How Much Silver is Enough?

old dimes and quarters
Dimes, quarters and half-dollar coins minted in 1964 and earlier, are 90 percent silver. Known as "junk silver," they are recommended for preppers.

My prepper friend Karl shared with me his accumulation of junk silver and asked if I thought it was enough.

He has 25 rolls of quarters, 56 rolls of dimes, and 20 rolls of half dollars, all made from 90 percent silver. Do the math and that is:

  • 1,000 quarters
  • 2,800 dimes
  • 200 half dollars.

That sounds like a lot, but it’s only $630 worth of coins (face value). However, they contain 450.5 ounces of silver. Because of the value of silver, these pre-1965 coins are worth a little more than $12,390. (Consider this a demonstration of how inflation ships away at the value of your money. If you had gone to the bank in 1963 and withdrawn $630 of quarters and dimes, they would be worth almost 20 times that today.)

But is to get back to his original question, is that enough? Well, 2,800 dimes sound like an awful lot of dimes, but my response to his question was, enough for what?

Bartering After the SHTF

One reason preppers like junk silver, sometimes called constitutional silver, is because we expect it will be useful after a collapse when our paper currency, the fiat bills we use for money, become worthless. The theory is that silver has always had an inherent value and will continue to do so. I subscribe to this theory, but I think it silver is more likely to be a useful medium of exchange after things settle down rather than right in the middle of the collapse.

If someone offered to buy a dozen eggs from me today for a silver quarter, I would take them up on the deal, because a quarter today has $4.97 worth of silver in it, and I charge $5 for our fresh eggs from our free-range chickens. After the SHTF, I would still take a silver quarter for a dozen eggs, because I would expect the silver content would make it valuable both during the societal collapse and after the recovery.

At a quarter per dozen eggs, then $630 face value in silver coins is going to buy a large amount of food. But because food will be scarce after the SHTF, it will the cost more. Karl could run out of silver before the recovery. Of course, being a good prepper, Karl has stored food, and because he’ll probably be staying with us, he won’t need to buy eggs. But you get the point. If he is well prepared, he has enough silver to use during a collapse. On the other hand, if his only prep is junk silver, he doesn’t have enough silver.

What, no Gold?

Karl doesn’t have any gold. Neither does he have Silver Eagles or other one-ounce coins or silver bars. He has concentrated specifically on junk silver, buying a couple rolls here and there on a regular basis over the years, just like he accumulated his guns and ammo.

Gold is considered a store of value and a way to preserve your monetary wealth during a disaster or other event. After things recover, the theory goes, you dig up your gold and convert it to “new bucks” or whatever the newly printed currency is, and you will fare better than those who stored paper dollars in their mattress or left funds in their bank accounts.

Gold coins and bars
Gold reached a record high this week, making whomever holds this stash of gold a handsome profit.

I also agree with this theory, but I think there will be times when gold will be useful during a disaster. While you won’t want to trade gold for eggs, there might come a day when you could trade a gold coin for a horse and saddle. Or, if you wanted to buy a dairy cow and her calf, it might be easier to do with a gold coin than ten or 12 rolls of quarters.

And what about real estate? How are you going to buy a few acres from your neighbor when there are no banks? In the post-apocalyptic future, gold may again become useful for buying land and other high-value property.

While I agree that junk silver and one-ounce silver coins and rounds could be useful for small purchases after the SHTF—like eggs, a pair of breeding rabbits, or five gallons of gasoline—I expect there will be some purchases that they will call for the use of gold.

When is Enough Enough?

Asking if he has enough silver is like asking if you have enough money; it never hurts to have more. My advice to Karl was to diversify. The next time he wanted silver, he should buy some silver American Eagles. (One has as much silver as $1.40 face value of junk silver.) Or, consider buying gold, starting at half ounce coins if he doesn’t want to jump right up to one-ounce coins. If he wants to stick with buying more junk silver, then buy more quarters and half dollars. 2,800 dimes should be enough.

If you are thinking about buying gold or silver because the prices are rising, just remember, you can’t eat silver. Have a good supply of food and other preps on hand before you spend your prepping budget on shiny bits of metal.

For a broader look at gold and silver for preppers, read Precious Metals for Preppers.

Note: Silver values vary with the market. The values used in this post were accurate when it was written the afternoon of April 5; they will have changed since. To determine the melt value of junk silver coins, I use this webpage: The website is also full of useful information on collectible coins, especially gold and silver coinage issued by the United States.

Please keep in mind that I am not a financial advisor and nothing in this post or elsewhere on the website should be considered financial advice. This post is based on my opinions and experience gained through 30 years of prepping.