Sunday, October 11, 2015

Canadian "Junk" Silver

Based on my past experience in selling precious metals, it is clear that most Americans know very little about U.S. junk silver coins. You know the ones I mean, the circulated pre-1965 dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars containing 90 percent silver. And it's a safe bet they know even less about the junk silver of our good neighbors to the north. But there may be some silver investing opportunities for you if you know some basics about Canadian junk silver.

The U.S. eliminated silver in their business strikes (coins produced for circulation) after 1964 but Canada kept silver in their business (a.k.a circulation) strikes until 1967 and into 1968 for some. The degree of silver fineness in U.S. business strikes didn't exceeded 90 percent (coin silver) while Canada maintained a silver fineness of 92.5 (sterling silver) until 1920. By keeping your eyes open for Canadian coins while at garage sales, flea markets or local coin shows, you may be able to find deals from sellers who either aren't aware of what they have or they simply want to sell because these coins are not big sellers like their other stock.

Because Canada is part of the British Commonwealth, Canadian silver coins have the image of the ruling British monarch on the obverse. So the Canadian junk silver coins you are most likely to see are the 80 percent silver coins bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth II (1953 to 1967), King George VI (1937-1952) or King George V (1920-1936). Here are their circulated silver content details...

Silver Dime(1920-1967): Silver Content=.0585 Troy ounce (.0600 uncirculated)
Silver Quarter(1920-1967): Silver Content=.1463 Troy ounce (.1500 uncirculated)
Silver Half(1920-1967): Silver Content=.2925 Troy ounce (.3000 uncirculated)
Silver Dollar (1935-1967): Silver content=.600 Troy ounce.

Due to a significant increase in the price of silver, in 1967 the Royal Canadian Mint changed the silver content of the ten-cent piece and twenty-five cent piece from 80 to 50 percent silver mid-year. Unfortunately, there is no practical way of determining which coins contain 50 percent silver and which contain 80 percent silver (what were they thinking?). For your information, a 50% silver dime contains .0375 troy ounces of silver and a 50% quarter .0937 troy ounces. No silver half-dollars or dollars were minted for circulation after 1967. In mid-1968, silver was removed from all business/circulation strike Canadian coins.

If you are lucky enough to come across Canadian silver coins dated earlier than 1920, these contain the higher silver content of 92.5 percent. If circulated, they are still considered junk silver but there is nothing "junk" about them. Here's a nice little coin I bought from a local coin dealer for one U.S. dollar. It is a 1917 King George V (he reigned from 1911-1936) sterling silver dime.  It contains approximately .0690 troy ounces of silver uncirculated (this one a little less as it has been lightly circulated). With a spot silver price of $15, this coin (uncirculated) would have an intrinsic value of $1.04. Total mintage for this coin was 5,011,988 which is one of the higher mintages for sterling silver dimes. I was able to pick up a few others at a price less than their current book value. Here is some basic information on these coins...

Silver Canadian Nickel(1858-1919): Silver Content=.0347 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Dime(1858-1919): Silver Content=.0690 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Twenty-Cent Coin(1858): Silver Content=.1382 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Quarter(1870-1919): Silver Content=.1730 Troy ounces*
Silver Canadian Half-Dollar(1870-1919): Silver Content=.3456 Troy ounces*

*The silver content for the above coins are for uncirculated coins. Circulated coins have a slightly lower silver content due to their wear in daily commerce.

I want to mention another silver coin I purchased recently that is truely a one-off silver investment - a Mardi Gras silver doubloon. This one is a .999 silver coin that contains more silver than an uncirculated Peace or Morgan silver dollar. You can see pictures and details of this unique coin at Doubloon on my silver investing
web site.

In closing this post, (and as stated at the beginning), the information on Canadian silver coins is basic but may be enough to get you started. Especially if you have passed on opportunities to buy silver Canadian coins in the past because you lacked the knowledge. There is much more to Canadian silver coins than the brief descriptions given above. To become a savvy investor of Canadian silver coins, I recommend you invest in one or more books on the subject. If nothing else, you can preview the first few chapters of my Canadian Coin book for free. You will find it here.

Thanks for reading. Keep the faith.  

John Ausiman

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Buying Junk Silver At Multiples Of Face Value. How Does That Work?

So you have decided to start buying circulated U.S. 90 percent silver coins also known as "junk" silver. You stop in at a local coin shop you've passed by many times before and tell the dealer you have $1000 and want to purchase some old U.S. silver coins. So the dealer takes out a box containing dimes, quarters and half-dollars, all dated 1964 or before, and begins counting out your coins. As the dealer is doing this, s/he explains that the current spot price of silver is $18.00 and their current price of selling junk silver is 14 times the face value. And it turns out your $1000 fiat currency will get you about $71.40 in junk silver.

At this point you might be thinking "this dealer is scamming me, I thought $1000 would get me more silver coins than that".  Actually this "deal" isn't bad at all. Even if the dealer was charging 15 times face value, it would be fair. So how can you be prepared to spot a fair deal from a bad one prior to visiting the dealer? Here is what you need to know...

It is generally recognized that a $1000 bag of 10,000 circulated silver dimes, 4,000 circulated silver quarters or 2,000 circulated silver half-dollars contains 715 ounces of silver. With a spot silver price of $18.00, the silver value of that bag is $18 times 715 or $12,870. Divide the $12,870 by the bag's $1000 face value and the result is $12.87. So for each $12.87 of fiat money you would receive $1.00 of silver coins - but only if the dealer was running a non-profit company. Since the dealer has a right to make a decent profit, 14 times face would be generous for such a small transaction (far less than a full bag) and 15 times would be more like it. If you were selling silver coins to a dealer with the 12.87 times face value, the dealer might offer you 11 times face as the spread would help them stay in business.

If you are offered uncirculated silver coins at multiples times face, such as rolls of Brilliant Uncirculated Franklin or 1964 Kennedy half dollars, the amount of silver in an uncirculated $1000 bag is approximately 725 ounces so use this number instead of 715. Or you might come across some 40 percent silver clad Kennedy half dollars minted for circulation (business strikes) from 1965-1969. Although not as desireable as 90 percent silver coins, if the price is right get the silver. A $1000 bag of silver clad Kennedys contains approximately 300 ounces of silver (each coin contains .1479 ounces of silver). I have never seen Morgan or Peace silver dollars offered at multiples times face but that doesn't mean offers like that don't exist. A $1000 bag of circulated Morgan or Peace dollars is considered to contain 765 ounces of silver with uncirculated silver dollars at approximately 780 ounces (each uncirculated Morgan or Peace dollar contains .77344 ounces of silver).

You can find lots of information on U.S. and Canadian silver coins in my ebooks The Last 90 Percent Silver U.S. Coins and The Last 80 Percent Silver Canadian Coins.

Thanks for reading.  JA

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Carson City Morgan Silver Dollar - A Favorite of Collectors and Investors

I like Morgan Silver Dollars a lot. What I don't like is how some sellers often misrepresent them, either by advertising these dollars as rare when most are not, and/or correctly stating they are 90% silver but omitting how much silver they actually contain. And I'm not too crazy about the healthy premiums of Morgan (and Peace) dollars being charged by dealers. But I make an exception for Carson City (CC) silver dollars. 
The Carson City mint produced the Morgan CC silver dollar for 13 years, from 1878 through 1885 and again from 1889 through 1893. Of the slightly more than 656,000,000 Morgan dollars minted from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921, only about 13,862,000 Morgans (approximately 2%) were minted by the Carson City mint, the least of any of the five U. S. Mints that produced Morgan silver dollars. Here are those production numbers by year...

1878CC = 2,212,000; 1879CC = 756,000; 1880CC = 591,000; 1881CC = 296,000; 1882CC = 1,133,000; 1883CC = 1,204,000; 1884CC = 1,136,000; 1885CC = 228,000; 1889CC = 350,000; 1890CC = 2,309,041; 1891CC = 1,618,000; 1892CC = 1,352,000; 1893CC = 677,000

(The most valuable CC Morgan, by far, is the 1889CC followed by the 1893CC and 1879CC).

But it's anybody's guess how many CC Morgans exist today. Most likely some were lost in 1918 when 270,232,722 were melted down by the government to recover their silver content (the Pittman Act). And more were probably turned in and melted down when silver was on its way to $50 per ounce a few years back. Others may be hidden in buried caches, their location long forgotten and their owners no longer on this earthly plane. No wonder CC Morgans are in high demand and fetch a generous premium.

The CC Morgan you see at left was purchased from a local coin dealer a few years back. The story on it is:

   The U.S.Government "discovered" a bunch of CC Morgans in the mid-1960s, encased them in plastic, boxed them up along with a numbered certificate and sold them to the public. 

It doesn't show up well but this coin has some noticeable bag marks and would probably be graded in the low Mint State grades of MS-60 or so a.k.a. Brilliant Uncirculated. Current dealer bid/ask price (the Coin Dealer Newsletter) on a BU 1883 CC Morgan is $190/$205. 

The places I like to shop for Carson City Morgans (including encased CC Morgans like that pictured) are at local coin shows but you can find them elsewhere. But beware as there are some very good counterfeits. Higher valued Morgan dollars, including CC Morgans, are a prime target for counterfeiters (the asking price for a Brilliant Uncirculated 1889CC is currently at $25,000). For any higher priced Morgan silver dollar, CC or not, buy only from a dealer you trust. And expect to pay a higher premium for the CC mint marked Morgans.

If you are interested in Canadian silver coins, I am offering a free download of my eBook The Last Canadian 80 Percent Silver Coins - A Buying & Selling Guide for a limited time. There are over 100 pages and 70+ detailed coin photos. If you take advantage of this freebie, it would please me greatly if you would provide your honest review of this eBook when you have read it. You can find it here at Amazon.

Happy investing. JA

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Turning Dollars Into Nickels

Unfortunately, I have this knack of turning dollars into nickels at our little local casino. Nothing big, mind you, just a little entertainment in an area that doesn't have much else to offer. Limiting my entertainment dollar at the casino lets me spend money on the meaningful stuff such as food fuel, silver, etc.

 More often than not, the slot machines turn nasty so I cash out, visit the redemption machine for whatever dollars and coins (mostly nickels and pennies) are left, stick them in my back pocket and take them out when I get home.

On a recent trip, my little pile of nickels presented me with a nice surprise. A 1917 S Indian Head (Buffalo) Nickel in decent shape. Now if you know a little about U.S. nickels, you know there were very few years that nickels were minted with any amount of silver in them and 1917 wasn't one of them (see my article on US Silver Coins). So this nickel is probably worth about five cents, right? Not so fast. Here are the stats on this nickel...

The San Francisco mint produced 4,193,000 Indian Head nickels in 1917, less
than half of the Denver mint's production of 9,910,000 and less than 10 percent of the 51,424,019 produced by the Philadelphia mint. After consulting the latest Coin Dealer Monthly Supplement Newsletter (, I found out this coin has a bid/ask price of $15.50/$17.00 if graded as just "Good". But I think this coin would grade higher than that. A "Very Good" (VG) grade coin would be worth $30.00/$33.00 and a "Fine" grade would be worth $60.00/$66.00.

The only other Indian Head nickels I have are in this mint set pictured at left. The set contains a 1930 S (mintage 5,435,000), a 1936 D (mintage 24,814,000) and a 1935 Philadelphia (mintage 58,264,000, no mint mark) and would all probably be graded "Good" as they show a good amount of wear. In that grade, the 1930 S is worth $1.00/$1.10 bid/ask, the 1936 D $.065/$0.75 and the 1935 Philly nickel $0.75/$0.85. Only in the higher circulated and Mint State grades would these coins be worth much more.

So the lessons I was reminded of from this little experience are: 1) you never know where you might come across an old coin worth more than its face value so keep your eyes open to that possibility; and 2) when you find an old coin, you can't just assume the coin has little or no value over its face value so refer to reputable resources that will let you know a coin's value.


After enjoying a record year in which 44,006,000 were sold in 2014, the American Silver Eagle is off to a strong start with 5,127,500 being sold so far in 2015. Typically January is a strong sales month for ASEs as a crowd that grows larger every year wants to get their hands on the 2015 coins. Have you got yours yet?

Thanks for reading and keep the faith.