By Al Doyle for CoinWeek ......
Silver is more than financial insurance for many investors. Those who have a collecting instinct often want some variety in their holdings, which means they might look beyond one-ounce Eagles and Maple Leafs, silver bars and rounds, pre-1965 half dollars, quarters and dimes and circulated Morgan and Peace dollars. So what are some other options?
Bullion buyers in the upper Midwest and northern states may have opportunities to obtain pre-1967 Canadian dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars. Figuring out the precious metal content of these .800 fine pieces is simple.
There is .60 ounce of silver in every $1 face value, and that includes Canadian silver dollars. The tricky part involves 1967-dated coinage. Dimes and half dollars were struck on .500 fine as well as .800 fine planchets, while the halves and $1s were produced exclusively in .800 fine. Avoid the dimes and quarters unless they were struck in 1966 or earlier, as they are assumed to be .500 fine at resale time.
Moving down to Texas and other states that border Mexico, the alternative to the usual silver products are the .720 fine 50 centavo and 1 peso pieces struck from 1919 until 1945. Mexican coinage from the 1940s is far more common than earlier dates, although the pesos of the 1930s turn up with some regularity.
At .1929 and .3856 ounce of silver respectively, the 50 centavo and peso contain just a bit more precious metal than the U.S. quarters and half dollars of the same era. The .720 fineness is prominently displayed on the obverse. The 20 centavo is occasionally seen, but the larger pieces are somewhat more common. Don't pay big premiums for Mexican or Canadian silver, as dealers buy this material for less than they pay for 90 percent or Eagles. If the price is right, these are interesting additions to a silver coin collection or bullion stash.
What else might be available for something near spot price for the person who likes variety and different designs?
The 1982 half dollar honoring the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth was a big seller (more than 7.1 million in proof and BU). That was no surprise, as the coin was the first commem struck since 1954. The secondary market hasn't been kind to this issue, which means bargain hunters can sometimes find the Washington for about the same money as a circulated Franklin half dollar. As with the older commemorative 50-cent pieces, the Washington was struck in .900 fine silver. Proofs were struck in San Francisco, while BUs carry the D mintmark of the Denver Mint.
Buying silver can go far beyond providing financial insurance. A little creativity and searching will result in some variety and interesting coins that appeal to the collector mentality as well.
1983 and 1984-dated Olympic silver dollars were produced in decent quantities, which means the value-minded shopper can sometimes find a few pieces for bullion-related prices. Discus thrower and "headless" designs were released, and those who want the full set will have to obtain six coins, or one of each from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints.
It is also possible to purchase the 1987 silver $1 commemorating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution for something related to the bullion value. Nearly 3.2 million were sold, which has led to a glut 25 years later. The group of average Americans on the reverse is sometimes referred to as the "bowling pins" because of the triangular layout.
Collectors and precious metals investors who gravitate towards smaller units of silver also have some options. Rolls and batches of post-2001 proof silver statehood quarters have become a commodity of sorts on the market, and they frequently trade for their bullion content.
In some cases, mixed 40-piece rolls offering up to all five dates from a certain year can be found on eBay and elsewhere. Don't be surprised if a roll of silver Iowa, Wyoming or Washington quarters in .900 fine silver with a frosty proof finish turns up at the local coin shop. Grab them if the price is right.
Don't treat silver as a generic commodity suitable only for joyless accumulating. It can be more than the financial equivalent of stacking canned food in a cupboard. Different designs and themes for close to melt value is a tough combination to beat.