The term junk silver is used in reference to former circulation US coins that were issued with actual silver content. This occurred throughout the vast majority of US coining history. Among the original coins issued by the United States Mint between 1794 and 1836, most silver coins had 89.2% silver and 10.8% copper. Beginning in 1836, many coins were bumped up to include 90% silver content and 10% copper. At special points in time, the US Mint issued coins with 40% and 35% silver. Now is your chance to learn all about these various forms of junk silver available from JM Bullion.
The vast majority of former US circulation denominations were available with actual silver content in the coins. This applied to a variety of denominations from the dime to the dollar, with the date range for 90% silver production covering roughly 1836 on the front end to 1964 on the backend. In 1964, the price of silver was so high that most of the coins in circulation were more valuable for the silver content contained in the coins than the assigned face value. All coins issued as of 1965 now feature a cupro-nickel alloy instead. Available denominations and designs include:
Only two coins in US history have ever been issued with 40% silver content, and in one case the coin issued was only available as a proof specimen. When Kennedy Half Dollar debuted in 1964, it was the final year in which US coins were issued with 90% silver content. From 1965 to 1970, the US Mint actually issued the circulation Kennedy Half Dollar with 40% silver content and 60% copper. This makes the 1965-1970 Kennedy Half Dollars the only circulation coin with such a purity level.
However, the Kennedy Half Dollar was not the only US coin released with 40% silver. The US Mint revived the US silver dollar program in 1971 with an effigy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the obverse. The coins were going to be produced with 40% silver content, but the mint opted not to do this for the circulation coins. With that said, it did decide to produce collectible proof versions of the Eisenhower Silver Dollar from 1971 to 1978 with 40% silver.
The release of US silver coins with 35% silver content was limited to a specific denomination for a set period of time under extreme circumstances. As the US found itself pulled into World War II, nickel was identified as a critical supply for the war effort. As such, the US Mint was asked to find a way to remove the metal from the production of US nickels. From mid-1942 to 1945, the US Mint issued the nickel with 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese, down from the traditional 75% copper 25% nickel combination. These coins are affectionately known as the War Nickels.
Junk silver refers to these various types of former silver circulation currency. The denominations referenced above featuring 90%, 40%, and 35% silver remain popular to this day with collectors for the beautiful designs on the obverse and reverse fields, and with actual silver content, each one represents a more affordable investment in silver than modern silver bullion specimens.
JM Bullion carries a wide range of junk silver specimens in each of the silver contents and designs mentioned above. If you have any questions, please contact us at 800-276-6508, chat with us live online, or email us directly.