In Praise of Junk Silver

Ol’ Remus
Woodpile Report

It’s doomsday plus a few weeks. Say you need to bribe the border guards at the state line but they seem to have all the wristwatches and free range eggs they can use. Hah! There’s nothing like a few good ol’ silver coins to become their number one tourist, let this man through. Or your gas station’s not accepting Visa and the ATMs have gone dark from sea to shining sea and you’ve got a hard to get reservation at a fallout-free retreat. Hah! Dazzle ’em with the sheen of silver my friend, fill ‘er up and happy motoring to you.

Or you gotta do some emergency shopping but hackers insist your bank records have gone missing and your bank agrees and meanwhile Bernanke Bucks are sinking faster than a head-shot carp. Hah! With junk silver just step over to the VIP express aisle and take what you need, take two while you’re at it and here, let me help you with that. Or you’re down to your last few rounds and you’ve gotta hit the freedom trail like now, and there are a dozen shooting galleries between you and your little blue heaven but your ammo vendor ain’t taking paper. Hah! With silver you can top off from his private stock, the nickel plated ones that chamber slick as butter, and y’all come back now.

All this is by way of saying silver is the common man’s hedge against the consequences of well informed, highly educated stupidity. This time it’s likely to manifest itself as a general repudiation of paper promises, including currency. Let’s get to the plain facts. Junk silver means silver coins with no collector premium for rarity. They’re culls, valued only for their silver content, called melt value, not that anybody actually melts them. [Updated values here, second table down] Just as a guide, with silver at $29 to $30 per troy ounce, a silver dime goes for a bit over two bucks, so for any junk silver coin you can figure face value times twenty, plus a cup of cappuccino. For the moment.

Annoying data: there are 14.58 troy ounces per avoir pound, that would be the regular kitchen-type pound, a troy ounce being 480 grains, the avoir ounce being 437.5 grains. The grain is identical in both systems. Rule of thumb: the troy ounce is about 10% heavier than the avoir ounce, but the troy pound is only 12 troy ounces and therefore lighter than the avoir pound, which is 16 avoir ounces. Coin silver is 90% silver, 10% copper. Finally, Indiana Jones is .812 Roy Chapman Andrews.

Dimes and halves are favored. For every ten ounces current wisdom says do five ounces in halves, five in dimes. You’ll have more dimes than halves, five-to-one, natch. Quarters are somewhat less favored. Not for any actual, sensible, defensible reason. It’s just the way it is. Could be the tyranny of even numbers. The silver dollar’s place seems to have been taken by the one ounce silver eagle. It’s too bad, the silver dollar is the embodiment of the ancient and original definition of a dollar, namely “three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenths parts of a grain” of fine silver alloyed with copper to the tenth part. It’s genuine Constitutional money. Get one and treasure it. And while you’re doing so, reflect on today’s paper dollar being equal to 1/29th of an ounce of silver, and how did that happen.

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