September 12, 2022

Collecting silver coins can be a fascinating and engaging hobby. For some, it can also be a way to turn a profit from an enjoyable pastime, while others invest in precious metals with the sole aim of generating returns.

Silver coins offer a wealth of opportunities for both collectors and investors. What kind of silver coins should you be looking for? That depends on what you want to get out of them.

Collectors love to learn the ins and outs of every type of coin. Whether you’re interested in starting a silver coin collection or you have inherited one and are thinking about selling coins, this guide will introduce you to the most common silver coins and how to sell them for the best possible price.

The Five Types of Silver Coins

Those who are interested in finding collectible coins either as a hobby or as an investment should know that there are generally five types of silver coins. Four of these types are considered rare and valuable, and the fifth is much more common and not as lucrative.

Numismatic Coins

While the large majority of coins derive their value from their precious metal content, there are a rare few that attract the attention of serious coin collectors. For one reason or another, these are coins that have attracted a certain amount of attention. It could be a limited mintage, an error in the minting process, or a unique variation.

Commemorative Coins

Around the world, mints will issue commemorative coins to celebrate a major occasion or national heritage. For example, some of the themes currently celebrated on Royal Canadian Mint coins include:

These coins feature unique and often fascinating designs, and they can make incredible gifts and fascinating additions to any collection.

Collectors should be wary of a number of aggressively-marketed commemorative product lines from private refiners. At best, these coins have limited after-market value among other collectors, and at worst, they can be misleading about their actual bullion content. Always make sure you confirm the precious metal content before purchasing a coin!

Proof Coins

In the past, proof coins were made as a way of checking the dies used to mint coins or to archive coin designs. Today, proof coins are made by mints with the intention of selling them to collectors. They are often made using special dies and have a unique cameo effect featuring frosted, matte-finished images against a brilliant, mirror-like background.

Uncirculated Coins

These include any coins that have not been released to the public. They may have been released in special collector sets, or they were coins that were released to the public but were purchased directly from the bank by a collector and never introduced to the money supply. Uncirculated coins do not show the usual signs of being handled.

The condition of uncirculated coins is important. If you’re looking for tips for selling your coins and you have uncirculated silver, start with learning how to properly store and handle coins like these so that you do not disturb their condition.

Junk Silver

These are circulated coins that were once made with real silver. That includes Canadian and American dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars. In the U.S., these coins were minted with silver until 1965, while in Canada, the practice ended in 1967.

There are individuals who earn money tracking down and selling coins minted before these dates, but the real value tends to be in discovering rare, numismatic coins among the junk.

Older silver coins from around the world

Valuable Numismatic Silver Coins

The majority of the silver coins you encounter will derive their value from their bullion content, but there are exceptions. Part of the joy of collecting coins is learning about rare coins, finding what resonates with you, and making your own discoveries.

While you’ll have to find out more about rare coins on your own, these examples are meant to illustrate what kind of coins tend to garner interest from collectors and can be sold for prices higher than what the bullion alone would get on the market.

Morgan Silver Dollars

The Morgan Silver Dollar is an American circulation coin that was minted from 1878 to 1904, as well as again in 1921. In 2021, a special uncirculated edition was minted and released.

Morgan Silver Dollars are an excellent example of the kinds of coins that attract collectors. The value of any one of them depends on the condition, rarity, and the year it was minted. Not all years are equal, and the condition can have a major impact on the price. Notable sales have happened in the hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars for the right pieces.

2008-W American Eagle Silver Coins

This is a great example of a coin that’s become valuable because of an error. The American Eagle Silver Coin is a high-purity bullion coin that is often one of the first choices for bullion investors, but this one comes with a difference. The U.S. Mint released 47,000 American Eagle Silver coins for 2008 with older reverse dies that said 2007.

The difference between these coins and the previous year’s 2007 issue comes down to a spur in the letter “u” found on the reverse. These kinds of errors can quickly become intriguing to collectors.

World Numismatic Bullion

Coins from around the world can add fascinating and unique designs to your collection. Some mints around the world cater to collectible markets with bold designs and less of a focus on national heritage and symbols important to their own country. Some of the more popular mints in world numismatics include the Poland Mint, the Cameroon Mint, and the Niue Mint, among others.

Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

The highly-valuable 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar isn’t going to turn up in your spare change anytime soon, but it may be the single most expensive coin ever sold. The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar is believed by some to be the first silver dollar struck by the U.S. Mint.

It features Lady Liberty in profile and the American eagle on the reverse. Only 1,800 were ever produced, and it’s estimated that only 120 to 130 survive today. One sold for over $10 million in 2013 at auction.

Three commemorative silver coins from the Royal Canadian Mint

Storage and Cleaning: Caring for your Silver Coins

Once you begin to put together a silver coin collection, you want to know the proper measures for cleaning and storing your coins.

The best way to store silver coins is to protect them from both air and sunlight. Use plastic tubes and sleeves to keep coins away from the open air, which can contain gases that cause tarnishing. Keep them in a safe or safety deposit box away from sunlight, which can also cause colour changes.

As a general rule, it is not recommended that you clean your coins. Many collectors consider a coin that has been cleaned to be damaged. Rather than improving the condition as you may have hoped, you can wind up ruining the value of a collectible coin.

Some collectors may want to clean their coins out of personal preference, potentially because they want to display their collection or just for personal enjoyment. It can also be a good way to get a young collector started with some everyday circulation coins, such as junk silver with no numismatic value. Bullion dealers typically melt these down for silver content anyway or resell them as-is in mixed lots. Here’s how you can clean them:

  • Avoid using polish or chemical dips, as this can cause permanent damage to the coin.
  • Wash your own hands to remove oil and dirt before you begin.
  • Lay down a clean, soft towel to dry off coins.
  • Fill a plastic container with warm water and a gentle dish soap, as well as a second rinse bath.
  • Immerse the coins in soapy water to loosen dirt particles, then rinse under running water to remove them.
  • Rinse the coins in your distilled water rinse.
  • Pat dry with the towel, preferably one that is cotton or microfiber.

Remember that cleaning silver coins can alter or damage them. Cleaning silver coins is a matter of personal preference and not recommended if you intend on reselling them, especially if they have numismatic value and could be valuable to collectors.

Tips for Selling Silver Coins

Selling your silver coins can feel intimidating, especially if you’re confident in what it is you have. This often happens to people who have received a silver coin collection as a gift or as part of an inheritance. Sometimes people overestimate the value of what they have, but in other cases, people may not be sure where to go to get the best value for their collection.

One of the safest ways to sell silver coins is to take them to a bullion dealer with a robust knowledge of numismatics. Bullion dealers will buy just about anything with gold or silver content, and they’ll base their prices on market rates for the metal. Those rates may frequently change along with the market, which is important to keep in mind if you’re going to compare quotes.

The advantage of selling silver to Muzeum is that we have an extensive database of collectors, and we are always looking to add numismatic coins while also paying top prices for gold and silver bullion coins. We are always looking for coins minted worldwide and helping collectors add numismatic coins, commemorative coins, and bullion to their collections.

Because of our database of collectors, we can offer better prices for commemorative and numismatic coins, not just bullion. Other buyers, such as pawnbrokers or straightforward cash-for-gold (or silver) businesses, may not have the expertise to recognize more valuable collectible coins or the resources to find the right market for them.

When you bring your silver coin collection into Muzeum, we provide a free evaluation of your silver. Connecting with the right buyer makes all the difference when you’re selling a coin collection.

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