Silver, so long an element of pocket change that many people still refer to their dimes and quarter dollars as “silver,” is now found mostly in special coins sold as a bullion store of value or as collectibles. The removal of precious metal from circulating coins began in the 1940s in several countries and accelerated during the 1960s.
From the mid-1960s until silver bullion coins were developed in the 1980s, collectors looking for slivers of silver at affordable prices had few options.
The United States famously adopted copper-nickel clad coinage in 1965, striking 1964-dated silver coinage well into the new year while making the transition.
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By this point, most other countries had already eliminated or drastically reduced the use of silver for coinage.
Once silver departed circulating coinage in the 1960s, collector and investor choices were limited to older, often worn coins with bullion content or private bullion issues.
Then came the birth of the silver bullion coin, now one of the more avidly collected forms of the metal worldwide.
Not all silver bullion coins are created equal, though, and buyers must be aware of the differences to make educated purchases. For example, not all coins are of the same fineness. Also, while some silver bullion coin mintages are unlimited, some are struck in smaller numbers and may carry higher prices as a collector premium.
In addition, some mints change the design of their silver bullion coins every year to create fresh interest in the series, while others rely on the constancy of a standard flagship design.
What are bullion coins?
Bullion coins are governmentally issued pieces whose value is intended to be based on their precious metal content. The market value of that precious metal is generally much higher than any face value the pieces may carry as a formality.
While most coin collecting guides stress that collecting should be for fun, with potential for profit only an ancillary benefit, that suggestion does not apply equally to bullion coins acquired for investment.