Antique Silver: Coin Silver vs. Sterling

An important distinction that could save you a boatload

Learn the differences between coin silver and sterlingIf you’re like most people, you have more important things to worry about than the difference between coin silver and sterling silver. Unfortunately, your wallet might not think that this distinction is insignificant. Before you sell or give away your antique silver, you’ll want to learn more about how to tell the difference between these two types of material. Some definitions and valuation tips are in order.

What Is Coin Silver?

As its name suggests, coin silver is the type of material that makes up silver dollars and other pieces of silver currency. It’s a standardized alloy that’s comprised of a very limited number of non-silver metals like copper and nickel. In the United States, coin silver must be at least .900 fine. This means that it can contain no less than 90% pure silver. It’s quite a bit more valuable than other alloys that may contain other metals in higher quantities.

Factors That Affect Its Value

Despite its standardized nature, coin silver hasn’t always been so readily recognizable. Before 1906, this material wasn’t standardized in the same manner as it is today, and it was possible to find so-called coin silver alloys with as little as 75% silver. If you have a coin from this period, get it appraised by an expert. For post-1906 material, look for stamps that say “coin,” “dollar,” “standard” or “premium.”

What Is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is also heavily controlled. With a required purity of at least 92.5%, it’s a bit more valuable than coin silver. Confusingly, sterling silver can be found in some coins, the most famous example of which is the old British pound sterling. Of course, modern British pound coins aren’t made from sterling silver. However, this material can be found in a wide range of antique household items, including cutlery, serving platters and vessels.

Factors That Affect Its Value

Since sterling silver always contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% non-precious metals, its value is mainly determined by the worth of the items in which it’s contained. For instance, a rare type of serving set or cutlery could fetch far more than the intrinsic value of its silver. Potential imperfections in such items’ manufacture may increase the value of sterling silver even more.

Get the Best Price on Silver in the Buffalo, NY, Area

Whether you’re an avid collector of antique silver or have a handful of family heirlooms that you’re looking to value, it’s critical to know the difference between sterling silver and coin silver. If you’re looking for more guidance on this distinction or any other aspect of the silver valuation process, Premier Gold Silver & Coins is happy to help. Simply stop by our convenient Cheektowaga location or call us at (716) 204-8800 to discuss your needs.