Numismatic or semi-numismatic silver coins are older or rarer coins, purchased not solely for their silver content, but also for their rarity and collectability, and if you are considering these as investments, then you must be prepared to do a considerable amount of research and become something of an expert, before rushing off to buy your first coins. I cannot stress enough that this is a specialist area, akin to fine works of art, or antique furniture. Collectors buy for all sorts of reasons, and not least to follow trends in the market which come and go like any other. Part of the appeal of investing in such coins is that the leverage of rarity or appeal will increase and speed up your return on the pure silver content, rather than simply buying silver bullion coins, but as with everything, risk and reward go hand in hand. Get it right and you will do very well, get it wrong and you will have done better by investing in simple bullion coins! So where do you start in your search for the best numismatic or semi-numismatic silver coins to consider?

If we start with some background history, the date to remember for US coins is 1964. All silver coins up to and including that year were minted with 90% silver content and 10% copper, and from 1965 onwards almost all coins were minted with no silver content at all. The 90% coins are often referred to as “junk silver” and are  sold by the bag with a face value of $1000 and of mixed coins. These bags generally weigh around 55 pounds and yield a pure silver content of around 715 troy ounces. As you would expect there are literally thousands of different types of coins to buy for investment, and if you are new to the subject then please do read around the subject first. There are hundreds of web sites dedicated to coin buying and collecting so there is no lack of information available. If you are a novice or very new to investing in collectible silver coins, then you might be wondering where to start as it can be extremely confusing, but as with buying silver bullion coins, there is no need to rush. The dealers, buyers and sellers will all be there tomorrow or next week and spot silver prices are not going to rocket in the short term, so take your time. In order to help you get started, I have picked three silver coins which would be a good point to start your silver coin investing education, as they are all very well known, have a great pedigree, and will retain their value as they are always in demand. Now before you start, please be aware of several common mistakes that most investors make when investing in both silver and gold coins which are as follows :

  1. You will probably pay well over the odds for your first few coins. Paying 10% over for a high quality silver coin is fine, paying 50% over for a poor quality is not! Do you research and buy carefully and thoughtfully, and my first suggestion to avoid this problem is to buy a good book and study the subject first in depth, concentrate on a limited number of coins and get to know them well.
  2. Never buy from an intermediary acting for someone, as you will always pay over the odds by some margin ( in both senses) – always buy direct from the owner or dealer
  3. Always buy professionally graded coins with as high a grading as possible, and ONLY those graded by PCGS ( Professional Coin Grading Service) or the NGC ( Numismatic Grading Corporation) – all other grading services are of variable quality. If your coin is graded by the above, then it will be accepted and recognised worldwide. My suggestion would be to only buy those at or above an MS 65 grade. The term MS simply means ” mint state” and coins are graded between 60 and 70 according to their condition and wear, with 70 being the highest i.e. no signs of wear and in mint condition.
  4. Your knowledge when you start will be very limited. Admit this fact and start to build a relationship with a dealer. If they see that you are serious and have the potential to be a long term client, then most will give advice freely, and help to guide you in the right direction. After all, it will be in their interest to make sure you are happy with your investments so that you buy more.
  5. Don’t over invest. In the short term your investments may not be profitable as you have to recover the dealing margins and other costs – be patient and build up slowly.
  6. If a coin looks too good to be true, then it is !
  7. Finally, always buy the best quality you can afford  – it may seem expensive at the time but in the long run a high quality coin will always hold its value and market demand, better than one of lesser quality which may have been cheaper. So always buy the highest grade of coin you can afford.

So my top three silver coins for you to get started with are as follows ( and not in any particular order ) :

Silver Barber Half Dollar Coin

Silver Barber Half Dollar Coin

The first is known as the Barber half dollar, after the designer Charles E Barber, the US mint engraver, and was the last US coin series to have the same design on the dime, quarter and half dollar. The face value is of course 50 cents and was minted between 1892 and 1915, with a silver content of 0.36169 troy ounces. The  Barber half dollar is also referred to as the Liberty head half, and consists of 73 regular issues, plus one very rare coin, the 1892 micro O, an error in the minting which was soon noticed and corrected. The error occurred due to an incorrect punch size being used. As the total mint was only 390,000, these “micro O” coins, as they are referred to, are extremely rare. The Barber half dollar has a very buoyant market for both buyers and sellers, and coins can be purchased for a few dollars in the lower grades, possibly for as little as $20 for a G condition. However for the high grade MS 64 and 65 and above, you will be looking to pay several thousand dollars for each coin. As I said earlier, quality will cost, but you pay for what you get – whilst lower grade coins are widely available and can be bought on the internet very easily, investing in the high grade coins makes more sense for the long term as they will always hold their value due to their rarity and condition. If you do decide to start with this coin, only buy MS or NGC grade coins, and buy from a reputable dealer, face to face. The low mintage years are 1909, 1913, 1914 and 1915, so any coins in these years in mint state condition will be more expensive still, but remember, rarity and quality will pay you dividends in the long term.

Seated Silver Liberty Dollar

Seated Silver Liberty Dollar

My second suggestion is known as the Seated Liberty Silver Dollar coin, minted between 1840 and 1873. The coin was designed by Christian Gobrecht, and is named after the obverse design of Lady Liberty seated holding the Union shield reverse design. The composition is 90% silver and 10% copper, with a silver content of 0.77344 troy ounces. Mint marks appear beneath the eagle’s talons on the reverse and identify the mint where the coin was struck – CC is Carson City, S is San Francisco, O is for New Orleans, and blank is Philadelphia.  For those of you looking for rarity, look for the 1870-S, of which only 12- 15 are known, but the rarest by far is the 1851-O, a single coin which has never been offered for sale. As an example of their value, an 1870-S was recently sold for 1.3 million US dollars! Other years that were limited for various reasons and therefore offer rarity opportunities, include 1851, 1852, 1858 , 1871-CC, 1872-CC, and 1873-CC. Now clearly you do not have to spend this kind of money to buy, and much cheaper high grade examples are readily available, but I thought it was worth mentioning, just to give an idea of how rarity and grade can dramatically affect the price of what essentially is the same coin, but from a different year. To come back to reality, the most readily available specimens are the 1871 and 1872 Philadelphia strikes. During the Civil War, precious metals like silver and gold were scarce, and so very few silver coins were produced during these years. The seated Liberty Dollar is a popular coin among collectors, as it would be very difficult, if not impossible and extremely expensive, to accumulate an entire set, as you can see!

Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

My last suggestion for starting your investment in silver coins would be Morgan dollars. Minted between 1878 and 1904 ( it made a brief reappearance in 1921), the Morgan dollar is named after its designer George T Morgan who designed both the Liberty on the front, and the eagle design on the reverse. Morgan silver dollars contain 0.77344 troy ounces of silver with 90% silver and 10% copper. The Morgan dollar has an interesting history, and was the first silver coin to be produced following the demonetisation of silver five years earlier in 1873, following the law re-instating silver for use in coins often referred to as the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. As with the Seated Liberty Silver Dollar, the coins were minted at the Philadelphia mint ( no mark) Carson City Mint (CC) , the New Orleans mint ( O) and the San Francisco mint (S), and additionally at the Denver mint ( D). The coins were initially minted in large quantities with more coins being struck than were actually needed, and as a result the government stored large quantities until 1918, when under the Pittman Act almost 300 million of these beautiful silver dollars were melted down, increasing the rarity and value of those still in circulation. Of all the mints, the Carson City mint runs hold the most value due to their low runs. The three most valuable coins are the 1889 CC, the 1893 S, and the 1895 proof. As with all the coins mentioned above, you can pay anything from a few dollars to several hundred thousand, depending on the grade and year, but as an example, the 1893 S MS67 is currently listed as 1million us dollars in the PCGS guide, but an 1897 S of the same grade is quoted as 1,000 dollars! Investing in silver coins can be a great hobby as well as a serious investment, but before you start, I would suggest that you have a very clear idea of your investment objectives and buy accordingly.