I love finding junk silver coins. Whenever I get any change back I look for specific coins with a specific date range because they contain 90% silver. "Junk silver" is a term used to describe pre-1965 U.S. circulated silver coins, which contain no numismatic or collectible value but a significant amount of silver.
These coins are sought after for their silver content rather than their face value. The term "junk silver" can also refer to similar coins from other countries with high silver content.
Searching for these coins is like a mini treasure hunt for me and I get my entire family in on the game. It's simple to start; you only need to check the change you get from the store or dig through your pockets.
Here's my guide on how and where to look for junk silver:
Familiarize yourself with the junk silver coins
Before you search for junk silver, you must know which coins to look for. In the U.S., the most common junk silver coins are:
- Dimes, quarters, and half-dollars minted before 1965 (90% silver)
- Half-dollars minted between 1965-1970 (40% silver)
- U.S. "War Nickels" minted from 1942-1945 with a large mint mark above the Monticello building (35% silver)
Note, I highly recommend reading Coin Collecting for Beginners by George Carter (affiliate link) if you want to get started in collecting any coins, including junk silver.
Visit local coin shops for junk silver coins
Coin shops can be a good source of junk silver. You can ask the shop owner if they have any junk silver available for purchase. They may have bags or rolls of these coins, and you can often negotiate a price based on the current silver spot price.
Check banks and credit unions
Some banks and credit unions may still have rolls of pre-1965 coins in their vaults. It's worth asking a teller if they have any old coins available for exchange. You can also request rolls of half-dollars and search through them for 1965-1970 coins with 40% silver content.
Estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets
This is one of my favorite ways of finding great coins, regardless if they are junk silver or not! Estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets can be treasure troves for junk silver. Keep an eye out for old coins or collections being sold off. Many sellers may not be aware of the silver content in these coins, so you may find some great deals!
Online auctions and marketplaces
Online platforms like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace can be sources for junk silver, but just a lot harder. Be cautious when buying online, as the potential for counterfeit coins is higher. Make sure to check seller ratings and reviews, and be prepared to verify the authenticity of your purchases.
Coin roll hunting for junk silver
Coin roll hunting involves obtaining rolls of coins from banks and searching through them for junk silver. This method has gotten a lot harder since the coin shortage and can be time-consuming. However, it can yield results if you're persistent and I've found some great junk silver quarters and Mercury dimes.
Junk Silver End Notes
When looking for junk silver, it's essential to know the silver content and weight of the coins. You have to know your market and what you're looking for! Understanding the market and being familiar with the coins (affiliate link) you are looking for will help you calculate their melt value based on the current silver spot price.
A word of advice, buying and selling junk silver often involves a premium above the melt value, which accounts for the dealer's profit and handling costs. You should know the current spot price of silver or know silver price forecasts so you can make a well-informed bid for junk silver coins. It always hurts when you overpay for anything, junk silver included.