In a statement to Coin News yesterday, the US Mint announced that they are increasing the purity of their silver numismatic coins from 90% to 99.9% silver. Starting in 2019, all “Silver Proof Half Dollars, Silver Proof Quarters, Silver Proof Dimes, and Silver Proof and Uncirculated $1 Commemoratives” will now be made with this increased purity, according to Mint spokesman Michael White.
Why is this a big deal?
From the early 1800’s through 1964, all US circulation coins were composed of 90% pure silver. But as the metal value of these coins rose higher than their face value, the mint replaced them with cheaper, cupro-nickel coins. However, the Mint reintroduced this 90% “coin silver” in the 1980’s through the sale of non-circulation commemorative coins, and later into annual silver proof sets. These products, purchased direct from the US Mint, have remained popular with collectors ever since.
So why would the US Mint move to 99.9% pure silver?
It all comes down to cost. The use of 99.9% silver results in significant long-term savings in refining and manufacturing costs for the U.S. Mint. It has been shown that 99.9% silver increases die life, reduces coin spots and hazing (thus reducing the amount of scrap and customer returns), and expands the Mint’s supplier base. It also provides more uniformity in the Mint’s lineup of annual silver products, and can help their products compete with their global peers.
Some collectors may see this as a sad end to over 200 years of coinage history. But to others, this is good news. The value of older 90% commemorative coins and proof sets could be driven up due to the fact that they’re no longer made. And the added 99.9% purity could result in the production of some stunning silver proof sets in the future. While we haven’t received confirmation from the US Mint regarding this change yet, we’re curious to see how the new, 99.9% pure silver products compare to their 90% silver predecessors.
What do you think?
What do you think of this change by the US Mint? Do you see it as a positive or a negative development? If you are a silver proof collector of the America the Beautiful series, for example, do you think the change to 99.9% silver for the final 3 years in the series will affect the overall value of your collection? Let’s discuss – Give us your thoughts in the comments!