The Value of Silver by Grade
Silver Grades and Quality Products
There are a lot of questions such as “Gold vs Silver, where should I invest, or is investing in silver a good idea?” It really depends on the objective but to start here are factors concerning the purity level of silver.
“Sterling Silver” indicates quality as did the British Pound Sterling currency at one time. “Sterling” is the name for a grade of silver pure enough to be valuable, yet mixed with other metal(s) for serviceable strength. Most common would be sterling tableware that is 92.5 percent silver and, usually, 7.5 percent copper. Similarly, sterling tea sets, trays, etc., are perceived as valuable and functional silver services. These items may be collectibles or expensive rare antiques, possibly suitable for investment, so do not sell them for re-melt silver without checking their value. Jewelry represents another group of silver products where quality matters and it is important to not sell such pieces for bullion prices.
One proof of quality is the mark sterling, and another is the numerals 925. Variously, there are registered “hallmarks” of silversmiths that produced sterling or other grades.
The U.S. did not require grading until 1868, although some hallmarks are known to always be sterling. Some early U.S. silver was marked coin or pure coin.
Historical silver purity in the U.S. ranged from a low of about 75 percent to a high of the very soft, malleable 99.9 percent. The standard for purity is based on “millesimal fineness” which is the parts per thousand of silver content in ratio to alloy(s). For sellers of silver, the list at Metal Facts is useful–scroll down to silver. The most important millesimal marks are .999 pure silver, the .925 sterling and the .900 coin grade.
If your selling your silver read this!
These are important numbers to unskilled people selling products to dealers and buyers of re-melt silver. Conversely, unskilled buyers looking to invest in silver must know the basic numbers and be careful.
1. Do not buy antique, collectible or rare silver products for investment unless the item(s) show a stamped number of .925 or higher and/or a hallmark that can be researched.
2. When selling silver, the millesimal number indicates the percentage of pure silver in the product(s) so a buyer will pay 90 percent of the daily spot price for coin silver, minus the commission or handling fee, and 92.5 percent of spot for sterling, etc.
3. Re-sale silver may have millesimal markings in the .800s and even .700s for Scandinavian, German and Swiss products, which will result in proportional discounts from spot price
4. Some old silver, especially jewelry, may not be marked and the buyer will discount steeply. A nitric acid test can prove that such items are silver, but cannot indicate how fine. It may be wise not to sell unmarked silver.
5. Fakes exist. If a buyer declares a product bogus, do not sell. Keep it. If items prove to be silverplate by testing, keep them.
Only the most pure silver can be included in a Silver IRA
U.S. silver coin is .900 fine, with two exceptions. The War Nickels for 1942-45 were minted of .350 silver. The Kennedy half dollars of 1965-69 are .400 silver. Most of these coins are collectable. The 1964 Kennedy half is .900 fine. Other year Kennedy halves are not silver. For silver coins to be part of a Silver IRA, they need to meet several requirements including the .900 fine or greater
Millions of silver coins have numismatic values that exceed their silver content. Never sell silver coins without checking the possible collector prices. Damaged and defaced coins never meet numismatic standards. Silver coin buyers will discount for “wear.” A roll of silver dimes, for example should weigh 3.617 oz. or .07234 oz. each. Be careful when buying very old silver dimes and quarters for investment and do not pay full price for badly worn coins. Have them weighed.
The purest are the most valuable silver products
Silver rounds from private mints or mines are .999 fine and weigh one ounce. Bullion bars are .999 fine and range in weight from one to a 100 ounces. Some buyers and investors do not recognize the reputations of all silver producers, so the potential for counterfeiting requires finding specialized dealers who can perform millesimal testing. Do not buy rounds and bars from unknown producers. Same again applies here for a Silver IRA, there are very specific requirements for silver bullion and .995 is the starting point.
As a seller, knowing silver quality grades will lead to getting fair prices. When buying, knowledge of the qualities will ensure full value. Caveat emptor.