So many of the quarters that you can find in circulation today will have some type of silver content, and this means that they can sometimes reach prices at coin shows or auctions that are much higher than their face value.
Because the price of silver changes so quickly, it is a good idea to pay close attention to the markets if you are looking for coins that might contain any of the precious metal.
The Study of Coins
The study of coins is also known as the history of minting. Most coins originated with the ancient Greeks and Romans until reaching the coins we find in the present day, and all of these types of coins are highly correlated with the history of economics and commerce in general.
Some societies, like the ones mentioned earlier, have been using coins as currency for more than 2500 years. We don’t really know which the first civilization was to use coins, but many of the earliest coins were actually alloys. Alloys form stronger physical bonds than individual metals, and they are also less likely to corrode.
Old coins were similar to today’s ones. Coins featured profiles of great leaders or kings, and sometimes they showed scenes of spectacular natural settings. Also, coins quickly became a convenient way of measuring value. They eventually became the standard for conducting business transactions because they were light and easy to transport.
Although we now see other types of monetary systems emerging, such as cryptocurrencies, there is no doubt that the original types of metal coins are still very much used in most countries for daily transactions as well as for other purposes such as coin collecting.
There does not seem to be much slowing down of this type of usage. Most countries have a wide range of different coin denominations, so these combinations can easily be used for small transactions. When the price of precious metals rises above a certain level, the value of the metal used in coins can greatly exceed the face value of the coin itself. The coin values when the price of silver is high can rise far higher than what they seem to be worth.
A Closer Look at Quarters
If you live in Canada or the United States of America, a “quarter” refers to the twenty five-cent coin that you’ll find in circulation. Most coins are composed of a variety of metals, and only certain types of quarters are made from silver.
Coins like the American Eagle One Ounce Palladium Proof and several other uncirculated coins are the collectors’ versions of the official United States Mint palladium bullion coins. You will find three main US quarters with a composition of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.
These were minted by the U.S. Mint and they include the Standing Liberty quarter, the Liberty Head “Barber” quarter, and the Washington quarter. These types of coins will be highlighted later in this article. The U.S. Mint issued these types of silver quarters from 1792 until 1964.
During all of the periods of American numismatic history, silver coins have been minted with any number between 35 and 90 percent silver content. The term “coin silver” can be used at shows to refer to the types of coins minted with a 90 percent silver alloy.
The three original designs of silver quarters represent quite a quick and easy way for new investors to start trading in silver and precious metals in general. They can usually be found in circulation quite widely and they often have very low premiums above the spot value of the silver that is in the coins.
Some Modern Variations
Most modern coins are now produced out of copper and nickel. Most quarters, nickels, and dimes today are made of a Copper-Nickel combination, called a Cupro-Nickel or Cupronickel. This is certainly a cheaper way of producing the coins, but there are also other important uses of Cupronickel that can be found in everyday use.
For example, it replaced pure silver for reasons other than those of value. It also resists corrosion better and it is a particularly durable type of metal. Some popular modern quarters that have become collectible coins are those in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program.
The obverse (heads) side has the same profile of George Washington that has been used on the quarter since 1932. The reverse (tails) side has shown five designs each year that depict national parks and sites from all of the 50 states, and even from some U.S. territories.
Junk Silver Quarters
A different category entirely includes older coins. Circulated quarters minted before 1965 are sometimes referred to as “90% silver” or “junk silver”. This term refers to circulated coins in a wide range of conditions. It doesn’t include collectible coins which show minimal degrees of wear and tear and may be intentionally graded.
“Junk silver” refers to all silver coins that can be found in fair circulation which are not collectible and have no numismatic value. The term only refers to the type of coin and the base metal content, and not at all to the actual value of the silver they contain because this value is highly volatile.
Junk silver coins are worth about the melt value, which refers to the “spot” or market price of silver, as well as the amount of pure silver content that is in the coin. There are not usually high premiums for these coins because they can be found in large quantities and this makes them less appealing to collectors.
Another useful thing about junk silver coins is bartering. If the US dollar had to completely crash, silver can be an excellent investment hedge. A fiat currency collapse could happen at any time. The small size and weight of 90% silver quarters make them perfect for trading. With the quarter value as well as the silver value, you can easily exchange the coins for low-cost things like groceries.
Just remember that junk silver coins can be very popular with silver investors because they offer a portable combination that is hard to find in other coins. The coins are official government tender and they can be obtained at a low cost at auctions or coin shows, or even online through special coin distribution companies that can be found with a quick search engine query.
Types of United States Quarter Dollars
As discussed earlier, there have been three main quarter dollar coins minted by the U.S. Mint over the years, and these include coins like the Standing Liberty quarter, the Liberty Head “Barber” quarter, and the Washington quarter. We’ll now take a look at the characteristics of each of these US coins in greater detail.
Type #1: The Standing Liberty Quarter
The Standing Liberty quarter was minted from 1916. A prominent sculptor named Hermon Atkins MacNeil submitted the initial design. Standing Liberty quarters remained in production until the year 1930 when it was decided that they be discontinued.
The Philadelphia Mint was the main facility producing these quarters, but some of them were made in San Francisco and Denver. This coin has the same weight and size specifications as the “Barber” silver quarter that we’ll look at below. It is made of the same 90% silver, 10% copper alloy and contains 0.179 troy ounces of silver.
The obverse of the coin features a portrait of the Standing Lady Liberty. There is a shield in her left hand and an olive branch in her right with the inscription “Liberty” above the portrait. On the reverse, the coin shows an eagle in flight. The “United States of America” inscription is at the top and “Quarter Dollar” is at the bottom. The “E Pluribus Unum” inscription and 13 stars are on the reverse.
Type #2: The Liberty Head “Barber” Quarter
In 1892, the Liberty Head “Barber” quarter was introduced with all of the rest of the Barber series of coins, which included a half dollar, dime, and nickel. The designs for all four of these types of coins were created by Charles Barber, who was then the main engraver with the United States Mint.
Few artists applied to design the coins since only the winner of the contest would be awarded a cash prize. Barber was the one chosen as the artist after the competition. The minting began in 1892 and the new coins were met with suspicion from the public, so the coins were actually replaced in 1916 by the Standing Liberty quarter after their minimum term expired.
On the obverse, the coins show the head of Lady Liberty as well as the inscription “United States of America.” The year of mintage is found beneath the portrait of Liberty. The denomination is stamped on the reverse side of the coin within a wreath. The coin weighs 6.25 grams with a 24.3 mm diameter. The silver content in each coin is 0.179 troy oz, which allows for some regular wear and tear.
Type #3: The Washington Quarter
In 1932, the silver Washington quarter came into circulation. Large-scale production continued until the coins became copper-nickel alloys in 1965. The Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon chose the original design by renowned sculptor John Flanagan.
The coin was introduced on August 1, 1932, to mark the 200-year date (or bicentennial) since the birth of George Washington. Several extensive redesigns were made in the years before the coin was retired in 1965. In 1976, a special edition was issued to mark 200 years of the United States.
Since then, the coin’s design has been featured in several of the most common coin collections, such as the America the Beautiful series of coins. The original coin features a bust of George Washington on the obverse, with the inscriptions “Liberty” above the bust, the issue date below the bust, and “In God We Trust” to the right.
The mint mark can also be found on the right side. The reverse side shows a bald eagle with “E Pluribus Unum” and “United States of America” above the words “Quarter Dollar”.
Making Investments with Silver Quarters
All coins up to 1964 were made with 90 percent silver, which makes owning these quarters a good way to invest in silver. Junk silver is a very good option for silver investors. The coins command a small premium above the spot price of silver and are easily available.
For investors who want highly liquid and easy to trade silver at low cost, these quarters are quite hard to beat. Along with junk silver dimes, quarters remain an affordable way to buy silver bullion. All three designs of silver quarter coins are still widely available. Despite the “junk” nickname that is still used in the industry, these kinds of quarters remain very popular with investors and they will always be easy to trade.
Which Other Types of Coins Are Silver?
In the United States, there are sometimes a wide range of foreign silver coins that you’ll find in circulation. The most common of all of these are the 80% Canadian silver coins. These types of coins, including quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars, were mostly minted between the years 1920 and 1967.
Before 1920, the 92.5% pure (.925 fine) sterling silver standard was used for all British coins. There are many proof sets and commemorative coins that have been issued by the US Mint. Limited quantities of these coins still contain 90% silver today.
The most important thing to know is that all coins minted in the USA by the year 1964 or earlier were made of 90% silver. This is a key date to remember if you ever decide to invest in silver coins. Some other coins like the Kennedy half dollar and the Eisenhower dollar are made of 40% silver.
These coins can have very specific dates and the value of the coins is often determined by the date of mintage. You can sometimes find proof coins like these at certain types of coin dealers and at special coin shows, and they can be valuable collector’s items to have in your possession.
Using Silver Quarters as an Investment
If you pay attention to any of the information we’ve discussed here, you’ll quickly realize that the question of how much a silver quarter can be worth is that it depends on a wide range of factors. Knowing which types of quarters to keep can be the key when it comes to having a large collection of valuable coins.
With the increasing market volatility of the past few years, silver quarters have become very convenient investment instruments. The coins are easy to carry and they can be quickly exchanged for a wide range of other goods. If you happen to own any silver quarters, try to hang onto those as long as you possibly can.
They might be one of your best hedges against inflation or a rapidly weakening currency. Along with other precious metals like gold and platinum, silver can really be one of the most valuable substances that you can own. We think it is a really good idea to have a small box in your home where you can easily stow away any of your silver quarters whenever you happen to find them.