The Royal Canadian Mint produces silver coins in Canada as bullion and for commemorative collectables, but when it comes to circulation coins, it no longer uses silver and hasn’t for over 50 years. When and why did Canada stop minting silver circulation coins, and how did the decision affect their value today? Find out more about the economic factors that led to a discontinuation of the use of silver in Canadian coins.
Why Did Canada Stop Using Silver for Circulation Coins?
Essentially, silver coins in Canada became impractical because of fluctuations in the price of silver. This is a trend that began during the years of World War I, when the price of silver doubled over the course of four years. Prior to 1922, Canadian five-cent coins had been made of silver but, due to the increase in price, they were switched to nickel, a cheaper metal. The change was permanent, which is why five-cent coins are known colloquially as nickels to this day.
By the 1960s, the price of silver had risen so high that the price of minting silver coins for circulation was too prohibitive. Alloys of less expensive metals that resembled silver were used instead. The move away from silver in circulation coins wasn’t limited to Canada. Other countries, such as the United States, also stopped minting silver coins at this time, for the same reason: silver was no longer cost-effective.
How Did the Silver Content Decline Over Time?
The last Canadian circulation coins to contain silver were produced in early 1968. By August of that year, all the coins that had previously contained silver were permanently switched to cheaper alloys. However, because of the fluctuations in the price of silver, coins prior to that date have varying levels of silver content. Prior to 1920, Canadian coins contained 92.5% silver. Starting in 1920, that percentage was reduced to 80%. Before silver coins were discontinued completely in 1968, the silver content of dimes and quarters was briefly reduced to 50%.
How Do You Know if Your Old Coins Contain Silver?
With the exception of pennies and nickels, Canadian coins minted prior to 1968 have at least some silver content. When it comes to dimes and quarters minted in 1968, one way to determine whether they have any silver is to determine whether they are magnetic. If there is an attraction between a 1968 coin and a magnet, the coin contains no silver. If the coin is not magnetic, it contains 50% silver.
How Does Silver Content Affect the Value of Old Coins?
While silver prices continue to fluctuate, the price is generally greater than it was when the coins were struck originally. Therefore, old silver coins in Canada are worth more than face value because of their content based on current commodity prices. This intrinsic value based on silver prices is independent of any numismatic value a coin may have based on factors such as its condition or rarity. If a coin is rare or in excellent condition, its numismatic value may be much greater than the value it has intrinsically by virtue of containing silver.
How Can You Obtain Silver Coins Canada With Intrinsic Value?
At Colonial Acres Coins, we sell “scrap” silver coins. These are random circulated coins that contain silver. They have no numismatic value because they are in poor condition or are from common years. However, they do contain silver and so have some intrinsic worth greater than the face value.
We sell both Canadian and United States coins as scrap silver in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is a popular way to collect coins with some intrinsic value, so purchase yours today.