Thursday, March 8, 2012

90% Solution

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The 90% Solution

Welcome to the fourth installment of this series examining various types of Silver commercially available for those who have a desire to accumulate a bit of the “Ice Metal”. As always I, the House Martin, am responsible for all content in this entry. The owner, and until recently, rarely, operator of this blog invited me to post my ramblings on silver here. Feel free to enter any questions or comments and I will do my best to answer them. Photos will follow as soon as possible.

Sometimes referred to as “Junk”, properly called the “coin of the realm”, many countries once upon a time minted their coinage out of a mixture of 90% Silver, 10% copper. Today I will examine a couple of these silver options.

To the coin accumulator the importance of these coins is very simple. In the event of any catastrophic event which undermines the confidence/value of paper money silver is an obvious and natural replacement to mediate exchanges. American Silver currency comes in forms that are readily identifiable by all Americans, and of a dependable quality known to most Americans and thus could serve as a medium of exchange in the event of a significant ‘dislocation’ to the economy. The key thing is having some on hand in the event of the need arising.

First, I will not be looking at any silver below the 90% level. While I do own a bit of this true ‘junk’ it is neither my focus, nor all that interesting to collect in my opinion. Furthermore, I will in no way attempt to chronicle all of the options in the 90% range as too many countries have dabbled in 90% coins for various periods of their history. The purpose of this treatise is simply to look at those 90% silver coins produced in significant numbers and in some association with the U.S. Mint. This confines us to basically three countries coinage, and I will be focusing on two of these countries in particular. The United States Mint coined in 90% silver until 1964. In addition the Nation of Panama also used the same source of coin blanks thus minting in 90% silver for generally the same time range. The third country I will only mention is the Philippines which initially minted in 90% silver, but fairly quickly down graded (even before the outbreak of WWI).

American 90% silver coins came in four varieties: the dollar, the half dollar, the quarter dollar, and the dime or tenth dollar. The American nickel was only minted in partial silver for a very brief period in WWII (1942 to 1945) and even then was only 35% silver. I will not go into detail on the American Dollar, Half dollar, Quarter, or Dime as I presume that all of you know what these coins are and have but to generally look at the dates to see if they are from the “Sound Money era”. Speaking of which, if you come into contact with these silver coins they make a VERY different sound when struck against other coins, thus sparking the term “Sound Money” as you can literally here the difference between the coins. I include a few pictures of some of the earlier coins in case you are not familiar with them. In order they are a selection of Half Dollars, and old quarter, and an old dime. They are all presented Obverse than reverse.

The other coinage I will speak about is that of Panama. Panamanian coins are reasonably common in the United States due to our long standing military presence in Panama. Additionally, vessels traveling through the Panama Canal also have led to Panamanian coins being imported to the U.S. In either event looking at most coin operations and ebay will quickly show that there are a reasonable number of the coins of Panama available, and often they can be obtained for less than the comparative American coins.

The coinage of Panama was struck on the same coin blanks as American money. This means that it is of the same size and quality as our own. As a further bonus the Panamanians even went so far as to state directly on their coins the weights and purity of their coins. The only two things to remember are as follows. Which coins are we talking about? And when did they stop minting them in 90% silver?

Generically, the money of Panama is called the Balboa. Coins that equal a portion of a Balboa are referred to by their proportion of a full Balboa. So the ‘decima Balboa’ is 1/10th of a Balboa, or the equal of an American Dime.

The ‘Quarto Balboa’ is 1/4t of a Balboa, or the equal of an American Quarter.

The ‘Medio Balboa’ is ½ of a Balboa, or the equal of an American Half dollar.

And finally a full Balboa is usually referred to as ‘Un Balboa’ and is equal in size to an American Dollar (not pictured).

In Theory, Panama stopped minting in 90% Silver after 1964 just as the United States did. However, the Panamanians seem to have had some left over 90% coin blanks and you can find numismatically tested and graded coins that were minted as late as 1968 and are still 90% silver. However, the accumulator is not looking for oddities as such will always cost a premium and I would recommend sticking with 1964 and prior if you purchase Balboas.

As a final note, all of these coins were minted to the Avopoidal, or 26 gram, ounce instead of the more talked about “troy” ounce which is a smidge over 31 grams. The result is that an American Dollar, or a Panamanian Balboa will weight basically 4/5 of a troy ounce. If you wish to accumulate these by the Troy ounce you need to remember you need 5 quarters to equal one Troy ounce, not the four you might expect.

Next time, the last installment of this series. Fun and Games of Ebay, or “You can’t always get what you want”, but you can probably at least see it on Ebay.

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