Switching the fineness of silver in the annual Silver Proof sets
and America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof set to .999 from the
current .900 would produce significant savings in refining and
manufacturing costs for the U.S. Mint, according to spokesman Michael White.
The move would also open the pool to additional blank vendors,
President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 federal budget
includes a provision to amend Title 31, Section 5112, so that the
dime, quarter dollars and half dollars in the various Silver Proof
sets would be required to be composed of no less than 90 percent
silver, rather than precisely 90 percent silver.
“The big picture is that fabricators that work with .999 fine
silver blanks must charge us more to refine to 90/10 fineness,” White
said, referring to the current 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper
alloy used for the dime, quarter dollar and half dollar in the sets.
“We expect minor cost reductions from consolidating purchasing, die
life improvements and freight savings, but, most importantly, the
change would give us the opportunity to expand our supplier base. Of
course, prices will reflect the increased silver content of the coins.”
Mint officials are not only searching for cost savings, but more
uniformity in the annual silver products, according to White.
Currently, American Eagle silver coins are .999 fine as mandated under
the authorizing Title II, Liberty Coin Act, of the Statue of
Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 99-61, enacted
July 9, 1985.
The 5-ounce silver versions of the America the Beautiful quarter
dollars are .999 fine as mandated by law (the 24.3-millimeter coins in
the Silver Proof sets are .900 fine).
Commemorative silver dollars are .900 fine, as mandated under the
authorizing act for each respective commemorative coin program.
The Silver Coins Proof Set Act of 1990, Public Law 101-585,
authorized the production of annual Proof sets with .900 fine silver
coins in denominations from the dime and higher. The cent and 5-cent
coins would remain in their respective copper-plated zinc and
copper-nickel compositions. The highest denomination struck for
circulation at the time was the half dollar.
The last .900 fine silver coins struck for circulation were dated 1964.
The first Silver Proof sets stemming from the 1990 act weren’t
produced until 1992 because of the Mint’s difficulty in obtaining
sufficient .900 fine silver blanks.
The 1990 act was amended Nov. 6, 2000, by the United States Mint
Numismatic Coin Clarification Act of 2000, Public Law 106-445, sec.
2(a), to eliminate the requirement that dollar coins in these sets be
composed of 90-percent silver. The Sacagawea dollar coins from 2000 to
2008, the Native American dollars of 2009 to date, and the
Presidential dollars of 2007 to date have all been composed of
The Mint has offered multiple different Silver Proof sets since
the program began in 1992.
Proof .900 fine silver quarter dollars were sold in State Quarter
Silver Proof sets from 2004 through 2008; in the Silver Proof set for
the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories quarter dollars;
and beginning in 2010, in the Silver Proof sets for the America the
Beautiful quarter dollar series.
In addition, the U.S. Mint has offered the standard Silver Proof
set every year since 1992.
While the U.S. Mint has not conducted any trial strikes on .999
fine silver blanks in circulating coin sizes, Mint officials are
confident that production of the coins would not cause problems.
“Since we have experience striking some 40 million silver [American]
Eagles every year in .999 silver, we would not anticipate any issues,”
The Mint has also not produced silver test strikes in conjunction
with the Mint’s contracted alternative materials study with Concurrent
Technologies from Johnstown, Pa., since that study is limited to
circulation coinage alternatives.
White said the sourcing of blanks, blank availability and
production scheduling would determine when the Mint could implement
the silver fineness change should the proposed FY 2013 federal budget
pass with the revision intact. ■