1947)
  • Washington Quarter (1932-present)
  • Standing Liberty Quarter (1916-1930)
  • Eisenhower Silver Dollar (1971-1978)
  • Morgan Dollar (1878-1904)
  • Peace Dollar (1921-1928; 1934-1935)

Is Junk Silver A Good Investment?

The simple answer is that it is up to you. Your silver coin expert can walk you through the options and help you assess whether junk silver is for you. 

As with anything, there are pros and cons to junk silver


Some investors love the ease of junk silver. Because junk silver pieces are fractional, it is usually quite simple to liquidate a little at a time, when the need arises. That fractionality also makes junk silver easy to acquire, as an investor can buy the amount they can afford at that particular time, without having to save up for a large purchase. 

In the absolute worst-case scenario, you can still use junk silver in circulation to buy gas, groceries, and goods and services. It is still money when it needs to be.

Junk silver is almost universally recognizable by both collectors and non-collectors. People seem to know a U.S.-minted coin when they see it, and that makes junk silver a convenient tool to liquidate or barter with. 


Junk silver has three issues that an investor may find detrimental:

  • It is heavy and takes up a large footprint
  • It is expensive relative to other silver bullion
  • It is not Silver IRA eligible

The most common complaint about junk silver is that it is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Think for a moment about the massive volume and weight of thousands of coins. Depending on the value, it is not uncommon for a bag of junk silver to weigh 40 pounds or more. It can be difficult to store in a safe, safety deposit box, or even a vault. 

Junk silver can be expensive relative to other silver bullion products. They typically cost more per ounce than American Eagle coins, simple bars, or even rounds, all of which primarily derive their worth from the melt value of the silver. That fractionality and ease comes with a bit of a price.

Junk silver coins are not Silver IRA eligible. The IRS does not allow junk silver to be held inside of a self-directed individual retirement account. You may only hold newly minted, uncirculated coins in such accounts. 

What Is Junk Silver Worth?

The value of junk silver slides up and down with the daily fluctuations of the spot price of silver. Remember, junk coins have one factor that affects their worth, and that is the price that is established in the spot market on that given day. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

How To Sell Junk Silver

Because the spot value of silver is readily available to a reputable precious metals dealer, selling junk silver tends to be a straightforward process. You’d simply need to ship or take your bag of coins to the dealer, where they would weigh them  and calculate the value based on that day’s spot price. 

Keep in mind that a realistic value for your bag may be somewhat under the day’s spot price, as the liquidator may charge seller’s fees to make a small profit to keep its lights on and pay its employees. 

Only accept a price that you feel is fair, while also being fair to the purchaser. Everyone should feel like they made a good transaction.We at Advantage Gold are happy to help you assess the value of your collection and liquidate your junk silver. Contact us today and start the conversation.

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