Also called “Junk” silver coins, 90% silver coins are a favorite investment of both bullion and coin collectors alike. Each dime, quarter, and half dollar minted by the United States prior to 1965 contains 90% silver and 10% copper. The instant recognizability of these American coins makes them an ideal form of silver for trading and bartering on small scales.
90% silver coins are generally sold in $1,000 face value bags. $1 “face value” is 2 half dollars, 4 quarters, 10 dimes, or some combination thereof. Each $1 face value of 90% silver coins contains .715 troy oz of pure silver. Thus, each 1,000 face bag contains 715 oz of pure silver. (A brand new bag of 90% coins would actually contain closer to 720 oz of purse silver, but most dealers count only 715 oz of silver per bag to account for wear on the coins.)
90% silver bags are typically sold fairly close to the spot price of silver. However, they commanded enormous premiums over spot price just prior to the year 2000, when many investors were afraid of what might happen at Y2K. The premiums collapsed following the Y2K scare, only to see a resurgence during the economic turbulence of late 2008. Currently, premiums over spot vary on 90% coins, depending on the demand.
Because of their small and tradable size and value, many investors expecting political and economic turmoil in the future feel that 90% coins are the ultimate worst-case-scenario silver investment. Also, because no more 90% silver coins will be produced, it is likely that their premium over will increase dramatically if there ever was a large demand for 90% coins.