Photo: Creative Commons License by Muffet
Continuing with my thoughts on money, currency, and gold… I thought I’d write about silver a bit. In my earlier post on Gold Value, Investing and Risks, I mentioned USD ‘silver certficates’ which preceded the USD federal reserve notes.
There are still a few of those silver certificates around, in the hands of collectors. They were withdrawn from general circulation in the mid-1960’s as I recall. That was about the time the price of silver went up and the value of the silver in our coins became more than the face value of the coins, so the US Mints stopped making silver coins. I read somewhere that when silver was $16/ounce, the silver value of our then-silver dime was over $1 in value by weight of the silver.
People began saving their silver coins as the newer alloyed coins were minted. When many folks were preparing for Y2K, it was advised to look for silver coins in case our economy collapsed. Those old silver coins usually have no value to a coin collector except for the silver value. Those coins are called ‘junk silver’, and even today an occasional silver coin will show up in circulating change. (I once found an old US half-dime in some change; they were minted from 1792-1873. I had it in my jewelry box with some buffalo nickels and my baby sister bought ice-cream from the ice-cream truck with them.)
My grandfather always carried 2 silver dollars in his pocket. One was minted the year he was born, and the other was minted the year my grandmother was born. I got them when he died, but when all my jewelry was stolen a few years later, the coins were in the box. I bought one replacement, his birth year (1882) several years ago, in just ordinary circulating condition, and I paid something like $20 for it. Probably cost about that to replace it today as that year Morgan Silver dollars were plentiful except the ones with the "CC" mint mark.
Silver has fluctuated a lot in USD value over my adult years, from around $2 to almost $23 a troy ounce. Today as I write this, it is $16.62.
The US Mint issued Kennedy half-dollars in the mid-1960’s that had an inner core of 79% copper and 21% silver, and clad with an outer layer of 80% silver/20% copper. They were the last US Mint coins containing any silver; their total silver content was 40%. Our current half dollar coin has a metal value of about 8¢.
Pennies from 1909-1982 were 95% copper (except for the 1943 steel WWII penny), and worth almost 2¢ in copper today. Pennies since 1982 are 97.5% zinc and worth about half a cent in metal value. The few folks who do small metal castings (like sand castings) can melt pennies along with some aluminum cans and some copper wire for a very inexpensive homemade alloy that has a low melt point for casting small parts.
If you want to see the historical (and current) price of silver, check here.
One thing does concern me a bit… should a catastrophic event occur, would our government confiscate our silver and gold coins they way the Patriot Act says they can (including confiscation of food stores and other items) in much the same way Roosevelt confiscated gold in 1933?
Of course, you could invest in gold foil-covered chocolate 'coins' like the photo above... you can always eat them!