27 Dec 2023  Sergio Martin Rubio  5 mins read.

Understanding Junk Silver Worth Beyond the Wear

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🔍 Junk Silver refers to old coins circulated as legal currency in the United States, containing silver. Also called ‘Old US Silver’ or ‘scrap Silver,’ these coins are historically and economically important because they represent real money. If there were an economic collapse, their value would likely remain stable.

Popular examples of junk silver coins include the Morgan Dollar and the Barber Dime, both made of 90% silver. They have face values of $1 and 10 cents, respectively, and were minted from 1878 to 1921 and from 1892 to 1916.

Understanding the Concept of Junk Silver

‘Junk’ silver usually refers to silver coins that aren’t very collectible. These are typically heavily used coins made before 1965 with 90% silver and visible wear. However, there are exceptions like the 35% silver War Nickels from 1942 to 1946 or the 40% Silver Kennedy Half-Dollars from 1965 to 1970.

In the US, junk silver is a common term because these coins are plentiful and often sold by weight or face value. But what’s considered ‘junk’ silver in the US might not be seen the same way in Europe. There, coins like Morgans and other older pieces are highly desired by collectors and can sell for much more. For example, ‘junk’ silver in Europe might include coins like the 50 Francs 90% silver coin from 1974 to 1980, the 2 Reichsmark .625 silver coin from 1924 to 1948, or the West-German 5 Deutsche Mark .625 silver coin from 1951 to 1974. Unfortunately, even ‘junk’ silver in non-US areas often has high prices because they’re considered collectibles. 🌍💰

Factors Influencing Junk Silver Value

Most US junk silver coins might have low premiums, except for rare or well-preserved ones. So, we consider junk silver as coins with no collector’s value.

The value of junk silver is based on the silver content, which is typically 90% in the US, with exceptions like the the 35% silver War Nickels or the 40% Silver Kennedy Half-Dollars. The purity is apply when calculating the junk silver value. In case of War Nickels a wear coeficient is not applied.

For pre-1965 90% silver coins, we also consider wear and tear from circulation. 🔄

Calculating Junk Silver Value

The calculation for non-pre-1965 90% silver coins is straightforward as wear and tear are not typically factored in. The formula would be:

value = purity * silver spot price * silver coin weight in troy oz * units

Alternatively, if you consider that $1 face value of War nickels contains about 1.125 troy ounces of silver:

value = 1.125 troy oz * silver spot price

For example, if we aim to purchase $1 face value of circulated War Nickels at a silver melt value of $24.48:

0.35 purity * $24.48/troy oz * 0.1608 troy oz * 20 units = ~$27.55


1.125 troy oz * $24.48/troy oz = ~$27.55

You’ll notice that while the face value is only $1, the intrinsic value is $27.55 due to its silver content. These junk silver coins might occasionally turn up in change, potentially yielding a profit of 2655%. However, such finds are increasingly rare.

On the other hand, a wear coefficient is applied to pre-1965 90% silver coins:

value = purity * silver spot price * silver coin weight in troy oz * units * (1 - 0.011612)

Typically, this coefficient is represented as $1 face value of junk Silver containing approximately 0.715 troy oz of silver, or the $1 face value price for junk at spot, dividing spot by 1.4:

value = $X face value * silver spot price * 0.715


value = $X face value * silver spot price / 1.4

For instance, let’s consider the purchase of $10 face value of 90% Barber Quarters:

0.9 * 24.48/troy oz * 0.2009 * 40 * (1 - 0.011612) = ~$175


10 * 24.48/troy oz * 0.715 = ~$175
10 * 24.48/troy oz / 1.4 = ~$175

Please note that the previous formulas do not include the dealer premium, which should be taken into account.

Market Factors and Valuation

As time goes on, it’s getting harder to find many US junk silver coins. This means their prices are going up slowly because they’re historically important and collectors want them. This trend is especially noticeable in Europe, where silver coins with legal value have very high prices. 📈

Methods for Valuation

Some of the most used online tools for calculating junk silver value are:

Precious Metals Manager App

The Precious Metals Manager app makes it easy to manage and track all your junk silver wherever you are.

When creating new Silver items within an order, you can toggle the “Junk Silver” button, and this will enable you to select from a list of popular US Junk Silver coins. Certain fields, such as name, purity, wear, and weight are prefilled. Additionally, you can specify the quantity of coins and instantly view the total face value associated with them in real-time. Subsequently, you have the option to set the unit price, which represents the cost per junk silver coin. Once the item is created, you can view its details or edit it at any time! 🚀

Junk Silver Selection


Valuing junk silver can be tricky because not all of it is actually “junk.” Some coins, like key dates or older types, have numismatic value.

Silver stackers often use simple formulas to calculate junk silver value. For example, $1.40 face value in 90% silver equals one troy ounce of silver.

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