Dear Mr. Latimer, I am trying to build a barter collection of coins. I would like to know if the coins need to be all pre-1965, and if so, do they need to be “new” coins or can old coins that have a readable date on them be used? I bought a set of 2014 1oz Silver American Eagle coins. I think they are supposed to have the same silver content as the pre-1965 coins. Are these okay or should I get rid of them? I also (about 15-20 years ago) bought commemorative bars and round Christmas, Easter, and other celebration items. Are any of these any good? Thank You for any help you can give me. I am trying to do what I can to prepare us, even though I have a dis-interested husband. Sincerely, D.H.
JWR Replies: Your silver American Eagles, rounds and various silver bars are almost certainly .999 fine silver and were made in 1 Troy ounce increments (only rarely 1/2 ounce.) Those are too soft to use as circulating coinage. (They wear too quickly.)
Pre-1965 dimes, quarters, and halves are 90% silver and have a hardener added, in order to hold up to the rigors of circulation. They are also made in odd fractional weights. For example, a silver quarter weighs 6.25 grams.
For details on U.S. silver coin specifications, see: http://www.coinflation.com/silver_coin_values.html .
Print those specifications out for your barter reference binder. Everything that you have thusfar is fine for barter, including “worn” coins. However, my preference for barter is pre-1965 silver quarters, since they are so widely recognized and trusted.
HJL Adds: I also like dimes for barter. If you are bartering silver coins for goods, for smaller items you don’t want to be limited by the inability to “make change”. For example, if the item you want costs two silver dimes and all you have is a silver quarter, the new price will be a silver quarter. Quarters are certainly the most recognized, and the bulk of your junk silver should probably consist of quarters, but larger and smaller denominations can help the barter process along.