According to the most recent edition of the Thomason Reuters GFMS World Silver Survey, increases in the scrap silver supply have been noted in both 2010 and 2011. The report further indicates that the silver supply produced in 2011 contained almost twenty-five percent scrap silver.
Poor global economic conditions likely contributed to the rise in silver scrap, as individuals sold not only personal property made from silver, but also purchased used silver items to resell for their valuable silver content.
Industrial silver recycling, although not profitable for individual consumers, is, nonetheless a large silver scrap supply contributor. The supply of scrap silver from electronics, dental alloys and industrial catalytic reactions is bolstered by new, stricter regulatory legislation over companies producing precious metals-containing, hazardous waste. Precious metals recycling service companies take on the waste liabilities of other companies in order to take advantage of the ability to harvest recyclable metals, including silver, platinum, gold and copper.
Pre-1965 coins containing ninety percent silver are known to the investment world as “junk silver coins.” Junk silver has no collectible value, but these circulated coins are still a popular physical silver investment. Technically, junk silver is not bullion, but is sold at similar premiums.
Typically sold in bags, a $1,000 face-value bag of junk silver, if refined, would yield between 715 and 720 ounces of pure silver. When the coins were originally produced, the same bag would have yielded a stable 723 ounces of precious metal. Why the difference?
The answer lies in the fact that the dimes, quarters and half-dollars contained in these bags have decreased in weight, due to the wear produced by their circulation as legal tender. Half-dollars tend to yield closer to 720 ounces than dimes and quarters, because they endured less circulation. Premiums for half-dollars will run slightly more than dimes or quarters, because fewer of them were minted, and they are more popular with buyers. Junk silver half-dollars include the Ben Franklin, 1964 Kennedy and Walking Liberty designs. Walking Liberties usually fetch the highest premiums.