HomeResourcesA Brief History of Silver Content in Silver Coins

A Brief History of Silver Content in Silver Coins

A Brief History of Silver Content in Silver Coins - Royal Bull

It’s hard to imagine nowadays, but our descendants used to pay for goods and services with small discs of silver. Silver, even centuries ago, held incredible value and was relatively accessible.

For thousands of years, silver coins were the standard. But as the cost of silver continued to rise, so did the amount of money that governments were paying to acquire silver essential for their coinage. Something had to give, and that happened in the 1800s and early 1900s when mints began to mix an increasingly large quantity of copper into their coins. 

At first, this occurred primarily to give strength to the coin, but as copper costs lowered and silver costs increased, a trend was launched that ultimately led to the complete disuse of all silver in circulation coins in the mid-1900s.

United States of America Silver Coins

In the U.S.A., official coins with silver content began production in 1794 with the launch of the Coinage Act and ended in 1964 with another Coinage Act. The Coinage Act of 1792 launched the US Mint and started with the following metals with their styles and denominations:

Copper: half-cent and cent

Silver: half dime, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar

Gold: quarter eagle ($2.50), half eagle ($5), and eagle ($10)Source

During World War 2, the Mint produced “war nickels” made with only 35% silver to assist the war effort. Many coins reduced their silver content, which mostly ended in 1964. Half-dollar coins became only 40% silver, and from 1971 on, all silver was removed from production. 

Shop for U.S. Mint silver coins

Australia Silver Coins

Australia produced its first coins in 1910, including the threepence, which was sterling silver. In 1946, these silver coins were debased to 50% silver, and after the switch to the dollar in 1966 with the opening of the Royal Australian Mint, the last silver coin for circulation was produced

Although it was a 50-cent coin it actually had more silver value than face value. Many wise people scooped up large quantities of these coins and either melted them down or hoarded them as investments.

Shop for Australian silver coins

United Kingdom Silver Coins

Britain has a long history of silver coin production and distribution, with the first mint established in the year 886. As recently as the early 1700s, pennies produced by the Royal Mint were still made of silver! 

Shortly after WW2, Great Britain’s substantial war debt meant that they needed to reduce costs. It was agreed that the silver content of their coins was to be reduced from the standard 92.5% to only 50%. By 1971, there was no silver content in British coins. 

Shop for Royal Mint silver coins

Canadian Silver Coins

The Royal Canadian Mint produced 80% pure silver coins for circulation from 1935 to 1966, when which time it became too costly to produce them longer. 

One particular coin, the Canadian half-dollar silver coin, was issued from 1870 to 1919 and contained .925 sterling silver. But as time passed and costs increased the purity was lowered to 80% (with 20% copper) until 1967 when all silver was removed. 

When all was seemingly lost, in 1988 the Royal Canadian Mint’s famous Silver Maple Leaf silver coin was launched with a new industry purity high of 99.99% silver. It is now one of the most highly revered silver coins in the world!

Shop for Royal Canadian Mint silver coins

Mexican Silver Coins

Mexico’s first peso was minted 200 years ago in 1823. It contained 90.3% silver and stayed that way until 1920 when the silver content was reduced to 72% silver. By 1957, the once beautiful silver coins only contained 10% and in 1967 all silver was removed from the minting process.

Shop for Mexico City Mint silver coins

There is Value in 90% and 80% Silver Coins

Mints produce pure silver coins today primarily for collecting and investing purposes. Although they have legal tender, few actually enter circulation since the silver content is always worth more than the face value of the silver coin.

There are many other factors that influence the value of a coin besides the face value. These include the silver coin’s rarity, history, demand and individual coin condition, so although you may have a 50-cent coin with “only” 90% silver, be sure to do your research to better understand its true value.

Buy Your 90% Silver Coins and 80% Silver Coins from Royal Bull

Your Canadian silver coin experts have access to 90% and 80% silver coins – and many others. Reach out to us and we will help answer your questions and be your one-stop shop for silver coins of all purity levels.