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Junk Silver 101: The Best and Easiest Coins to Collect

A stash of junk silver can be your best friend in a time of crisis. These small, circulated silver coins contain just enough silver to buy bread or pay bills without being valuable enough to attract attention from regulators or Big Brother busybodies. Junk silver flies under the radar, making it perfect for quietly shoring up your financial position in preparation for a currency crisis.

Still, many people don’t have any junk silver because they’re confused about what it is, which coins are best, and how to easily get junk silver coins. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science, and you can master the basics in about five minutes.

What is junk silver?

Junk silver is the name given to circulated silver coins from America’s past – our old dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins. Most contain 90 percent silver by weight, with a few coins containing 35 to 40 percent silver by weight. Coin collectors aren’t interested in them since they’ve been used as currency, and bullion fiends don’t want them since they’re not .9999 pure silver. Yet they’re not exactly worthless, either, so they get called “junk” in the broader markets.

If you have 90 percent silver coins with a face value of $1.40, you have a Troy ounce of silver. At current silver prices, that’s about $33 of value. The silver coins remain legal tender in the US, but you can easily see how much smarter it is to hold the coins for their silver value than to spend them for their face value.

Is Silver’s Shine Worth Your Time? …

These are the coins you’ll want to watch for:


  • Morgan (1878–1921): 90 percent silver
  • Peace (1921–1928 & 1934–1935): 90 percent silver


  • Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1915): 90 percent silver
  • Walking Liberty (1916–1947): 90 percent silver
  • Franklin (1948–1963): 90 percent silver
  • Kennedy (1964): 90 percent silver
  • Kennedy (1965–1970): 40 percent silver


  • Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1916): 90 percent silver
  • Standing Liberty (1916–1930): 90 percent silver
  • Washington (1932, 1934–1964): 90 percent silver


  • Liberty Head “Barber” (1892–1916): 90 percent silver
  • Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” (1916–1945): 90 percent silver
  • Roosevelt (1946–1964): 90 percent silver


  • Jefferson “Wartime” (1942 [partial]-1945): 35 percent silver

What are the best junk silver coins?

Looking over the list, you can see that the 35 percent silver Jefferson nickels and the 40 percent Kennedy Half Dollars offers you less value per coin than the others. They also don’t work well in the $1.40 = 1 Troy ounce equation. While they’re not worthless, if you have a choice, try to collect only 90% silver coins to keep the value high and the calculations easy.

The best junk silver coins to collect are dollars, half dollars, and dimes. Dimes will be extremely useful as a small base currency, holding just enough silver value to buy minor items like milk or bread without requiring change. On the other hand, dollars and half dollars will represent your bigger ticket items and pack the most value per coin for you in terms of making the most of limited storage space.

How do you get junk silver?

You can get junk silver coins by ordering them online in large bags, scouting for them at fairs and estate sales, or simply watching your change. Remember, these coins were designed to be circulating silver pieces, and a fair number of them are still floating around in America’s cash drawers!

One of the easiest ways to get junk silver coins is to ask for fifty-cent pieces in your change or to request them from your bank teller. Chances are high you will get Kennedy half dollars, and by checking the dates you may find that your fifty-cent piece is actually 40 percent silver (currently worth about $5) or even 90 percent silver (currently worth about $11).

After your first successful acquisition, you’ll find that you monitor all your change for older coins that might be silver. It can be addicting!

Getting more coins than you find in your pockets or by chance at fair booths and estate sales is simple, too. Junk silver is sold in bags online, sorted by face value starting with $50 face bags. However, you’ll pay the melt weight value (~36 troy ounces) and not the $50 face value when you buy from knowledgeable coin dealers. Still, it can be much faster to buy in bulk than check your change.

Junk silver is nothing more than humble small change, but it can make a big difference in how ready you feel financially for a crisis. By understanding what it is, which coins are best, and how to get it, you can set yourself up now for whatever lies ahead.

©2012 Off the Grid News

© Copyright Off The Grid News


  1. junk silver will in the end be the only way to stay alive be ready for the worst to come buy now and be ready for the worst

  2. Personally, I would avoid the mixed coins like the Kennedy halves, Roosevelt dimes or any nickels. You would need to educate people every time you went to try to spend one of those. I bet most people would simply refuse to give you more than face value rather than get themselves stuck educating the next person.

    Opt for the Morgan dollars, Peace dollars and Mercury dimes. Pretty much anyone knows these are silver and nobody would need to look in some book to determine anything. Quarters would be a distant third choice, since they too confuse most people. Whatever you need to buy will work out using silver dollars and silver dimes with few exceptions.

    When silver is around $30.00 you can find Morgan dollars selling for about $28.00 or if worn really bad $27.00 each. When buying any of these do some online research. I found that bidding on eBay worked for me. Just stick with the ratio of $27.00 per Morgan dollar and free shipping and you will win a coin from time to time. Avoid the more costly coins the collectors buy. I located a reputable coin dealer locally who sells for that $27/28 amount. The amount of silver if melted out of that dollar is worth about $23.50 I think.

    When (IF?) the SHTF and silver goes to $60 (for example) these coins will be worth double what you paid – and it could go far higher than that. Don’t forget that it is a lot like a used car and you can’t sell a Morgan dollar to that dealer for $28.00. He is in business and will pay you less. Using these silver coins will be off the grid. The local groceries etc. will probably still demand fiat money.

    One last point. US coins are far better than bullion silver. They leave no doubt about what they are. Bullion is iffy. Is it pure silver? How do you know? Because it says that on it? I feel bullion is less usable that old US coins. Just an opinion.

    • All Franklin halves and walking liberty halves are 90% silver and more common than Morgans or peace dollars. Everybody knows what there are and what they contain, especially the walkers. Those facts coupled with having a value midway between the 2 denominations you suggested would put them at #1 in my book (or bag), then mercury dimes then everything else (based on your criteria). I also like pre 65 quarters myself but suppose the dates could cause some confusion with those.

  3. chicagourbanprepper

    Thank you so much for sharing what you know. The more I prep, the better I sleep. Living in a city that hasn’t embraced prepping has been a real mix of blessings and opportunities. Prepper staples that cost a mint online are dirt cheap here because the demand isn’t very high. You can’t imagine the number of blank and quizzical stares I get in army surplus stores when I ask for MREs. On the other hand, thrift shops are a prepper’s dream. I got a lovely hurricane lamp for five dollars.

    It’s been an absolute nightmare finding junk silver in my city (Chicago), though. Harlan Berk appears to be the only person who gives coin collectors of any stripe the time of day, and he mostly caters to deep pockets coin collectors. Currency exchanges have been a spotty resource, but I don’t think I’ll count on them.

    On one of my coin hunting trips I had an epiphany: Would it be so terrible to gather the less valuable coins and simply spend them at face value?

  4. Does anybody have any links to articles on stocking up silver on a tight budget? Im really strapped and even buying a couple silver ounces a month would be hard. How should I best go about this? For example, I found an article that stated this:

    “People who have $5,000 or less to invest should put at least half in one ounce silver rounds and the rest in “junk silver” or coins of various denominations that are crafted of silver, such as British Sovereigns. ”

    I dont have that kind of money…
    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • Simplest place to start if you are looking for a place to put your cash in silver is the small denomination junk coins. At today’s (early 2015) prices, mercury dimes and the silver Roosevelt dimes can be had for about $1.20 – $1.30 apiece here locally where I’m at. Almost anyone can afford that on pocket change alone. Just an idea.

  5. Which denomination of 90% silver coins were usually circulated least to have anaverage less wear (silver loss)

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