Want to buy silver coins, but think you can’t afford it? I have some great tips for you!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, silver coins are a significant source of interest in both coin collecting and coin investing.
Old silver coins and newer silver bullion coins have both seen renewed popularity in recent years — particularly because of increasing silver prices. In addition, collectors tend to enjoy the beautiful designs that have been featured on silver coinage.
Of course, as a precious metal, silver can be expensive. But you don’t need to give up on collecting silver coins just because they’re often pricier than copper coins, nickel coins, or other types of coins made from base metals.
Here are 4 ways to buy cheap silver coins when you’re on a budget…
#1 – Buy Silver Coins Individually
In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of so-called silver stackers – people who hoard as many silver coins as they can buy at the cheapest prices possible.
They usually do this by buying rolls of silver coins (see below) — but that can be expensive for many people. It’s also possible to accumulate a nice stash of silver coins, piece by piece:
- American silver coins, including war nickels and pre-1965 silver dimes can be bought for as little as $1 to $2 apiece.
- 90% silver quarters and silver half dollars can be purchased for between $4 and $8 each.
- Circulated, common-date silver dollars can be picked up for as little as $20 each.
*Prices and information above accurate for when silver prices are lower than $20 per ounce.
As you can see, you don’t necessarily need a huge sum of money to buy silver coins or build a silver coin collection or investment portfolio.
#2 – Assemble Your Own Rolls Of Silver Coins
If you want to have rolls of silver coins (which is a popular way to keep silver coins), it might be more affordable for you to build the rolls yourself — rather than buying entire rolls all at once.
To make your own silver coin rolls, use this guide to see how many coins come to a roll. It’s a blueprint for how many coins of each denomination you will need to have in order to collect a full roll of silver coins:
- Nickels (1942-45): 40 nickels per roll
- Dimes: 50 dimes per roll
- Quarters: 40 quarters per roll
- Half-dollars: 20 half-dollars per roll
- Silver dollar: 20 dollar coins per roll
Use this silver coin rolls calculator to determine how much the silver in your rolls of silver coins is worth.
#3 – Buy Silver Coins In Bag Increments
Another popular way to buy silver coins is to do so by bag quantity.
While this might cost more money out of pocket (because a $100 face bag of silver coins includes many more pieces than you’ll find in a single conventional roll), this can be a more budget-friendly way to buy silver coins overall.
As you’ll find, purchasing silver coins isn’t usually much different than buying just about anything else in bulk – it’s usually way cheaper. (Hello, Sam’s Club!)
If you want to buy silver coins on the cheap, then buying a $100 face bag of pre-1965 90% junk silver coins in one fell swoop is probably the best way to go!
Here’s another example…
What if you can’t handle the, say, $1,700 price tag for a bag of 200 Franklin half dollars? (That’s $100 face value, by the way.) You could just assemble that bag quantity of Franklin half dollars yourself instead, piece by piece.
Sure, it might actually cost you more to buy silver coins individually that way – and your best hope for actually saving money when buying a bunch of silver coins individually over time is for silver prices to go down. But if you can’t stomach that huge price tag for a fully stocked bag of silver coins (everyone hates sticker shock!) then assembling a makeshift bag of silver coinage piece by piece, at your own pace, is a feasible alternative.
So, how many silver coins will you need to assemble a bag’s worth anyway? Let’s break it down this way:
For a $10 face value hoard, you could buy for example:
- 200 silver war nickels; OR
- 50 silver dimes; AND
- 2 silver dollars; AND
- 4 quarters; AND
- 4 half-dollars
- OR 10 silver dollars
- OR any other combination of silver coins that totals $10 in face value
Many people prefer to have only a single denomination of silver coin represented in any single bag of coins. In other words, some folks would rather have a $10 bag containing only 100 silver dimes, or just 40 silver quarters, or something else like that.
But mixing up the denominations of silver coins in a single bag is often more appealing because you can mix up the kinds of coins in that stash. That’s also how many collectors tend to buy silver coins for such bullion hoards – because they’ll have a diverse combination of silver coins for trading with other collectors or even for harvesting purposes to complete various coin sets in their collections.
When it comes to assembling a bag of silver coins, there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules. What really matters is that the total face value in the collection is worth a certain amount — not necessarily that the bag contains a specific number or combination of coins, such as the case with rolls.
#4 – Buy Cheap Bullion Coins
There are so many coin collectors and investors who simply love American Silver Eagles.
In case you’re unfamiliar with these large, beautiful silver pieces…
They’re non-circulating 1-ounce silver coins with $1 face value made by the United States Mint. (Consider them today’s version of the silver dollar.)
- On the head’s side (“obverse”) of the American Silver Eagle is a portrait of Miss Liberty walking through a valley with the sunrise in the background. This soaring design by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman first appeared on the Walking Liberty half dollar from 1916 through 1947 and was revived on American Silver Eagles when they were first minted in 1986.
- The tail’s side (“reverse”) of the American Silver Eagle depicts a modern heraldic eagle design by famous coin engraver John Mercanti.
Generally speaking, an American Silver Eagle is worth at least as much as one ounce of silver. So, if silver costs $25 per ounce, it will cost at least $25 to buy a silver eagle.
Notice it costs at least the price of silver to buy silver eagles and not only the bullion price. This is because there’s a small premium in the price of silver eagles (this is the case when you buy silver coins of virtually any type or condition).
However, there are ways to reduce the so-called “premium over spot” on American Silver Eagles.
One way is to buy off-quality silver eagles. Cull silver eagles are much cheaper than crisp, uncirculated or proof American Silver Eagles. It may be possible for you to buy cleaned, worn, or otherwise-impaired silver eagles at or just a speck above spot value (the amount of silver value in the coin). Not bad, right?
Now, is that the preferred way to buy silver coins? Probably not if you’re trying to build the prettiest coin collection – but, then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, if a “pretty” collection of coins is one consisting of many American Silver Eagles that you bought at discount prices, then you might be the wiser if you buy silver coins such as silver eagles that have a little more “character” (or, shall we say, “life story”) than others.
Before You Buy Silver Coins…
Keep in mind that buying silver coins never guarantees a return on your money. As with any coin you buy, a return on the investment is never a sure thing.
Here are some of the pros & cons of buying silver coins.
Investing in silver coins is theoretically no different than gambling in Las Vegas – with the exception that you’ll never lose any more than the face value of the coins in your portfolio (because silver values could dip below face values again, as was the case before the early 1960s).
But if you want to buy silver coins and don’t have much money, then using the budget-friendly methods mentioned in this article will give you a great start toward building an excellent stash of silver coins.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!