What Are Junk Coins?

Junk coins are commonly sold by coin dealers as well as those dealing in precious metals. But what exactly is a junk coin? Basically, a junk coin refers to a coin that does not have collector value. In most cases, a junk coin is an American silver coin minted before 1965. These silver coins, the dime, quarter, half-dollar and silver dollar, are 90% silver. In 1965, the US Mint changed over to a primarily copper composition with enough nickel to give the coins the traditional silver appearance.

Bullion vs. Numismatic

Coin collectors seek coins that are rare and in good condition. Coins that are valued due to either rareness or condition, or a combination of both, are considered numismatic coins. Bullion coins are coins that have value due to their precious metal content. A mercury head dime from the 1930’s in perfect (mint) condition would have value as a numismatic coin, while the same coin with significant damage would only have value due to its silver content. To coin collector, the 1930’s mercury dime in poor condition is ‘junk’ as a collectable, hence the term ‘junk coin’. The terms bullion coin and junk coin are interchangeable.

Junk Bags

Junk coins are often sold in bags. The bags are priced based on the face value of the coins, meaning that a $100 junk bag would contain silver coins that add up to a value of $100. As of this writing, a $100 junk silver coin bag would sell for a little over $2000. Junk silver bags are a convenient investment for precious metal investors as the bags generally sell very close to the spot value of the coins. The bags, or even some of the coins from the bag, can be sold quickly to convert the investment back into cash.

Nickels and Pennies

Nickels are made of a mix of primarily copper and some nickel and do not contain silver. The exception is that some nickels made during World War II (1942 through 1945) were made with a 40% silver composition. As an aside, the current scrap value of the copper and nickel in a nickel is just about 5 cents. As the prices of copper and nickel fluctuate, on some days those nickels in your pocket are worth more than a nickel. Pre-1983 pennies are made of almost pure copper. The value of these coins fluctuates with the value of copper, but these real copper pennies have enough copper content to be worth two or three cents each.

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