Home U.S. Coin Forum

How much silver is left on circulated coins??

Hello, and thanks for your thoughts as always.

I hope this question makes sense. How does one determine (other than weighing) how much silver remains on circulated coins? I'm not a silver dude, and I know that coins that are destined for the smelter are weighed in mass numbers to find out how much total silver remains in the lot. Is there a rough determination of the remaining silver content on circulated individual coins? Let's take a Barber half dollar just as an example. Is there a guide of some sort that estimates the silver weight in a Good half; a Fine half, and an XF half dollar and would this apply to other series as well?

Just wondering.





  • TomBTomB Posts: 20,274 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I sure hope a Barber half in EF would never be melted!

    Aside from that, there have been posts on the boards in the past that state something trivial, like a 1-2% might be lost even down to cull coinage, if I recall correctly. No doubt someone else will chime in with better information.

    Thomas Bush Numismatics & Numismatic Photography

    In honor of the memory of Cpl. Michael E. Thompson

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 30,304 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @TomB said:
    I sure hope a Barber half in EF would never be melted!

    Aside from that, there have been posts on the boards in the past that state something trivial, like a 1-2% might be lost even down to cull coinage, if I recall correctly. No doubt someone else will chime in with better information.

    It will somewhat depend on the design, but coins VF or above will not have any easily measurable weight loss (less than 1%).

    I also don't know what the point of the question is. Given that the tolerance in the weight of a newly minted coin is probably larger than the weight loss of an XF coin, if you want to know what a coin weighs, put it on a balance. Mass is easy and cheap to measure to 3 or 4 digits. There is no point in doing anything other than weighing them unless you don't have access to the coin. And in that case, just assume full weight down to slick status.

  • JWPJWP Posts: 14,520 ✭✭✭✭✭

    IMHO - The older the coin the more wear it has gone through. However, the weight of the dirt/grimes/will almost certainly make it a break even equation. :D

    USN & USAF retired 1971-1993
    Successful Transactions with more than 100 Members

  • Che_GrapesChe_Grapes Posts: 1,761 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If it’s 90% silver then 90% of the weight is silver - regardless of what is left of the coin.

    If it’s a 999 pure silver then it’s the same.

    Back to math class for you my friend.

  • rte592rte592 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Buy by weight. sell by face value.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 14,219 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @rte592 said:
    Buy by weight. sell by face value.

    I heard that some people make money doing this. The loss of silver due to wear results in extra coins in the lot vs what would be expected based on original specs.

  • VanHalenVanHalen Posts: 3,710 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 14, 2023 6:51PM

    @Higashiyama said:
    I happen to have both a roll of BU Kennedy halves and a roll of well circulated Barber halves at the moment.

    The Barbers range from FR02 - G06, and it's fair to say that they average G04, just barely.

    Here are the weights (20 coins) I come up with using a decent quality kitchen scale:

    BU: 250 grams
    G04: 232 grams.

    The BU is exactly as expected.

    The G04 suggests about a 7 % loss.

    If I do a little digging, I may be able to come up with rolls of halves grading roughly VF.

    More to come! In the meantime, it would be fun if others test my empirical capabilities with their own measurements.

    From above: The G04 suggests about a 7 % loss.

    It should not be anywhere near 7% at G04. Average circulated 90% junk (which most consider VG average) usually contains a generous volume of AG and G pieces. It has been bought and sold for decades using the 0.715 multiplier for estimating actual silver weight. (eg. $10 fv in 90% contains 7.15 troy ounces actual silver weight.)

    Nominal from the mint (as struck) was 7.235 troy ounces actual silver weight per $10 face in 90%. 7.15/7.235 = 98.8%.

    So average circulated 90% junk (VG average) is universally traded with an estimated weight loss of 1.2%.

    The only times I've seen a 7% weight loss of a 90% U.S. silver coin was on slicks, PO1 and below. I've weighed many "paper thin" Barber dime slicks that were only 8% or 9% under nominal weight even though they appeared to be half of original thickness!

  • HigashiyamaHigashiyama Posts: 2,103 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VanHalen — I’m quite confident of both my measurements and my very rough grading. In particular, AG-G Barber halves lose about 7%, and solid G Barbers lose 6-7 %. This is also consistent with CaptHenway’s experience described above.

    (I suspect that more metal loss occurs in going from F/VF to AG/G than in going from AG to P01, though I have not attempted to verify this)

  • coastaljerseyguycoastaljerseyguy Posts: 1,107 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think the design factors into how much silver is lost due to circulation. Ms. Liberty on the WLH is narrow and the coin appears to be ~ 50 design and 50% fields, with a lot of the design in the left half with the cape and sun that is harder to wear down. Easy to wear a WLH down in the center of the coin and why folks don't like WLHs in lower grades. Mr. Liberty on the Barber coins takes up much of the coin and I'm estimating is 60+ % design and 40% fields. When that big Barber design gets into G condition I believe more of the coin is worn away. Fields wear down less then the design. JMHO.

  • TwoSides2aCoinTwoSides2aCoin Posts: 43,564 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I use the Sheldon scale to weigh them. :blush:

  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,252 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @TwoSides2aCoin said:
    I use the Sheldon scale to weigh them. :blush:

    Does it give your fortune also?

    Numismatist. 50 year member ANA. Winner of four ANA Heath Literary Awards; three Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Awards; Numismatist of the Year Award 2009, and Lifetime Achievement Award 2020. Winner numerous NLG Literary Awards.
  • HigashiyamaHigashiyama Posts: 2,103 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @coastaljerseyguy: that hypothesis makes sense, and I can support with a little bit of data. I weighed two rolls of SLQs ranging in grades from AG-G06. The total is 474 grams versus an expected BU weight of 500 grams, so a metal loss of a little more than 5 %.

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 30,304 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @TwoSides2aCoin said:
    I use the Sheldon scale to weigh them. :blush:

    Doesn't that only give you 70% of the weight?

  • Piano1Piano1 Posts: 233 ✭✭✭

    Hello, Guys (and ladies?).

    As always, a ton of terrific information has been posted to answer my question. Thank you all. The bottom line I guess is that coin weight has a minimal loss in the higher grades and maybe between 5-7% in AG/ Good, more or less. That's a rough summary of what I have read here but this is tremendously helpful! Thanks!!! Much appreciated, everyone.

    Oh, regarding weighing with "The Sheldon Scale", I thought Sheldon Scale was a fungus that grows only on roses and overly ripe artichokes. Ya' learn something every day. 🤣😂


  • CoinosaurusCoinosaurus Posts: 9,605 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The 1902 MInt report should be read -- https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/321 -- pp. 17-26.

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file