Silver coins have always been a major part of our nation’s coinage and always attract a large collector and investor following. Many collect rare silver coins because generally they are less expensive than gold rare coins and typically have more visual appeal than copper or nickel coins.
Rarities occur frequently among U.S. Silver coins as with U.S. Gold coins. Recently Blanchard and Company, Inc. obtained two of the rare silver half dismes, now valued at over $200,000 for our clients. Approximately 1,500 silver half-dismes (half-dimes) were minted in 1792, one year before the U.S. Mint was opened. The silver for these fascinating pieces of numismatic history came in part from George and Martha Washington’s personal silverware and the likeness on the coin is said to resemble Martha Washington herself.
There are seven different denominations of silver coins from which to choose: three cent, half-dime, dime, twenty-cent, quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar. This diversity in denominations creates many areas of interest for collectors, led far and above by the silver dollar. Probably no coin is more widely collected today than the Morgan silver dollar, a large, silver rich, beautiful coin with mintage figures large enough to allow the millions of collectors to own complete or near complete sets. Morgan dollars were minted from 1878 until 1904, and again in 1921, in the Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City mints.
Until 1965, all United States dimes, quarters and halves were minted with an alloy of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Three of the seven silver coin denominations are now obsolete: the three cent, half dime and twenty cent. The three-cent coin was the smallest silver coin ever minted by the U.S. and was originally minted to make the purchase of three-cent postage stamps easier. The half-dime was replaced by a five-cent piece, the shield nickel. The twenty-cent piece was a mistake from the beginning, shunned by the public immediately because it looked so much like a quarter. The coin was minted for only four years and during the last two years only proofs for collectors were minted. The obverse of the two coins is identical and the size was close to the same. The U.S. Mint would repeat this mistake years later with the Susan B. Anthony one-dollar coin.
In addition to our regular coinage minted for commerce, the realm of silver coins includes the always popular Commemorative series. Silver Commemoratives are usually half dollars with the exception of the Lafayette dollar and the Queen Isabella quarter. The Silver Commemorative series should be considered an American history text written in coins. Each coin represents a person, place or event important to our history. These subjects range from Daniel Boone to the Battle of Antietam to the Monroe Doctrine. This is one of the post popular coin series in U.S. numismatics.