Junk Silver Coin Types
Many different U.S. coin types can be encountered within coins classified as junk silver. For the most part, these coins will contain 90% silver or 40% silver with dates ranging from the late 19th century into the 20th century. The denominations typically represented are dimes, quarter dollars, and half dollars. While silver dollars were also struck in 90% silver, there is greater demand for these coins, providing a higher premium than exists for junk silver coins.
Some dealers will sort groups based on their denomination or coin type, while others will only classify groups by the total weight or face value. Coin collectors reviewing groups of coins can sometimes find pieces with higher numismatic values than the value of the silver content.
90% Silver Dimes
The 90% silver dimes encountered will typically come from one of three different U.S. coin series. The older series will typically see the greatest amount of wear, while the newer coins may sometimes be found in uncirculated grade or even impaired proof.
The Barber Dime was issued from 1892 to 1916. This was followed by the Mercury Dime issued from 1916 to 1945. This was followed by the Roosevelt Dime introduced in 1946. Although this series continues to the present day, only the coins dated between 1946 and 1964 have silver content.
For each series, the specifications are the same, with a diameter of 17.9 mm and weight of 2.50 grams. The net silver weight per coin is 0.07234, although the actual content per coin will vary based on wear.
90% Silver Quarter Dollars
Junk silver coins may include three different U.S. coin types. In recent years, some groupings of a fourth modern series have been sold based on their silver content.
The Barber Quarter was issued from 1892 to 1916. The Standing Liberty Quarter was introduced in 1916 and issued for a relatively short duration until 1930. The Washington Quarter was introduced in 1932 to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington's birth. The series was continued for more than 50 years, although only coins dated between 1932 and 1964 have silver content.
In modern times, the US Mint struck and issued 90% silver quarters included in modern proof sets. Some dealers will now offer large groups of 90% silver State Quarters based on their silver value.
The specifications for 90% silver quarters include a diameter of 24.3 mm, weight of 6.25 grams, and net silver content of 0.18084 troy ounces.
90% & 40% Silver Half Dollars
Unlike the other denominations, the half dollar continued to have silver content include until 1970. After 1964, the silver content was reduced to 40%. Dealers will typically offer either 90% or 40% junk silver, with lower premiums for the less pure version.
The typical U.S. coin types found for 90% silver half dollars include the Barber Half Dollar issued from 1892 to 1915, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar issued from 1916 to 1947, the Franklin Half Dollar issued from 1948 to 1963, and the Kennedy Half Dollars of 1964. The final series was introduced following the assassination of the president and was issued in 90% silver for a single year before the silver content was reduced. From 1965 to 1970, the Kennedy Half Dollar included 40% silver.
The specifications for the 90% silver half dollars include a diameter of 30.6 mm, weight of 12.50 grams, and net silver weight of 0.36169 troy ounces. The 40% silver half dollars have a diameter of 30.6 mm, weight of 11.50 grams, and silver weight of 0.1479 troy ounces.