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5.30.2018 - Free Investment Newsletter Bookmark

Buy Junk?


Have you ever heard the term “Junk” Silver?  That’s the commonly used name for US coins that were produced back when Uncle Sam had some integrity, and put real silver in our dimes, quarters, half dollars, etc. Well, it’s not junk and for a couple reasons.


Any dime, quarter, or half dollar minted before 1965 is 90% silver, and 10% copper. Then after the coinage act, 1965 – 70 minted coins only had 40% silver. After that? Now that’s true junk. Our coins are a mix of base metals, but nothing precious in them.  They’re only “worth” what Uncle Sam says they are.



So, it’s a common thing for people to buy or look for Junk silver. The question is, is it a good idea or not? The answer is yes, very much so. Let me explain:


As you all know I’m a big fan of gold and silver. Most people have gotten bored of it because it’s been suppressed for so many years. But one of the “downsides” to say only having silver rounds, or gold Eagles is that you really don’t want to “spend” them until you have to.  So a lot of people tend to think of silver Eagles as a bit of a rip off, because the face value of a silver eagle is, drum roll, ONE lousy dollar.  But with rounds it’s even worse. They’re not legal tender. They aren’t money at all.


That’s right folks. That one ounce of pure silver is probably worth 18 bucks per coin, but as legal tender, it’s only worth a buck if it’s an eagle, and NOTHING if it’s a “round”. So naturally you don’t want to “spend” your silver Eagles or rounds unless there’s a situation that warrants it.


Well it’s the same with “junk” silver, but with a significant twist. For instance, if you take a lowly dime that was minted in say 1963, the silver content of that dime is actually worth about $1.10 – 1.20 right now.  That’s 1,100% more than the face value!  So like our Eagles above, you wouldn’t want to spend your dime, because you’re losing out on a buck for every one you spend as ten cents.

But what if the unthinkable happened and for some reason, Silver went back to say it’s price in 2000-01 at  around 4 bucks or even less. Or worse, let’s say for some ungodly reason silver went to a buck. Well, the Silver Eagle you bought for 15, 16, 17, `18, 20…is now only worth a buck and you’ve lost the lions share of your investment.

But with junk coins, silver could go to Zero, but you’d still have the “face value” of the coins.  That right there is the significant part of junk silver. No matter what happens to silver’s price, you always have the face value of the coin. For some investors, that gives them some form of peace of mind.


NOTE>> This is often true when the mint decides to do a run of say quarters. In 1997 they decided to do a run of quarters with the 50 states on them. Some people would buy ( exchange regular quarters) for the State quarters. Often people would bid them up on Ebay to finish off a collection, etc. But no matter what, even if the quarter didn’t appreciate, it was still worth a quarter. No they don’t have any silver or anything else in them, but again, some people paid premiums for them as collectibles. 


However, I don’t really like junk silver because of the fact that it will always have a face value. No, I like junk silver because I get a kick out of trying to find it.  Think about it folks. If I have a dollar, and you have 4 Pre 1965 quarters, I could request your quarters for my dollar. If you go along with the deal, I just made a fantastic score! I got 4 quarters with 90% pure silver in them.


A 1964 quarter weighs 6 grams.  That means 5.4 grams of that coin are pure silver. At today’s prices, that quarter is worth $2.84.  So, I got $11.36 worth of pure silver, for a buck. 


That is why so many people are “silver rollers.” What’s that you say? It’s when you go to a bank and ask if they have any half dollar coins. You take all they have, and pay for them with dollars. Suppose they have 40 dollars worth (80 coins)  You open those rolls and look for any that were minted pre 1965. Any you find will be worth considerably more than a half a buck.  Let’s say you find 3 ( which would be a lot now adays). So, you put 3 “modern” half dollars in for the 3 old coins you took out and take it back to the bank, or another bank for cash.


You just got “free” silver.  Pretty good deal, right? And make no mistake there’s people that spend their entire weekends looking for free silver. It won’t make you rich overnight, but it is worth checking dates on ANY change you get. Even if it was minted in 67,68,69 it’s got 40% silver in it. That’s worth more than face value.


I started checking for junk silver in my every day transactions, whether it’s at the liquor store, the Walmart, the gas station, etc, about 2 years ago. I was surprised to see how many of these older coins are still in circulation. In fact, Friday night in the Hotel lounge the bartender brought me my change from ordering the wife and I two drinks. On the bar was 2 quarters. One was  a 1964 and one was a 1994.  That 1964 is 90% silver.


You can buy bags of “junk” silver from many dealers, and they sell them by face value. For instance, 100 dollars worth of face value dimes and quarters. But because of the silver content, they’ll charge you 1,200 for that bag, because of the 90% silver content. It’s not a terrible thing to do, as again, no matter what, you can use the coins for “money” as it is legal tender. But I’m more happy just trying to find the stuff.


If you know the person that bags up the coinstar coins found in most supermarkets, and they let you hunt through the dime and quarter bags, you’ve found a ‘gold mine” so to speak. Or a bank teller/manager that lets you go through their coin machine ( If they have one) you’re in luck. But even if you don’t have any connections, and don’t want to play the “silver roll” game,  by all means, check your coins for dates.


I honestly don’t know how many dimes and quarters I have in my little bucket since I started paying attention to the dates a couple years ago and keeping anything minted before 1965. But for a rough guess, I’d have to say maybe 80, 90? Again, it won’t make you rich, but that’s a fine little stash of silver, that cost me NOTHING to accumulate.


That’s the part I love the most folks. I’m not buying this silver. I was already going to get change, it’s simply a bonus to get change that’s worth more than the face value of the coins.


Now, lets suppose you have a lot of “junk silver”. I happen to have an Aunt that’s probably got 3 5 gallon buckets full of it. What do you do with it? Junk is easy to sell to metals dealers, just like buying or selling Silver Eagles. But there’s also “other” things you can do. There’s several refineries across the country that will take your junk silver coins, refine them, and pour them into .999 pure one, two and even 5 ounce bars. That’s pretty neat, considering you’d know the history of how that bar came about.


I’m not against junk, it has its place. If you’re one that collects change in a jar or coffee can and then cashes them in ever 6 or 8 months, do yourself a favor and take 20 minutes and see if you’ve got any Pre 1970 and especially pre 1965 coins. If you do, you just hit a little jackpot. Wasn’t that fun?!


The Market:


Well, if you’ve been watching the market for the past two days, you’ve seen some pretty interesting moves.  On word of Italy’s bond disaster, and debt situation, and political turmoil, it rattled global markets on Tuesday.


A lousy open turned into an absolute sell off by 3 pm, as the DOW was down 505. But they rushed in to get us off those lows, and while it was a truly ugly day, it wasn’t as bad as it could be.


Then a Miracle happened. After all that selling Tuesday, Wednesday showed up with bright green futures. We opened well and continued up from there. Up and up and up we went, and by 3 pm today, we had erased ALL of yesterday’s plungein the S&P and most of it in the DOW.


Did they solve Italy? Of course not. Did anything get fixed? Of course not. So how do you explain today’s wicked bounce?  The usual talking head explanation is that calmer heads prevailed and they realized that it wasn’t going to be a contagion that wipes out our banks.


Or you could go with this idea. When the DOW was off 505 yesterday, the S&P had plunged to just shy of hitting its 50 day moving average. Could it be they’re considering that some form of successful test of the 50’s and they can get back on track to push us higher?  Well, here’s the issue with that:  Yesterday during all that selling, we traded 115 million shares of SPY. Today heading into the close, we had just 46 million showing.  We ended the day with 55 million traded.  So, 115 million on a sell day, 55 on an up day.


So, as has been the case for months, down days bring us more volume than up days. Call me old fashioned and crazy, but I’d feel a lot more comfy seeing the bigger volume on the up days. But in any event, today erased yesterday and here we are. Right smack in the middle of the range we’ve been in since February.


Ranges eventually end. You get a breakout, or a break down. The longer this sideways chop goes, the bigger that move will be. Now, Wall Street will tell you that the breakout is going to be to the upside, and we get to all new highs. But why? Aren’t rising interest rates bad for stocks? Isn’t political problems in Europe able to affect us? Are earnings really going to carry the year?


All I’m saying is that we’ve been chopping sideways for 4 months now. Big chop, 400+ point day chop. I can make the case for us falling more than I can for us hitting new highs. But they do have a secret weapon. They can print money out of thin air and jam it right into the markets. Add that together with record stock buy backs and yeah, they could pull off a run to new highs. But it won’t be organic.


Having a company buy back 200 million of its own stock is NOT organic market growth. Having the Swiss national Bank buying billions in individual stocks is NOT organic market growth. But up is up, and they desperately want it up.


Thus we continue to pick away at long side trades, grabbing dips and breakouts, but selling out quickly because there’s NO TREND.  Just chop.


That’s all we can do until a trend develops.  One day a sustainable trend will show up, but for now, you’ve got to be nimble or the market will eat you. Don’t let it.

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