Letter: Bullion Silver Coins Versus Pre-1965 Silver Coins

I understand the need to have silver [available for barter] for the coming economic problems.  I have been obtaining silver Maple Leafs rather than pre-1965 US coins, mainly because they are less expensive [per ounce of silver].  However, many people I know and and bloggers say that people should have pre-1965 coins.
To me when things get bad and the silver is used, it will be harder to explain the value of pre-1965 coins to normal people versus a 1 ounce silver coin.

Is there a reason I am missing that pre-1965 coins are best? – JES

JWR Replies: For anyone who lives in the United States, pre-1965 mint date 90% silver coins are still the clear choice for barter in the midst of an economic collapse.  To your average middle class suburbanite, a .999 fine silver round is a novelty.  Most people are not familiar with them. So if you hand one of them to someone in the midst of a power failure with no access to the Internet for reference, 1-ounce silver rounds from any mint are likely to be mistrusted as potentially counterfeit.  It is likely that the first words that your trading partner will say are: “How do I know that this is real silver?”   But in contrast, the provenance of a well-worn pre-1965 silver dime or quarter is essentially self-evident, so it will rarely be questioned.  Even though they are of fractional weight, they have the look of authenticity.  In fact worn (“circulated”) coins immediately appear more authentic than ones that are still in “mint state” condition.

If the fractional weight of U.S. silver coins seems confusing, just take a look at these two resources that have been available on SurvivalBlog for many years:


Please trust me on this: In the midst of a large scale disaster, people will already be anxious, flighty, and hesitant to barter.  Do not add to their anxiety by handing them a type of foreign coin that they’ve never seen.  That could be the difference between making a life-sustaining deal, or having someone walk away,
shaking their head

And In Canada…

Conversely, for our readers living in Canada: Post-2014 Silver Maple Leafs would be a much better choice for you.  (The Silver Maple Leafs minted in and after 2015 carry a micro-engraved security mark on the reverse of every coin. (They did the same for Gold Maple Leafs, starting in 2014.)  It is noteworthy that the silver content of Canadian silver coins has been changed many times over the years, making for a slightly more confusing situation than with U.S. pre-’65 coinage. (They made composition changes with their nickels in 1955, 1982, and  2000.  They also made composition changes to their silver dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar in 1932, 1935, 1967, 1968, 1986, and in 2001. (For example in 1967 and 1968, their dimes and quarters were made in two different compositions: Some of them were 50% silver.) So be sure to keep a hard copy coin reference book handy, so that you can speak with authority, before attempting to barter with those coins. (For some further reading, see the Canadian Mint web site. Click on the “Learn” tab in their web page top bar.)

Regardless of which coins you choose to store for barter, it is essential that you practice bartering and dickering before a crisis.  Some of these “life lessons” are only learned through experience. And that is best done at a flea market, coin show, or a gun show now, well before any crisis. – JWR


  1. I would like to inquire about the worth of copper coins and copper bars as barter currency. I pickup some Pre 1965 dimes the other day and saw some oversize pennies and bars in the style of $100bill. Is there a value in purchasing these for future use?

    1. In my experience, copper trade rounds and bullion bars are grossly over-priced. The spot price of copper would have to quintuple before you would break even. A much better way to acquire base metals at just over their spot value is to simply go to your bank and ask the teller to order you $500 face value in nickels. Your cost: $500. (Banks rarely charge a premium for this service to their customers.) Their content: 75% copper and 25% nickel. The current base metal value of $500 face value in nickels: $421.60 See: https://survivalblog.com/nickels/ Also see: http://www.coinflation.com/coins/basemetal_coin_calculator.html – JWR

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