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6 Great Silver Buys
By Mark Benvenuto, Coins Magazine
June 11, 2012

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Once again we have been told that the economy is improving and that the worst of the recent reversals are behind us. The cynical among us might find it convenient to hear such talk during an election year, and thus may not put too much stock in it. After all, the price of gold is still pretty beefy, while down a bit from its recent highs near $2,000 per ounce. Even the price of silver remains far higher than most collectors can remember.

One of the challenges in times like this is to find good coins that won’t drain your wallet at record speed. I have here a strange six pack of silver that you might want to look at. There’s no guarantee that the coins you are about to read will quickly jump up in value. But it’s hard to imagine that these will lost anything any time soon.

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1954 Proof Franklin Half

When it comes to beautiful half dollars, the Franklins appear to live constantly in the shadow of the Walking Liberty. But my reason for starting here is the cost of the Walking Liberty halves is often too high for the average collector. The 1954 Franklin, on the other hand, has some wonderful price tags associated with it.

In 1954, the Philadelphia Mint had been back in the business of making proof sets for collectors for five years. The early sets were sent through the mail, were housed in what was considered a safe manner at the time.

Still, by 1954, the Mint only produced 233,300 of them. It probably won’t take too much hunting to find a beautiful 1954 proof Franklin. Such a specimen will probably cost you less than $200. That’s not bad when you think of the quality coin you’ll land.

1956 Proof Franklin Half

Before walking away from Franklin half dollars, add one more to the six pack. The year 1956 is the last in which the Mint produced less than 1 million proof sets. While 669,384 is pretty common as proofs go, it is the last year when the total remained in six figures. And that means something.

The meaning of the numbers for a 1956 Franklin half dollar come to the fore in the price. You can add one of these 50-cent pieces to your collection for less than $50.

Considering there is slightly more than one-third of an ounce of silver in each half dollar, and that the price of silver has been hovering near $30 for months, this coin is quite a buy. It’s certainly worth considering for any collection of high-end U.S. coins.

1942 Walking Liberty Half

A moment ago I alluded to the high price of Walking Liberty half dollars, but I am going to go out on that proverbial limb and try to add one of these to my silver six pack. The 1942 Walking Liberty is a very common coin, with almost 48 million produced in Philadelphia alone. Any collector should be able to find plenty of them at any show or gathering of collectors and dealers.

But what about a proof 1942 Walking Liberty half? Well, there are only 21,120 of them on the official books. When you factor in the loss due to damaged and mishandled specimens over the past seven decades, suddenly you realize this is a pretty scarce coin.

Here comes the price for the 1942 Walking Liberty half, so get ready: $850. OK. If you never spend more than $50 for any coin in your collection, this may seem way out of your league, or at least your comfort zone. But think about the rarity here. Even if you have to save up for a few months to get the funds, this coin is worth pursuing. The price of silver can rise and fall on the world markets, but a collector jewel like this will always hold its value.

1922 Peace Dollar in MS-65

It’s probably impossible to put together a list of United States silver coins and not add any silver dollars to it. So here’s the first of a few. The 1922 Peace dollar is the single most common coin in the entire Peace series. Immediately that makes many of us think that it’s not a coin worth looking too long and hard at. But as with the 1942 proof Walking Liberty half, the 1922 Peace dollar is one of the dates that will have the best possibility when it comes to surviving high-end pieces.

In 1922, the U.S. Mint was not in the business of making proof sets for sale to the public. But an Mint State-65 specimen is going to be a stellar coin—and the price tag for the 1922 is stellar as well. Right now, one of these gems can most likely be yours for only $175. That’s a lot of silver dollar for not too many of your own dollars. Again, this is a coin worth considering.

1925 Peace Dollar

This second Peace dollar on my list is not the last of the Peace dollars, nor is it even one of the scarcer dates. But the 1925 is the last Peace dollar to have an eight-figure mintage. With 10,198,000 of them coined, you will always be able to land one of these, if you are not particular about grade. But one more time, the MS-65 is a bit tougher. And I’ve chosen this because, while it’s not “the last” in many areas, it is arguably the last in which there are enough MS-65 specimens out there that they are affordable.

A 1925 Peace dollar in MS-65 will cost a little less than $200. As with the 1922, look for a blazing specimen. Look for serious eye appeal.

Lafayette Dollar

With all the relatively recent dates, and the proofs, that I’ve just strung together, the idea of a Lafayette dollar may seem more than a bit odd. But this strange piece in my six pack adds a dimension to it that we would otherwise miss.

This is a coin that has a few interesting bits of history attached to it. It is the first commemorative U.S. silver dollar. It is the only silver dollar in what is now called the classic commemorative series—although there would be several gold commemorative dollars issued after that.

More importantly than such firsts is the mintage and the prices today. There were only 36,026 of the Lafayette dollars ever made. One can only wonder how many have been lost over the course of the last century. The price for one in MS-60 today is about $900.

Admittedly, this is the highest price tag I’ve looked at in this group. But like the 1942 Walking Liberty half dollar, the rarity of this coin makes it a worthwhile buy, even if you need to save up for it. Again, we have a coin here that I feel is worth pursuing.

Other Coins

After these six, one can immediately look up and ask, “What, there are no Morgan dollars?” The answer to that is a simple “yes.” Morgan dollars are such perennial collector favorites that you really need to know the series in gory detail to find one that qualifies as a truly good buy.

Even the common dates, such as the 1879, 1881-S, or 1882-S, are not going to be any better in price than the Peace dollars I just mentioned, and there are far more of them. Likewise, I didn’t dig too deeply into the Walking Liberty halves, as there always appears to be plenty of glare from the collector spotlight shining on them.

There are certainly other good buys in silver, no matter how good or bad the economy seems to be, and no matter how high the price of silver has risen.

Do a bit of sleuthing on your own. Check the price guide in the back of Coins. or check any issue of Coin Prices. You’ll most likely find more than what I’ve listed here.

But here’s hoping this has whetted your appetite. Happy hunting.

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On June 12, 2012 Steve Kamieniecki said
In Mark Benvenuto's story "6 great silver buys" he errs in the last year that the Franklin proofs were less than one million. 1958 saw proof mintages of 875,652.

Something to add? Notice an error? Comment on this article.

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