When Did They Stop Making Silver Quarters?
When Did They Stop Making Silver Quarters? This is the question which sticks in everyone’s mind. This intriguing question often lingers in the minds of curious individuals and coin enthusiasts. Let’s delve into the fascinating story behind the end of an era: the production of silver quarters in the United States.
The End of an Era: Silver Quarters’ Final Chapter
A Complex Transition: From Silver to Copper-Nickel Coinage
Have you ever wondered when the production of silver quarters came to an end? The answer lies in a pivotal moment in American currency history during the 1960s, marking the termination of nearly two centuries of silver coinage usage, which had commenced in 1792.
Most individuals, including coin collectors, know that the final 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars issued by the U.S. Mint bear the date 1964. However, the details of this significant transition remain less well-known. Notably, silver coins were minted even after 1964, yet the same date was retained for about two more years. This aspect often leads to confusion, with many coin enthusiasts uncertain about the exact year when the production of silver quarters and other silver coins ceased.
The Precious Metal Shortage
The backdrop for this change began in the 1930s and continued into the 1950s when the U.S. Treasury became a massive purchaser of silver. The government acquired billions of ounces of this precious metal not only for the production of silver coinage but also to back silver certificates, which were redeemable for silver dollars.
However, the early 1960s brought about a global shortage of silver. This scarcity was fueled by several factors, including the metal’s increased use in growing economies, the rising price of silver, and growing demand from collectors and speculators. This situation prompted the Kennedy administration to identify and address the significant shortage of silver coins. Steps were taken to halt the sale of surplus silver, and discussions began about transitioning to a less costly coinage material.
Coin Collectors and Vending Machines
In November 1961, President Kennedy expressed the need to gradually reduce the reliance on silver in monetary reserves. Several factors contributed to this silver shortage:
- Booming Economy and Industrial Use: Silver’s increasing use in industry due to a thriving economy.
- Rise of Vending Machines: The widespread adoption of vending machines in the 1950s and 1960s, resulted in massive quantities of coins being removed from circulation.
- Coin Collecting Boom: There was a surge in coin collecting during this period, partially due to the release of significant coin publications and the popularity of coin rolls.
Coin collectors, comprising millions of enthusiasts, played a role in depleting the silver coinage supply. The discovery of millions of silver dollars in Treasury vaults in the early 1960s, combined with the issuance of the Kennedy half dollar in 1964, led to substantial reductions in silver coin quantities.
Silver’s Price and Hoarding
Despite efforts to maintain the price of silver at $1.293, which equated the bullion value of 90% silver coins to their face value, problems arose when the market price exceeded this level. This situation was exacerbated as the government’s silver stockpiles dwindled.
In September 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed a law allowing the U.S. Mint to freeze the date on circulating coinage. This meant that silver coinage produced after 1964 would still bear the 1964 date. However, this approach failed to address the rising price of silver, which ultimately led to widespread hoarding of these coins.
Transition to Copper-Nickel Coinage
On July 23, 1965, President Johnson signed the Coinage Act of 1965, authorizing the production of dimes and quarters from a cupro-nickel alloy containing copper. While half dollars retained a 40% silver composition, the law also temporarily prohibited the use of mint marks.
Copper-nickel quarters were first struck in August 1965 and released later that year. Copper-nickel dimes and the remaining 40% silver halves followed in December 1965 and early 1966. This means that, contrary to popular belief, most higher-denomination coins circulating in 1965 were still made of silver.
The End of an Era of Silver Quarters
The last 90% silver quarters were struck in January 1966, and the last 90% silver dimes were minted in February of the same year. The dwindling government silver supply and the public’s increasing hoarding of 90% silver coins led to the release of billions of copper-nickel coins, filling the void.
As the price of silver continued to rise, the government decided to halt the suppression of silver’s value. By 1969, almost 130 million 40% silver halves were struck, but in 1970, they were only produced for mint and Proof sets. No more 40% silver halves were minted after 1970, effectively marking the end of circulating silver coinage.
Conclusion-When Did They Stop Making Silver Quarters?
While some 90% of silver coins can still be found through roll searching, the vast majority disappeared from circulation by the early 1970s. This shift in coinage materials marked a significant turning point in the history of American currency.
- William L. Silber, “The Story of Silver” (Princeton University Press, 2019)
- “Silver and the Coin Shortage,” CQ Researcher, December 2, 1964.