With troubled economic conditions already here and expected to get worse in the years ahead, I believe everyone should own some silver bullion. In previous articles I discussed the why of owning silver bullion, and the best silver bullion options to choose. My number one recommendation was, and still is, 90% silver coins. I have recently come to the conclusion that a particular denomination and style of pre-1965 coin is the best silver investing choice within the category of 90% silver coins.
First, let's review the basics of investing in 90% silver coins. Pre-1965 U.S. dimes, quarters, halves, and dollars are 90% silver. Dimes, quarters, and halves were minted with 0.725 troy ounces per one dollar face value. Dollars were minted with 0.7735 troy ounces of silver in each. Circulated dimes, quarters, and halves are generally considered to have 0.715 troy ounces of silver per dollar of face value. Often, these circulated silver coins are referred to as junk silver or junk silver coins.
Some dealers charge a premium if you buy all halves; all fifty cent piece 90% U.S. silver coins. I like half dollars, and would consider paying a small premium for just that reason. However, there is another reason. The premium is charged because circulated halves have a higher silver content than circulated dimes and quarters. If you dust off your high school geometry, this makes sense. The surface area of a half dollar coin is less than the surface area of two quarters or five dimes. Hence, there is less loss of silver due to handling because there is less surface area relative to weight.
The typical premium for halves is ten cents per half, or $20 per $100 face value. With silver at $40 per ounce, that premium equals 0.005 troy ounces of silver. In other words, you are paying for 0.720 troy ounces of silver per dollar face value rather than 0.715.
If you have handled or seen many circulated coins, you have seen some earlier mint year coins that were so badly worn that the date cannot be discerned. But have you ever seen a Kennedy half dollar that is worn? I haven't. Scratched yes, but not worn. That is because the 90% Kennedy halves were minted in 1964. I've not seen a worn 1964 dime or quarter either. Why? Because double-digit inflation hit the U.S. in the 1970s, and silver topped out at $49.50 an ounce in early 1980, and the 90% silver coins were pulled out of circulation. The late mint coins had not been in circulation long enough to wear.
Although I have not yet weighed coins to confirm, it makes perfect sense to me to conclude that circulated Kennedy halves have more silver content than circulated dimes, quarters, and non-Kennedy halves. If a mixed bag of halves has 0.720 troy ounces of silver per dollar face, how much do Kennedy halves contain?
At $40 silver, it may seem like a small thing. But how about when silver investing mania sets in? When the price of silver has been in a bubble for a few years and it is time to cash in, we may well be selling 90% silver coins by weight instead of face value.