US Coins

U.S. Mint abandons 90 percent silver composition

The U.S. Mint has opted to drop the formerly standard .900 fine silver composition for coins offered as numismatic products in favor of .999 fine silver starting in 2019.

The composition change affects the metallic composition for the Roosevelt dimes, America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and Kennedy half dollars included in annual silver Proof sets, as well as Proof and Uncirculated commemorative silver dollars.

counterfeit 1913-S Indian head, Bison on Plains 5-cent coinInside Coin World: Mint mark key to identifying counterfeit: A fake 1913-S Buffalo nickel, foreign coins pulled from Roosevelt dime rolls and 1873 Seated Liberty half dollars are column topics in the March 11, 2019, issue of Coin World.

Both sizes of the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary silver dollars, struck at the Philadelphia Mint, are the first U.S. commemorative coins struck in the .999 fine silver composition. All previous silver commemoratives are composed of an alloy of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Both a 38.1-millimeter silver dollar and a 3-inch 5-ounce silver version are offered in the Apollo 11 program.

The 5-ounce America the Beautiful bullion coins (offered in numismatic and bullion versions) are also composed of .999 fine silver.

Switching to the .999 fine silver composition for the dime, quarter dollars and half dollar required the U.S. Mint to secure planchet vendors to supply the new standard for those blanks.

The Mint has been striking bullion coins made of .999 fine silver for decades. American Eagle silver dollars have been composed of .999 fine silver since their inception in 1986. Their diameter is 40.6 millimeters, but that for the standard commemorative silver dollar is 38.1 millimeters, meaning that bullion coin planchets cannot be used for commemorative coins. 

The following sets are affected by the compositional change.

The five-coin 2019-S America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof set that went on sale for $36.95 from the U.S. Mint on Feb. 21 contains .999 fine silver quarter dollars celebrating Lowell National Historical Park, American Memorial Park, War in the Pacific National Historical Park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The 10-coin 2019-S Silver Proof set of coins struck at the San Francisco Mint will contain the Roosevelt dime, the five 2019-S America the Beautiful quarter dollars and the Kennedy half dollar all produced in .999 fine silver.

The 2019-S Silver Proof set to be offered by the U.S. Mint this spring and the Limited Edition Silver Proof set in special packaging will contain the same 10 coins as the Silver Proof set, with seven of the coins in .999 fine silver. The Limited Edition silver Proof set should contain an additional .999 fine silver coin, a Proof 2019-S American Eagle silver dollar.

In making the change, Mint executives opted to invoke their legislative prerogative provided under the FAST Act signed into law in December 2015 by President Obama.

The act granted the discretion of issuing coins in “not less than 90 percent silver,” a change from the standard language specifying a 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper content. 

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