U.S. Mint Ends Production of 90% Silver Coins

by Mike Unser on February 20, 2019 · 35 comments

Say goodbye to the 90/10 mix of silver coins from the United States Mint. The agency is now producing silver coinage to 99.9% purity.

Photo of a 2018 America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof Set

A CoinNews photo of last year’s five 2018-dated quarters struck in 90% silver and 10% copper. U.S. Mint numismatic silver coinage in 2019 will be produced in .999 fine silver.

The increased silver composition will be used for dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and commemorative dollars.

"In 2019, any previous 90/10 silver denominations have moved to 99.9% silver, including Silver Proof Half Dollars, Silver Proof Quarters, Silver Proof Dimes, and Silver Proof and Uncirculated $1 Commemoratives," U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White told CoinNews on Tuesday, Feb. 19. "All other coin compositions remain the same."

The 90% silver and 10% copper ratio is often referred to as "coin silver." The mix was a mainstay of U.S. circulating coins from the early 1800’s until the Coinage Act of 1965 became law. Its use returned in 1982 for modern commemorative coins and in 1992 with the introduction of annual silver proof sets.

Actually, until President Obama signed the FAST Act in December 2015 which replaced the traditional 90/10 language with “not less than 90 percent silver,” the U.S. Mint by law had to produce silver coins for numismatic products like the annual sets in 90 percent silver.

Advantages of .999 Fine Silver Coins

There are several benefits in moving to more pure silver. As examples, when the U.S. Mint compared manufacturing data between the 2012 Infantry Soldier Silver Dollar in 90% silver and its .999 fine 2013 Proof American Silver Eagle, the following differences were discovered:

National Infantry
(90/10 Alloy)
American Eagle Silver (0.999 Silver) Comments
Die Life (coins per die) 600 coins 1800 coins 3X better with 0.999 Silver

Scrap (Haze related)

14% avg 10% avg 4% better with 0.999 Silver
Customer Returns 2% avg 1.3% avg 0.7% better with 0.999 Silver
Downtime (Cleaning dies) 80X/day 20X/day 4X less downtime with 0.999 Silver

 

In terms of quality, the Mint has found that the copper in 90/10 alloy exceeds the maximum solubility of copper in silver and can cause coin spots and hazing, which drives higher scrap rates and customer returns.

The "excess copper precipitates out of solution and can cause a buildup on the dies or could cause a harder blank surface," a Mint document describes. "The finished product displays varying amounts of breakup spots and haze."

.999 silver also flows better under pressure, resulting in superior fills and fewer strikes to make numismatic coins.

2019 Silver Sets

U.S. Mint annual sets for 2019 with coins having .999 fine silver purity will include the ATB Quarters Silver Proof Set (for release Feb. 21 at $36.95), the flagship Silver Proof Set (for release this spring at $54.95), and the Limited Edition Silver Proof Set (for release this fall at $149.95).

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NWRobert
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NWRobert

Wow! Excellent. No more white spots caused by the CU? It makes it easier to purchase knowing it’s 99.9% pure. Agree?

lonnie
Guest
lonnie

yes, this is great news.

BrotherYip
Guest
BrotherYip

Milky Cloud spots still exist either using .999 pure silver , the Silver Eagle still have spots problem ! People still pay High Premium for Low price Metal !

joera
Guest
joera

I agree with you. The Silver Eagles have always had problems with milky spots. Some think it is usually coins bought on the second market from people that do not handle the coins carefully. I myself really don’t know the real reason for the spots but it is a problem that will continue. And as always.. that is just my humble opinion on that.

RonnieBGood
Guest
RonnieBGood

Hi Joera,
Milk spots are caused by improper cleaning of the coin blanks. The wash is improperly done leaving metal from the minting process to oxidize. Basically, rust (never sleeps).

I like the change to 99.9% but this will have little affect on spotting.

Lawrence
Guest
Lawrence

And thank you for the heads up on the transparency on metal discoloration.

Dp.
Guest
Dp.

Milk spots are caused when the planits. Is being washed with soap and water to remove oil’s caused in the manufacturing of the blanks and are not properly clean dried when they are struck at the meant that milk spot is fused into the surface of the corn and it becomes part of the model itself it cannot be removed without running the corn.

Lawrence
Guest
Lawrence

Thanks for the heads up.

Carl O
Guest
Carl O

And… The value of older 90/10 coins will likely go up as there wont be anymore of them made.

JThompson
Guest
JThompson

I for one think that this is a terrible change and a completely unnecessary abandonment of 227 years of historic consistency in the silver content of the real “dollar” as established by our founding fathers in the Coinage Act of 1792. The “dollar” coin should contain 371.25 grains of silver.

Mr. John Keller
Guest
Mr. John Keller

I agree

Zula-mar
Guest
Zula-mar

I tend to agree with you.

Patrick Rodgers
Guest
Patrick Rodgers

Sounds good…just have to make a new dollar coin each year, and make it to size based on estimated cost of silver…

Should be great for collectors.

Mike Cook
Guest

Science has progressed just a bit since then

Jim
Guest
Jim

I just Love Silver anyway. ⚡️⚡️ It’s all good to me

Chas Barber
Guest

They should make them fractional sizes, 1/10z for dime, 1/4z for 25c et cetera……

Jon
Guest
Jon

This sucks. Keep the content historical.

Wham
Guest
Wham

When I first saw the headline, I was shocked..! After further reading, I’m delighted..! This is wonderful news..!

D. Fooshee
Guest
D. Fooshee

I remember reading that Canada had problems with their .999’s because of spotting? I like this number better of course, but I wonder what if any is true? Who’s zooming who?

Doug Franklin
Guest
Doug Franklin

I would like to see the mint start to make the Franklin Half Dollar again, the Kennedy is past the time it’s run, That would be good investment in 99.9 silver half.

morgan
Guest
morgan

I can’t remember ever seeing a Morgan or Peace silver dollar with white spots. Why would copper be a problem now when it wasn’t then?

Charles E Teune
Guest
Charles E Teune

I’m very happy to hear that decision they made about the new silver coins. Looking forward to seeing the new product.

Roxanna
Guest
Roxanna

If they’re going 0.999 with silver, could the Mint at least do 95% copper on the pennies!? I can also live with 0.999 Copper pennies if people insist.

Jay
Guest
Jay

I agree with that at least 0.999 % copper for Penney’s in the Silver Proof sets. That’s just my opinion. The people who purchase Silver Proof sets needs needs to start filling out those surveys and giving their opinion what they would like to see , and give their opinion. They might actually take it into consideration so fill those survey forms out and return them.

Doug Taylor
Guest
Doug Taylor

I don’t like it. It’s going to be more difficult to make a decent ring out of them. Too soft at 99.9.

Vadim
Guest
Vadim

I’m hoping I could get a mint error as a result of this change.

John Smith
Guest
John Smith

Somebody must have finally retired.

John Sliney
Guest
John Sliney

I love this idea. This idea will not only Be appreciated by the average coin collector put two silver collectors as well. Hats off to the mint For making this change. Can

Triarii
Guest
Triarii

Always a chance left over 90/10 blanks accidentally get used on 2019 and beyond coinage !

Joseph
Guest
Joseph

That just means that the Silver Coins will be fractional bullion coins . I certainly have no objection to this change .

Jeff Moore
Guest
Jeff Moore

What is the other .1 percent

Richard
Guest
Richard

I would expect copper, which is what historically has been used to harden precious metals for coinage. Maybe they are just “covering” themselves since getting really close to 100% purity of anything is difficult outside of a laboratory.

Jeff Moore
Guest
Jeff Moore

Thank you richard I appreciate your reply I was just curious..it is true that it helps the mint also to cut down on operating cost but helps us collectively collecting lmao

Chuck
Guest
Chuck

Well, well,
Would’t you know it, all the benefitst seem to be in the mints favor. Anything to reduce their operating expences. Will the mint pass on the savings in production to the collector? I think not! I’m a traditionalist, I prefer the same 90% silver coins that they have made for 200 years.
Just a note, you can get spots on any coin, any composition – it just happens. About the softness of 99.9% silver coins – with all the coins put in slabs today nobody touches them anymore. How can you damage a coin in a slab, unless you’re are trying to remove it.
Just an old man who is not fond of change!!! .

Michael Byrne
Guest
Michael Byrne

What is the A.T.B. Quarters wrapped in? Rumors abound it’s P.V.C. Making the color of the silver very off. What is causing this. No one is selling them. The grading services can not even guarantee a proof 69 . Never in eight years of this wonderful program has there been such problems.Sellers are reposting sets returned to them due to the off color. The you have an explanation.? Thank you Mike. I’m trying to help. Please understand. We just want to know. That’s all..