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Silver Coins and Silver Bullion

The silver market offers investors a variety of products. Pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver coins, which were used as money until the mid-1960s, serve both as an investment medium and could be used as “survival” coins should our monetary system fail as many people fear.

Nearly as popular as pre-’65 U.S. 90% silver coins are 1-oz. silver rounds. Just behind silver rounds are 100-oz investment bars.

Other favorite silver bullion products include:

Privately-minted Silver Eagles are an inexpensive and convenient way to own silver. They have their weight and purity (999 fine) stamped on them, making them easy to sell or exchange. They are called “privately-minted” because they are produced by a private mint. The American Silver Eagles, on the other hand, are struck by the U.S. Mint and are “legal tender,” officially being $1 coins.

Privately-minted Silver Eagles are so named because the obverse side (front) of the coin depicts an eagle flying through the sun. Both the U.S. mint’s legal coins and the privately-minted Silver Eagles contain one ounce of 999 fine silver.

The U.S. Mint’s Silver Eagles carry a substantial premium over the privately-minted Silver Eagles. Normally, the Canadian Silver Maple Leafs are priced below the $1 American Silver Eagles but higher than the privately-minted Silver Eagles.

Pre-1965 U.S. silver coins-Circulated and Uncirculated

U.S. dimes, quarters, and half-dollars dated prior to 1965 were minted of 90% silver/10% copper. Large quantities in circulated condition are readily available. Common-date uncirculated coins are available but carry premiums over circulated coins. Numismatists (coin collectors) sometimes call circulated coins “junk coins” because they have no collector value.

Although silver dollars also were minted of 90% silver/10% copper, they are not called 90% U.S. coins. Half-dollars dated 1965-1969 contain only 40% silver and are traded as 40% clad half-dollars.

Because U.S. Mints originally shipped 90% coins in $1,000 face value bags, today “a bag” refers to $1,000 in face value. A bag of dimes contains 10,000 coins; a bag of quarters 4,000 coins; and a bag of half-dollars 2,000 coins. However, pre-1965 U.S. coins are often sold in quantities smaller than $1,000 face value.

When minted, a $1,000 face value bag contained 723.4 ounces of silver. Due to wear, however, a bag of circulated coins yields approximately 715 ounces when refined; therefore, to calculate an accurate price per ounce, divide the cost by 715. A bag weights a little under 55 pounds on a bathroom scale.

CMI ships all 90% bags it sells from its Phoenix office. We do not drop ship 90% coins. (In fact, CMI rarely drop ships any orders.) A drop shipment occurs when the selling dealer has another dealer ship the coins to the buyer. This saves the selling firm postage. CMI does not drop ship because we go though all 90% coins before shipping and replace any excessively worn or otherwise damaged coins. Furthermore, we do not ship in $1,000 bags because they are heavy and burdensome. When a client buys $1,000 face 90% coins from CMI, we ship in two new $500 bags. We will ship in still smaller bags for those clients so wanting.


Typically, a bag of 90% silver dimes consists mostly of Roosevelt dimes, with Mercury dimes making up the rest. Invariably, Mercury dimes (sometimes called Winged Head) show more wear than Roosevelt dimes due to the longer time they functioned as money. A bag of all Mercury dimes sells at a premium over a bag of circulated dimes.

Occasionally, a bag of dimes yields a few Barber coins. Rarely do the older Draped Bust (1796-1807), Capped Bust (1809-1837), or Seated Liberty (1837-1891) designs appear in circulated bags.


Bags of quarters contain mostly Washington type coins with a few Standing Liberty types and still fewer Barber types. Invariably, Standing Liberty and Barber coins will be quite worn, but sometimes a bag will contain a few of these older coins with readable dates. Rarely will a bag yield any Seated Liberty coins (1838-1891).


A bag of pre-1965 half-dollars normally contains equal amounts of Kennedy and Franklin types, with a smattering of Walking Liberty coins, and maybe a few Barber halves. Promotions, however, can cause one coin to rise in price relative to the other types. As with dimes and quarters, occasionally a Barber-designed half dollar will show up in a bag. Rarely will a bag contain the older Seated Liberty types (1839-1891).

Typically, half-dollars sell at higher prices than dimes and quarters. Orders for bags of all one type will boost the price still higher. Half-dollars carry a premium over dimes and quarters because fewer were minted and they are popular promotional pieces. Except for the Walking Liberty coins, half-dollars show less wear than do dimes and quarters.

Although a $1,000 face bag is a standard unit for circulated coins, smaller quantities, such as half bags ($500 face value), quarter bags ($250 face), and 1/10th bags ($100 face), are commonly sold. For investors wanting to invest a specific amount of money, CMI will cut (count out) the number of coins to fill the order.

Because of their small sizes, circulated 90% coins offer convenience in selling; they can be liquidated as full bags, as fractional bags, or a few coins at a time. Additionally, pre-1965 coins were minted to serve as a circulating medium, a job they did very well until the 1960s. For those investors who fear the dangers of our present fiat paper money, pre-1965 coins make an appropriate investment for these coins could again function as money.

Uncirculated Pre-1965 U.S. 90% Silver Coins

Common-date pre-’65 silver coins in uncirculated condition carry premiums over circulated bags, sometimes $500-$700 a bag. Bags containing coins of only one date carry still higher premiums. The 1964 Kennedy half-dollar is the most popular uncirculated 90% coin.

For ordering instructions, visit our Web page Doing Business with Certified Mint, Inc. Or, for prices, call CMI at 1-800-528-1380. We take orders 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MST, Mondays through Fridays.

U.S. Silver Dollars-Minted 1878-1904 and 1921-1935

U.S. silver dollars are the most widely collected coins in the world. Additionally, thousands of people who do not consider themselves coin collectors have invested in bags of silver dollars, and countless millions more have small quantities of silver dollars stuck away in drawers and Mason jars.

Nicknamed cartwheels, silver dollars carry two designs. The ones minted 1878-1904 and in 1921 are called Morgans, after George T. Morgan who designed them. Peace dollars, struck 1921-1935, were so named to commemorate the end of World War I.

Silver dollars fall into three groups:

Like dimes, quarters, and half-dollars, silver dollars were minted of an alloy of 90% silver and 10% copper with each coin containing a net silver content of .77344 ounce; therefore, 1,000 coins contained 773.44 ounces of silver when minted. By contrast, $1,000 face value of pre-1965 U.S. silver dimes, quarters, or half-dollars contained 723.4 ounces of silver, a difference of fifty ounces.

Because of their rarity, pre-21 Morgans command higher prices than either the ’21 Morgans or the Peace coins. Although quantities of both ’21 Morgans and Peace dollars are readily available, the ’21 Morgans sell at slightly higher prices than Peace Dollars of comparable grades. The premium ’21 Morgans carries over Peace dollars will probably increase further due to the popularity of the Morgan design.

Silver dollars carry big premiums over the value of their silver content. The pre-’21 Morgans carry larger premiums than the ’21 Morgans and the Peace dollars. Obviously, better grade coins have the biggest premiums.

999 Fine Silver Bars

Silver bars, also called ingots, are a popular way to invest in silver. They are uniform in size, making them easy to handle and convenient to store. Additionally, silver bars are compact, which enables investors to secure a great deal of wealth in a relatively small storage area. Bars with recognized hallmarks are readily accepted for resale, making them easy to convert to cash.

The silver bars offered by CMI (and most other dealers) are 999 fine (99.9% pure). 100-oz and 10-oz sizes are the most common. Yet, 50-oz, 25-oz, and 5-oz bars, which were produced in the early 1970s, will surface occasionally.

100-oz silver bars are often called investment bars, because investors who buy them usually do so for investment purposes and may sell when prices rise. These investors generally ignore the survival aspect of owning silver. Investors who want greater flexibility in their silver investments often buy 10-oz bars. A 100-oz silver bar weighs 6.86 pounds on a bathroom scale.

Although Engelhard and Johnson-Matthey bars are two of the worldÂ’s largest refiners, they have not mass-produced silver bars since the mid-1980s. This means Engelhard and J-M bars are available only when other investors sell. However, 100-oz Sunshine Minting and Wall Street Mint bars are readily available. Occasionally, Sheffield (English) and Handy & Harman bars surface.

Silver Eagle Bullion Coins

Privately-minted Silver Eagles are among the most popular 1-oz silver rounds on the market. In reality, they are privately-minted coins, a coin being a “round piece of metal of a known weight and fineness minted for facilitating commerce.”

The obverse (front) of the silver Eagles depicts an eagle flying through the sun, hence they are called Silver Eagles. They are called “privately minted” because they are produced by a private mint. The American Silver Eagles, on the other hand, are struck by the U.S. Mint and are “legal tender,” officially being $1 coins.

One-ounce Silver Eagles were introduced in 1986. They are minted of .999 fine silver and carry a symbolic $1 face value, officially making them Silver Dollars. However, in the precious metals industry, the term Silver Dollar denotes either the Morgan silver dollar or the Peace type silver dollar.

Silver Eagles are dated and come in tubes of twenty, twenty-five to tubes to a box. The minimum order for Silver Eagles is a box of 500, unless smaller quantity is added to another order that meets the minimum. Backdated Silver Eagles (earlier year coins) usually sell at lower premiums than current year Silver Eagles.

If you are considering precious metals for survival purposes and would like to discuss the matter, call us at 800-528-1380. Our normal hours are 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MST, Mondays through Friday. However, we often take calls before 7:00 a.m. and more often after 5:00 p.m. Sometimes we can be found in the office on Saturdays.