The average investor prefers to purchase silver coins issued by sovereign mints. These coins are known commodities around the world. Each one features the same weight and metal content with every release year. A central government and/or central bank backs the purity and weight of each, and in most cases issues a nominal face value for the coin even though the value of its silver content outweighs any denominational value. There is great diversity in the silver bullion coin market, with the following coins representing the most popular from mints around the world:
· American Silver Eagle: The official silver bullion coin of the United States, the American Silver Eagle debuted in 1986 with 1 Troy oz of .999 pure silver. The coin features the iconic Walking Liberty design from Adolph A. Weinman on the obverse and the US heraldic shield on the reverse.
· Canadian Silver Maple Leaf: First issued in 1988, the Silver Maple Leaf is Canada's official bullion coinage in silver and contains 1 Troy oz of .9999 pure silver. It was the world's first .9999 pure silver bullion coin and remains one of the few issued with this purity level. On the obverse is an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse features the sugar maple leaf design used on all Canadian Maple Leaf coinage.
· Chinese Silver Panda: Issued regularly as a silver bullion coin since 1989, the Chinese Silver Panda was the first silver bullion coin to use a new design for the obverse image of the Giant Panda. On the reverse, you'll find the Temple of Heaven's Hall of Prayer for Abundant Harvests, a design in use since 1983 when the Silver Panda debuted as a proof silver coin. Today, the Chinese Silver Panda is available as 30 Gram coins with .999 pure silver content.
· British Silver Britannia: The official silver bullion coin of Great Britain, the Britannia coinage debuted in 1997 from the Royal Mint of England. It shares the same obverse and reverse designs as the Gold Britannia. On the obverse is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse features the design of Britannia from Philip Nathan. From 1997 to 2012, the Silver Britannia featured .958 silver purity, but since 2013 it has featured .999 pure silver content.
· Australian Silver Kookaburra: Issued by the Perth Mint, the state-owned mint of Western Australia, the Silver Kookaburra debuted in 1990 and features a new reverse design of the kookaburra species every year. Queen Elizabeth II is depicted on the obverse. The Silver Kookaburra contains 1 Troy oz of .9999 pure silver as of 2017.
· Australian Silver Koala: Also from the Perth Mint, the Silver Koala is another wildlife-themed silver coin for Australia that features the lovable koala marsupial species on the reverse in a different design each year.
· Australian Silver Kangaroo: Issued in 2016 for the first time, the Silver Kangaroo was the Perth Mint's first-ever .9999 pure silver bullion coin. Its reverse side features the famed hopping red kangaroo, while the obverse includes an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
Remember, silver bullion coins are typically available only in 1 Troy oz weights with .999 or .9999 pure silver content. The coins mentioned above are struck every year in an investment-grade option, making them an ideal annual addition to any portfolio.
Gilded Silver Bullion Coins
Available with limited mintage figures, gilded silver bullion coins contain a thin layer of 24-karat gold applied to the primary design on the surface of coins. The layer of 24-karat gold is not enough to alter the overall weight of the coin and does not add significant value to the coin based upon its metal content. However, gilded silver bullion coins do have added numismatic value as a result of the visual beauty and low availability. Popular coins such as the American Silver Eagle, Austrian Silver Philharmonic, and Somalian Silver Elephant are all available on an annual basis with a gilded finish. In the case of most of these coins, the gilded layering is applied by a third-party and not the issuing mint.
Colorized Silver Bullion Coins
Another popular means of adding numismatic value to silver bullion coins is the application of a colorized lacquer. This too is typically applied only to the primary design of a coin on one side. For example, Colorized American Silver Eagle Coins feature brilliant hues and the red, white, and blue of the American flag on the image of Walking Liberty. The colorized lacquer does not change the weight of the coin, nor does it impact the silver content in any way. It is simply a means of adding a collectible twist to popular silver bullion coins.
Examples of Special Issue Silver Bullion Coins:
· America the Beautiful Silver Coins: Offered by the United States Mint, the America the Beautiful collection debuted in 2010. It includes a total of 56 designs to represent each of the 50 US states, five overseas territories of the US, and the federal district of Washington DC. Five new designs are issued each year and discontinued once each release year is complete. The coins contain 5 Troy oz of .999 pure silver.
· Queen's Beast Silver Coins: The Royal Mint's Queen's Beast Silver Coin program includes 10 designs with each one representing a different heraldic beast from the history of England's royal monarchs. Each design is available as a .9999 pure silver bullion coins or .999 pure silver proof coin with a 2 oz silver weight in the bullion version or 1 oz, 5 oz, 10 oz, and 1 kilo options in proof.
· Biblical Silver Coins: Issued for the nation of Niue by the Scottsdale Mint, the Biblical Silver Coin Series launched in 2015 and includes six new designs each year. The silver coins feature images reflective of stories from the Hebrew and Christian bibles, with each design struck on a 2 oz, rimless silver blank with an antique polish. Each design is limited to just 1,499 coins.
· Native American Silver Dollar Coins: An ideal example of special-issue silver coins, the Native American Silver Dollar Coins are proof silver coins issued by the Native American Mint. The coins have a face value of One Dollar, and though they are not legal tender in the United States, the face value is backed by the issuing tribe. Each new design represents an indigenous tribe from North America with an obverse design of the tribe and a reverse design of an animal species special to that tribe's history.
90% and 40% Silver Coins
If you’re looking for a real deal on silver, consider purchasing bulk volumes of former US circulation coin designs. Until 1964, the United States issued all of its circulation silver coins with a 90% silver content. This includes items such as the Barber Coinage (1892-1916), the Mercury Dime (1916-1945), and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar (1916-1947). These coins are often available in bulk linen sacks and showcase signs of wear and tear as they were previously in circulation. No matter the condition of the designs, the coins still contain 90% silver content and are an affordable option for first-time investors in particular.
You’ll also find 40% silver coins available from the United States Mint. Amid rising silver prices in the 1960s, the US Mint briefly issued Kennedy Half Dollar coins with an effigy of President John F. Kennedy using 40% silver content. These were only available from early 1964 to 1969 before cupro-nickel clad coins became the norm in the US.
Coin Grading Scales: The Sheldon coin grading scale is used to determine a coin’s value, based on factors such as how well the coin was made, how much wear it’s developed, and the luster. A coin is assigned a number between 1 and 70, as well as an adjective such as poor, good, very fine, or mint state. The grade is listed as “MS-70” or “F-15”.
There are professional coin grading services, but grading is subjective. As a collector, it’s important to understand coin grading to know the value of a coin and to verify grades given by others. Use resources such as the Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins to learn more.
The front side (“heads”) of a coin.
The back side (“tails”) of a coin.
The outer border of a coin. Edges can be plain, reeded, lettered, or decorated.
The raised part of the edge on both sides of a coin that helps protect the coin’s design from wear.
The principal words or lettering on a coin. Also called legend.
A small letter or symbol on a coin used to identify where a coin was made. Current U.S. mint marks are P (Philadelphia), D (Denver), S (San Francisco), and W (West Point).
The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface.
The flat portion of a coin’s surface not used for design or inscription.
Circulating coins are made to circulate among people as they take care of their daily business of buying and selling. The Mint produces these coins without the extra steps used for the other finishes.
The Mint makes uncirculated coins for saving and collecting. They are produced the same way as circulating coins, but with quality enhancements to create a brilliant finish
Proof coins have a mirror-like background with frosted design elements. The Mint uses a special process of manually feeding burnished coin blanks into presses with specially polished dies. Each coin is struck at least twice to bring out the details in the design.
Reverse proof coins feature a frosted background with a mirror-like design.
Sometimes the Mint makes special enhanced uncirculated, proof, or reverse proof coins. Frosting or polishing is applied to certain areas of the coin to bring out even more detail.
One common misconception – especially among collectors new to the hobby – is that Proof is a grade. Or that Proof and Reverse Proof are types of coin finishes.
In fact, both are wrong. Although Proof coins do have their own grades, which are similar to those of Mint State coins.
Uncirculated coin finishes can be a bit confusing, especially since Uncirculated is also a classification used when grading coins.
Originally, the mint used the term “Uncirculated finish” when referring to the satiny, matte finish found on its bullion coins. Such as the silver and gold American Eagles.
However, in 2006, the U.S. Mint stopped calling this finish Uncirculated. It continued producing bullion coins in the same manner. But it no longer mentioned any particular finish on the coins.
Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals
American Numismatic Association (ANA): nonprofit educational organization that encourages the study of money throughout the world.
Annealing: Heating blanks (planchets) in a furnace that softens the metal
Assay: To analyze and determine the purity of metal
Bag Mark: A mark on a coin from contact with other coins in a mint bag
Bi-Metallic: A coin comprised of two different metals, bonded together
Blank: Another word for planchet, the blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped
Bullion: Platinum, gold or silver in the form of bars or other storage shapes, including coins and ingots
Bullion Coin: Precious metal coin traded at current bullion prices
Business Strike: A coin produced for general circulation (as opposed to a proof or uncirculated coin specially made for collectors)
Bust: A portrait on a coin, usually including the head, neck and upper shoulders
Clad Coinage: Coins that have a core and outer layer made of different metals. Since 1965, all circulating U.S. dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars have been clad
Coin: Flat piece of metal issued by the government as money
Collar: A metal piece that restrains the expanding metal of a planchet during striking
Commemorative: A special coin or medal issued to honor an outstanding person, place, or event
Condition: The physical state of a coin
Counterfeit: A fake coin or other piece of currency made so that people will think it’s genuine
Currency: Any kind of money – coins or paper money – that’s used as a medium of exchange
Denomination: The different values of money
Die: An engraved stamp used for impressing a design (images, value, and mottoes) upon a blank piece of metal to make a coin
Designer: The artist who creates a coin’s design (but doesn’t necessarily engrave the design into a coinage die)
Edge: The outer border of a coin, considered the “third side” (not to be confused with “rim“)
Engraver: An artist who sculpts a clay model of a coin’s design in bas relief
Error: An improperly produced coin, overlooked in production, and later released into circulation
Face Value: The sum for which a coin can be spent or exchanged (a dime’s face value is 10¢) as opposed to its collector or precious metal value
Field: The portion of a coin’s surface not used for design or inscription
Grade: Rating which indicates how much a coin has worn from circulation
Hairlines: Tiny lines or scratches on coins, usually caused by cleaning or polishing
Incuse: Opposite of relief, the part of a coin’s design that is pressed into the surface
Ingot: Metal cast into a particular shape; used in making coins
Inscription: Words stamped on a coin or medal
Intrinsic Value (Bullion Value): Current market value of the precious metal in a coin
Key Date: A scarce date required to complete a collection, usually more difficult to find and afford
Legal Tender: Coins, dollar bills or other currency issued by a government as official money
Legend: Principal lettering on a coin
Medal: A metal object resembling a coin issued to recognize an event, place, person or group, with no stated value and not intended to circulate as money
Medium of Exchange: Anything that people agree has a certain value
Mint: A place where coins of a country are manufactured under government authority
Mint Luster: The dull, frosty, or satiny shine found on uncirculated coins
Mint Mark: A small letter on a coin identifying which of the United States Mint’s facilities struck the coin
Mint Set: A complete set of coins of each denomination produced by a particular mint
Mint State: Same as uncirculated
Mintage: The quantity of coins produced
Motto: A word, sentence or phrase inscribed on a coin to express a guiding national principle, such as, “E Pluribus Unum” inscribed on all U.S. circulating coins is Latin for “out of many, one”
Mylar®: Trademark for a polyester film used to store coins.
Numismatics: The study and collecting of things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals
Obsolete: A coin design or type that is no longer produced
Obverse: The front (or “heads”) side of a coin
Off-Center: Describes a coin that has received misaligned strike from the coin press and has portions of its design missing
Overstrike: A new coin produced with a previously struck coin used as the planchet
Pattern: An experimental or trial piece, generally of a new design or metal
Planchet: The blank piece of metal on which a coin design is stamped
Proof: A specially produced coin made from highly polished planchets and dies and often struck more than once to accent the design. Proof coins receive the highest quality strike possible and can be distinguished by their mirror-like background and frosted foreground.
Proof Set: A complete set of proof coins of each denomination made in a year
Relief: The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface, opposite of incuse
Restrike: A coin that is minted using the original dies but at a later date
Reverse: The back (or “tails”) side of a coin
Riddler: A machine that screens out blanks (planchets) that are the wrong size or shape
Rim: The raised edge on both sides of a coin (created by the upsetting mill) that helps protect the coin’s design from wear
Roll: Coins packaged by banks, dealers or the United States Mint.
Series: A collection of coins that contains all date and mint marks of a specific design and denomination
Slab: Nickname for some protective coin encapsulation methods, especially those that are permanently sealed and rectangular
Strike: The process of stamping a coin blank with a design. The strength of the imprint – full, average, or weak – affects the value of rare coins.
Type Set: A collection of coins based on denomination
Uncirculated: The term “uncirculated” may have three different meanings when applied to a coin:
At the United States Mint, the term uncirculated refers to the special coining process used to make the coin, which gives it a brilliant finish. Uncirculated coins are manufactured using the same process as circulating coins, but with quality enhancements such as slightly higher coining force, early strikes from dies, special cleaning after stamping, and special packaging. Uncirculated coins may vary to some degree because of blemishes, toning, or slight imperfections.
Upsetting Mill: A machine that raises the rim on both sides of a blank (planchet)
Variety: A minor change from the basic design type of a coin
Year Set: A collection of all coins issued by a country for any one year (does not necessarily include every mint mark)
Coin Citation Sources:
Gilkes, Paul, Gibbs, William T. “Burnished versus Uncirculated finish in silver Eagles.” Coin World, December 21, 2016. https://www.coinworld.com/news/precious-metals/burnished-versus-uncirculated-finish-in-silver-eagles.html
Numismatic News Staff. “Few differences in grading proofs.” Numismatic News, November 5, 2016. https://www.numismaticnews.net/collecting-101/differences-grading-proofs
Falk, Connor. “More reverse proofs on the way.” Numismatic News, June 4, 2015. https://www.numismaticnews.net/archive/more-reverse-proofs-on-the-way
Gibbs, William T. “Inside Coin World: 1990s Matte Proof 5-cent coins.” Coin World, May 24, 2019. https://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/inside-coin-world-1990s-matte-finish-5-cent-coins.html
Gilkes, Paul. “Coin Values Spotlight: 1990s Matte Finish 5-cent coins.” Coin World, June 10, 2019. US Mint, “U.S. Mint Releases Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set August 1.” Coin Week, July 28, 2017. https://coinweek.com/us-mint-news/u-s-mint-releases-enhanced-uncirculated-coin-set-august-1/