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    Which Quarters Are Silver?

    Most of the time, the humble quarter is a jingle in our pockets. The 25-cent piece has moved from having major purchasing power to only buying us a gumball, thanks to inflation. However, certain vintages of quarters are not to be thrown around in such a cavalier manner. Any quarter made in 1964 or earlier is 90% silver, and the raw value of the silver is now worth more than the 25-cent face value of the coin itself.

    So, it’s time to start examining the change in your pocket a bit more closely. Though uncommon, there are plenty of quarters made in 1964 or earlier still in circulation that you may have received while making a purchase. Obviously, it is also possible to buy 90% quarters specifically.

    In either case, let’s discuss how to know if you’ve got a 90% quarter, along with commonly issued coins that use the same or a similar alloy in their minting. Below is the JM Bullion guide to 90% silver quarters.

    A Brief Primer on Quarters

    First things first, you may see references to 90% quarters and other 90%-silver coins as “junk silver.” The use of the term “junk” is not meant to be particularly pejorative. Instead, it refers to the fact that these coins have no numismatic or collectible value. Quite simply, they are so common that no one cares about them as unique collector’s items. Instead, they are valued for their silver content. Quarters have been part of the American experience since 1796. Between 1796 and 1964, including the end years, all quarters were made with a combination of silver and copper. As mentioned, the silver was poured and stamped with the copper in a 9:1 ratio.

    After 1970, most coins were made with no silver at all. So, realizing value is a matter of reaching back into history a bit.

    How to know if your quarters are silver

    So, the burning question is how to know if the coins you have are junk silver or just regular coins. We’ve already touched on the most obvious way – the date printed on the quarter.

    If you find a quarter within the proper range of years (1796 – 1964), including the end years, you should hang onto it. If you find a quarter between 1796 and 1800, it might not be junk silver after all, as it would unquestionably be a legitimate piece of American history.

    Failing that scenario, though, you should keep a tight hold on any pre-1965 quarter. However, you can also – potentially – tell that a quarter is primarily made of silver just by looking at it. Although you might be able to see a difference if you put a possible coin next to a modern quarter, the real telltale sign is on the edge of the coin.

    A junk silver coin will have a silver stripe on its edge. It will be plain as day. If your coin does not have that stripe, it’s probably not a mostly-silver coin.

    Nothing is more definitive than the year stamped on the coin, however. Do your best to find it or get someone with experience to take a look.

    Popular 90% Quarters Today

    To be clear, quarters are not the only junk silver pieces available. Several dollars, half-dollars, and dimes bear an alloy with a similar composition. However, since this page is designed for those wondering about the quarters they have, let’s discuss the most popular 90% quarters today.


    Washington Quarter

    The most recognizable quarter that may be made of 90% silver is the Washington quarter. It is the most recognizable because, well, it’s the same quarter we use today.

    However, as you may have inferred, only Washington quarters issued in 1964 or earlier have the 90% silver, 10% copper that we want.

    After 1970, it’s quite difficult to find Washington quarters with any silver content whatsoever. The modern quarters are minted in cupronickel – a copper-nickel alloy.



    Standing Liberty Quarter

    Image Courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins

    The Standing Liberty Quarter was the standard quarter issued in the United States between 1916 and 1930. It is so named because its obverse side is adorned with an image of the goddess of Liberty, who is, of course, standing.

    The good news about finding a Standing Liberty quarter is that you don’t have to sift through them to identify the ones that are 90% silver. All Standing Liberty quarters fit the bill.

    Standing Liberty quarters were replaced by the Washington quarter because their production proved to be an unnecessary challenge. So, they only served the republic as its quarter piece for about 15 years. However, they had replaced another type of 90% quarter themselves – the illustrious Barber quarter.

    Barber Quarter

    Image Courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins

    The final somewhat-common quarter made of 90% silver that you can find is the Barber quarter. Like the Standing Liberty and the Washington, it served as the standard quarter for a period. In this case, the Barber quarter was the currency of the realm between 1892 and 1916.

    As is the case with Standing Liberty quarters, all Barber quarters are 90% silver. However, unlike its successors, the Barber quarter is named for its designer, rather than the image on the coin itself. The design came from the work of Charles E. Barber, the US Mint’s Chief Engraver during the 1890s.

    The Barber quarter replaced the Seated Liberty design after roughly a half-century of public calls to change all US coins’ designs. The obverse of the new Barber coins – there are dime and half-dollar versions – features a classical rendition of Lady Liberty as a sideways-facing bust.

    Unfortunately for Barber, his design was reviled from almost the moment of its issuance. Calls to replace the Barber quarter with a newly minted design began almost immediately in 1892. Thus, the quarter’s days were numbered, and its final pressing occurred in 1916.

    However, as is the case with the other junk silver quarters, Barber quarters have become a popular collector’s item. In fact, their historicity is likely to push them beyond the value of the Washington quarters you find. So don’t use a Barber quarter in a gumball machine, no matter how much your kid begs you for gum.

    Grab some 90% Quarters Today!

    We here at JM Bullion are happy to help connect you with your own stash of 90% quarters. They come in bags or rolls and are sold according to their collective face values. In other words, you’ll see options to buy a set of quarters with a $10 face value – meaning that there are 40 quarters in the group (40 x $0.25 = $10).

    You’ll also notice that they are selling at a premium above that face value. We do charge a bit for the provision of these quarters to you. However, the primary source of the cost you see is the actual value of the metal itself – our slice is small in comparison.

    It’s also important to monitor the spot price of silver once you purchase these types of coins. The long-term forecast for the price of silver is that it is going to continue to appreciate. If that forecast turns out to be true, then the value of your 90% silver quarters is going to appreciate it.

    All Market Updates are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of JM Bullion Inc. and should not be construed as financial advice.