President Obama Signs Bill To Help U.S. Mint Increase Silver Content in U.S. Coins.
Passage of the Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act paves way for increased silver content in dimes, quarters and half dollars in U.S. proof sets.
U.S. Mint studies show it’s less expensive to mint coins of 99% silver than from 90% silver.
Earlier this month President Obama signed into law the “Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act (the “Act”)” that amends 31 U.S. Code § 5132 (the “Code”). The Act amends the Code to allow the U.S. Mint to increase the silver content in silver coins it produces for collectors from 90% to 99% by striking “90 percent silver and 10 percent copper” and inserting “not less than 90 percent silver” into the Code.
A Cost Cutting Measure
We saw in “U.S. Mint Examines Ways To Further Debase Its Coinage” that the U.S. Mint is studying ways to remove the copper and nickel from its current nickels, dimes and quarters to lower the cost of producing these coins.
The Act, in contrast, allows the U.S. Mint to increase the silver content of its coins because it makes it cheaper to make them! According to Coin News, the U.S. Mint has determined that minting coins of 99% silver vs. 90% silver results in increased die life and better quality coins, less likely to suffer from customer returns. This lowers the overall cost of minting and selling silver coins.
While 90% silver coins are more durable than 99% silver ones, collectible coins are not circulated so the concern that 99% silver collectible coins will “wear out” is a non issue.
From the mid to late 1830’s up until 1965, the U.S. Mint produced dimes, quarters and half dollars for everyday use consisting of 90% silver and 10% copper. Prior to that, these coins were minted with slightly less silver (.8924) and a little more copper (.1076). In 1965, Congress passed The Coinage Act of 1965 that removed silver from U.S. coinage and replaced it with a copper-nickel alloy. Kennedy half dollars were produced from 1965-70 with 40% silver. Starting in 1971, Kennedy half dollars were made with a copper-nickel alloy.
Today, U.S. coins with 90% silver content are referred to as “junk silver”.
Learn more about “junk silver” here.
90% Silver U.S. Coins since 1965
U.S. Proof and Uncirculated Sets
Since 1936 and 1947, the U.S. Mint has produced proof and uncirculated sets, respectively. These coin sets contain special versions of the coins struck in a given year- the proof set coins are distinguishable by their brilliant mirror-like appearance; uncirculated coins are ones that have not seen general circulation and are packaged by the mint to retain their original mint state luster.
From 1936-1964, the dimes, quarters and half dollar coins in proof and uncirculated sets contained 90% silver just like their counterparts that were intended for general circulation. Starting in 1965 the coins contained in these sets reflected the silver content of their general circulation counterparts. (i.e. none in the dimes and quarters and 40% in the half dollars from 1965-’70).
Starting in 1992, the U.S. Mint began producing 90% silver coins for its proof sets. The Act would allow the U.S. Mint to begin producing proof sets with 99% silver dimes, quarters and half dollars in 2016.
Classic and Modern Silver U.S. Commemorative Coins
From 1893-1954, the U.S. Mint produced collector commemorative half dollar coins of 90% silver (“classic” commemoratives). U.S. silver coins containing 90% silver did not return until 1982 with the mintage of the first modern silver commemorative -the George Washington 250th Aniversary half dollar coin (not for general circulation). Modern commemorative half dollar and dollar coins have been issued by the U.S. Mint since 1982 containing 90% silver.
The Act does not specifically cover U.S. silver commemoratives, but legislation is pending that would give the U.S. Mint flexibiity to increase the silver content in commemoratives.
99% Silver U.S. Coins Since 1965
U.S. Silver Eagle Program
Since 1986, the U.S. Mint has produced the popular one ounce American Silver Eagle coin of 99% silver (.993 silver and .0007 copper). In contrast, the Canadian Silver Maple leaf coin is minted of .9999 silver.
Since 1986, the U.S Mint has sold over 446 million American Silver Eagle coins.
Sales of American Silver Eagles through November 30, 2015 are over 446 million.
Thirtieth Anniversary of the American Silver Eagle Coin
To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the American Silver Eagle, the U.S. Mint plans to issue a special version of the coin without the customary reeded edge. The 2016 American Silver Eagle will have a smooth edge like its counterpart, the Austrian Silver Philharmonic, but will be inscribed (as the British Silver Britannia coin is from time to time) with a designation indicating its thirtieth anniversary.
The Act provides that the American Silver Eagle coin “during calendar year 2016 shall have a smooth edge incused with a designation that notes the 30th anniversary of the first issue of coins under such subsection.”
You can pre-order your 2016 30th Anniversary American Silver Eagle coins by clicking here.
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