US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Feb. 25, 2019

The 2019-P Apollo 11 50th Anniversary silver dollar is the first U.S. commemorative silver dollar struck in .999 fine silver instead of the standard 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper alloy.

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

An era has ended with the United States Mint’s abandonment of the 90 percent silver composition for its commemorative coins and the Proof collector versions of circulating denominations.

We had the first inkling that changes were coming when it was revealed that the 1.5-inch 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative silver dollar would be composed of .999 fine silver rather than the traditional alloy of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.

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.

This coin, along with the 5-ounce silver dollar in the same program, were the first U.S. commemorative coins made of pure silver rather than the 90 percent alloy. The production of these two coins, however, was only the first step in a broader change.

All of the Proof silver versions of the Roosevelt dime, America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and Kennedy half dollar now will be struck on .999 fine silver planchets rather than planchets of the 90 percent silver alloy used for those denominations since the 1830s. 

Collectors received their first opportunity to acquire the new composition quarter dollars Feb. 21 with the release of the five-coin 2019-S America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof set.

In recent years, the U.S. composition of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper has become something of an oddity among the world’s collector coinage. Collectors and investors tend to prefer coins of pure silver to those of a lesser silver content.

The decision to change the composition under authority granted the Mint in December 2015 shows that its leaders are responding to the demands of a global market. Sometimes, traditions should end.

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