Quarters (Clad Coins) vs Silver American Eagles (Silver Coins)

The Difference Between Pure Silver Coins and Clad Coins


Written by John Rothans

Jul 3, 2018

From the 1920's to 1964, the jingle jangle of pocket change sounded different in America. It even felt different. When you pulled out a few quarters to pay for a soda, you were paying with real silver coins made from 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.

Thanks to an increasing demand for silver and changing economic conditions, these silver coins were highly desired! So much so that people began hoarding everyday pocket change with the hopes of turning a profit.

In 1964, however, the U.S. Mint decided that it was no longer economically feasible to continue issuing American coinage with a silver content of up to 90%. It would be the final year 90 percent silver coins were minted. The spot price of silver was just too close to the denomination of the coins being produced. Instead of spending their pocket change, people were stockpiling it.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson changed the course of American coinage. He signed the Coinage Age of 1965 on July 23 and in his remarks at the ceremonial signing of the Act, he explained:

“The new dimes and the new quarters will contain no silver. They will be composites, with faces of the same alloy used in our 5-cent piece that is bonded to a core of pure copper. They will show a copper edge…

Now, all of you know these changes are necessary for a very simple reason—silver is a scarce material. Our uses of silver are growing as our population and our economy grows. The hard fact is that silver consumption is now more than double new silver production each year. So, in the face of this worldwide shortage of silver, and our rapidly growing need for coins, the only really prudent course was to reduce our dependence upon silver for making our coins.”

With that, the U.S. Mint began production and circulating clad coins—silver-colored coins with absolutely no silver in them.

1 oz Silver American Eagle Coin, front
Silver Eagles can act as building blocks for your precious metals portfolio by increasing your portfolio’s diversity, as silver can move independently of stocks and other asset classes. These coins are highly liquid, making them easy to buy and sell. What’s more, they feature the very symbol of our nation’s freedom—the American Eagle. Call 1-844-307-1589 to see how you can enjoy the beauty and artistry of the American Silver Eagle Coin in the palm of your hand.

Clad Coins vs. Silver Coins

What is a clad coin? Clad coins have multiple layers of a silver-colored, nickel-copper alloy. A clad coin is essentially a piece of copper sandwiched between two layers of nickel and zinc. It's the metal composition you'll find in your pocket change today. So, while a clad coin may look shiny and silvery, it doesn't contain an ounce of silver!

So, did the introduction of silvery clad coins mean the end of fine silver coins? Far from it. Circulating silver coinage may have seen its last day, but pure silver bullion coins have been minted for saving—not spending—since the 1980s.

Mexico was the first nation to issue a silver bullion coin, the Libertad, in 1982. The Libertad was followed shortly after by the Silver American Eagle in 1986 and the Silver Canadian Maple Leaf in 1988. In 1989, China hopped on the silver bandwagon with the Silver Chinese Panda Coin.

These pure silver bullion coins were minted as legal tender, but with the intent that they would be held onto, not spent. They were meant to satiate citizens’ desire for pure, powerful silver. The silver coins that circulated in American coinage were never made with the same silver content as silver bullion coins—.999 pure silver.

How can you tell the difference between a silvery clad coin and a silver coin? Compare the coin types and you'll see that it's pretty obvious!

  • Coin Weight: Given their greater silver content, silver bullion coins and previously circulated silver coins feel much heavier than clad coins.
  • Coin Appearance Over Time: Silver coins will tarnish if left exposed to open air or moisture. Clad coins will develop a coppery tint as they age.
  • Coin Edges: To identify a clad coin, look at its edge. This part of a coin is also called its “third edge.” You'll see a distinct, copper-colored core. A pure silver coin will not have a visible core.
  • Coin Sound: Silver coins and clad coins also make different noises when knocked or dropped—two things we certainly don't recommend doing! Take our word for it: silver coins have a higher pitched, ting-tang ring to them. Non-silver coins and silver-colored clad coins make more of dull thud sound.

Shopping for Silver Coins

Whether you're shopping for new silver coins or simply re-evaluating your current collection, you'll find it helpful to know the difference between pure silver coins and silver-colored clad coins. Contrary to popular belief, all that shines isn't silver… or gold for that matter. Without an ounce of silver content, clad coins do not offer the same benefits as silver bullion coins. Take Silver American Eagles, for instance.

Silver American Eagle Coins can act as building blocks for your precious metals portfolio by increasing your portfolio’s diversity, as silver can move independently of stocks and other asset classes. Silver bullion coins represent tangible wealth.

If you're ready to shop pure silver coins, call U.S. Money Reserve at 1-844-307-1589 or shop silver coins online. Knowledgeable Account Executives are standing by to answer your questions about silver, American coinage, and the future of precious metals!


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