Silver has carried tremendous value over the centuries in both jewelry, tableware, and as a means of exchange. Ancient economies had embraced gold, silver, and copper as its three main metals for currency and so did the economies of more recent years. In fact, many countries and economies of the past used these metals daily as money until the debasing of currencies became popular in the 1960’s. The copper coins were used for the lowest of denominations of coins and gold was used for the highest of denominations, but silver maintained the center and the backbone for daily exchange up until the mid twentieth century.
Millions of silver coins were hammered out by “moneyers” in ancient times for circulation as decreed by the governments or kings and queens of that day. Today, silver coins are still produced, but they are for numismatic (collector) or investment purposes and not for daily commerce. The United States, for instance, mints annual mint sets in both copper-nickel clad coinage and 90% silver coinage in proof condition for collectors. They also mint the “State Quarters” series in both “Fiat” clad coinage as well as the “old traditional” 90% coin silver. The Silver “Eagle” series is a popular bullion one ounce dollar coin that is minted every year since 1986. It is categorized as a “bullion coin” since it specifically weighs in at one troy ounce and is 99.999% pure silver. Even though the U.S. government has a stated value of a dollar on the silver “Eagle”, it is worth much more than a current “fiat” one dollar and it’s value is based on the daily fluctuation of silver as a commodity on the world exchange. This goes to prove that the money system today is entirely inflated and worth considerably less than it did in 1964 when a dollar was worth “One Silver Dollar”! Up until 1964, U.S. currency and the economy were based on silver. It is hard to imagine that a 1964 silver quarter today is worth around $4.00-$5.00 - depending on currency fluctuations! After the elimination of silver from the U.S. coins, only the half dollar contained some silver. It was minted in a “sandwich” clad format like the rest of the copper-nickel clad coinage only these half dollars were clad in silver. The result was a 40% silver coin. The content on the outside was 90% silver mixed with copper for resistance to wear and tear and a pure copper core on the inside. Sort of like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup only in a metallic form. Mintage of this type of coin lasted from 1965 until 1970. Now all coins minted are of the copper-nickel clad variety with the exception of the special proof sets of the 90% silver half dollar, quarter, and dime for numismatics purposes only.
Silver coins from around the world varied in their content of silver for various economic reasons which obviously changes the value of the coin based today on bullion values alone. Many of the countries in Europe varied their silver content or eliminated it all together during the two World Wars they endured in the twentieth century. Countries in Europe often resorted to nickel, brass, and aluminum for their coins during and after the world wars since their economies were in shambles and valuable metals were scarce or unaffordable in those areas.
Before World War I, the Canadian coins consisted of 92.5% silver, based on Great Britain’s sterling specifications. After WWI, with silver becoming scarce, content in the coins were reduced to 80% silver and continued as such until Canada followed behind the United States in debasing their currency in 1966. From 1967-1968, Canada reduced their dimes, quarters, and half dollars to 50% silver. Silver was then eliminated from the coins altogether after 1968 except for numismatic sets and bullion sales.
Today, all countries around the world mint some form of fiat coins (nickel, brass, copper, aluminum, or steel and any combination thereof) and mint silver coins only for special events or commemorating an event. These coins are always for profit and marketed to numismatists around the world.