Silver Coins And The Silver Market – Past, Present & Future

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In light of the current economy, many people are talking about silver coins as investments these days.

But what has the history for silver prices been like? And what are some popular silver coins to invest in?

While this article is not intended to be used as investment advice or investment information, it will hopefully help shed some light on the silver market.

We’ll concentrate on the history of the silver market and how silver prices have changed — past, present, and future. Remember, though, investing in any aspect of the volatile coin market should be done at your own risk.


Silver Market: The Past

Silver has always been a desirable metal.

Silver coins have been around for centuries, and the U.S. Mint has been producing silver coins since its earliest years.

The following coins are among the denominations which have been produced in silver:

  • 3-cent coin
  • half-dime
  • dime
  • 20-cent coin
  • quarter
  • half-dollar
  • dollar

Silver prices rose high enough during the early 1960s that the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Mint decided it could no longer produce 90% silver coins for circulation. Why? It wound up that the silver in the dime, quarter, and half-dollar was actually worth more than the face value of those coins!

With silver rising above $1.20 an ounce at the time, in 1965 the U.S. Mint switched to using copper-nickel for the dime and the quarter and 40% silver content in the half dollar. In 1971, all silver was removed from the half-dollar.

During the 1970s, inflation and a failing economy pushed the prices of everything from gasoline to milk through the roof. Even interest rates were climbing to monumental highs. At the time, Bunker and Herbert Hunt (2  brothers in the Hunt family which, at the time, was among the nation’s richest oil families) had been heavily investing in silver. In fact, during the course of the mid-to-late 1970s, their silver purchases began influencing the silver market. Silver prices quickly rose above $10 an ounce in 1979, and people were trading in their silver coins for cash.

In January 1980, silver had reached an all-time high of nearly $50 an ounce. But silver prices quickly fell, and by late 1980, silver had stabilized to roughly $10 an ounce. Investing in silver coins remained popular, but the rush to sell and melt silver coins had cooled off.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, silver prices were generally stable, except for peaks and dives which would send silver down below $5 and over $8 at times.


The Present Silver Market

With another recession on hand, people began looking to tangible investments again, including silver.

Silver, at one point in the 1990s, could be had for under $4 an ounce. But by the middle-2000s, silver was looking to increase above $10. With silver prices back up, investing in silver coins again became popular. Also, more people began selling silver coins.

Silver prices rose to roughly $20 an ounce during the spring of 2008. While the price of silver dipped closer to $14 an ounce over the following year, the overall demand for and tangible quality of silver continues to intrigue investors. Silver is now over $21 an ounce.

Silver bullion coins, such as the popular U.S. silver eagle coin, sell briskly and are filling up investors’ portfolios.


The Future of Silver

So, what is the future of silver projected to be like?

Nobody really knows the precise answer to that question, but it is safe to say that silver, which is a limited natural resource, will continue to be in demand. Don’t forget that a large share of the silver demand comes from industries such as photography and technology.

As silver continues to be spread among many market sectors, the vital need for the precious metal will inevitably keep investors’ interests heavily in silver. Whatever the case, silver coins will continue to be one of the key ways that investors buy, sell, and trade their investments in the metal.


Most Popular Silver Coins

Wondering which silver coins are the most popular and common among silver investors?

Following is a sample of the silver coins most frequently pursued by those who invest in silver coins:

  • Mercury dimes (1916-1945)
  • Roosevelt dimes (90% silver during 1946-1964)
  • Washington quarters (90% silver during 1932-1964)
  • Walking Liberty half dollars (1916-1947)
  • Franklin half dollars (1948-1963)
  • Kennedy half dollars (90% silver in 1964)
  • Morgan silver dollars (1878-1921)
  • Peace dollars (1921-1935
  • Silver Eagles (1986 to date)

Except for the Silver Eagle, these coins are usually bought in circulated condition in bulk quantity. Often, these circulated silver coins are called junk silver coins.

These are the most common silver coins investors buy because they are relatively inexpensive, plentiful, and popular. That makes these coins generally easier to find and sell.

Here are the top 5 places to find junk silver.

While all of the coins listed above are at least 90% silver, the Silver Eagle is a bullion coin that is nearly pure silver. Many investment plans (specifically retirement plans) also specifically recognize the Silver Eagle as an investment coin. In other words, Silver Eagles often qualify for certain tax exemptions.


I'm the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. 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 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 authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Silver Coins And The Silver Market – Past, Present & Future

  1. I have twenty Kennedy half dollar coins dated 1964.are these coins worth any thing,if so contact me at 17733440897,if anyone has an understanding about silver coins i would love to hear from you.

    1. Hi, Andre —

      With the value of silver right now, each of your 1964 Kennedy half dollars has a value of around $9 to $10 each, so in all, 20 would be worth right around $180 to $200, maybe a tad more or less based on the precise bullion value at the time you sell those coins.

      1. i have a 1964 silver dime with the “JS” stamp next to the date and there is no mint mark “D” or “S” to the left of the torch where the article says it SHOULD be . . . is this coin worth anything?

  2. I have a nickel with a Indian on the front and a buffalo on the back it does not have a date is this worth anything

  3. i have a 1964 silver dime with the “JS” stamp next to the date and there is no mint mark “D” or “S” to the left of the torch where the article says it SHOULD be . . . is this coin worth anything?

    1. Broncho,

      The lack of the “D” or “S” simply means your coin was made at the Philadelphia mint, which didn’t place mintmarks on coins in 1964.

      The “JS” are the initials for the coin’s designer, John Sinnock.

      Your coin is worth $2 to $3.

    1. Sult,

      The “D” was inscribed by somebody outside of the U.S. Mint, since there were no pieces struck like that in 1964.

  4. just caught my eye a beautiful 1970 quarter looks brand new has an s mint mark probably not special but have never seen a 42 year old coin in this good of shape

    1. Hi, Murph –

      You have a “proof” 1970-S quarter. These are indeed special because they are coins that have been struck with extra diligence on polished coin blanks. Based on the precise condition of your coin, it would be worth from $1.75 to about $3.

      Here’s some more info on proof coins:

  5. i have the 4 piece set of 2009 lincoln pennies and there in really good shape what are they worth?

    1. Hi, Lynsey –

      Unless they are in mint condition, each of the 2009 Lincoln cents is worth face value.

  6. I have a 1984 nickel and 1984 half dollar that are unusually shiny and clean. They do not look like regular coins. Though they are real coins, do you have any idea what they are worth? Or what kind of metal they are? Please help if you can.

    1. Hi, Niki —

      Perhaps you have proof coins — collector versions of the regular Jefferson nickel and Kennedy half dollar. These coins should have a tiny “S” mintmark on the obverse (“heads side”).

      It’s possible you also happen to have two coins that were heavily polished. Cleaning coins actually ruins their surfaces and thus diminishes almost all collector value.

      If you have the proof coins I mentioned above, they would be worth about $1 each, but if they are polished, they are worth only face value.


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