Precious metals (in physical form) have been hot lately, with the US Mint actually temporarily stopping sales of American Silver Eagle coins recently. Germany is repatriating much of their gold reserves, China is bolstering theirs, and many average people are locking in their fair shares of the shiny stuff as a hedge against economic uncertainty.
Personally, I'm the proud owner of several rolls of junk silver, and I've been studying up lately on silver as an investment. And while I like junk silver as an investment, there can -- as with many investments -- be some things to watch out for when buying it.
Wear and Tear
If you've ever been lucky enough to find a really old coin, you might notice in some instances how worn it is. Certain features on the face of the coin could be worn, edges could be worn, and the coin in general may almost seem thinner.
Well, when buying a coin for its silver content, thinner isn't exactly better since it means that some of that silver could have been lost to wear and tear. While it might in some cases be a miniscule amount, if buying in bulk, a little, spread over a many coins, can add up and end up costing the unwitting buyer. This is why it can be important to buy by weight rather than number of coins when buying junk silver.
Weight -- Ounce vs. "Troy" Ounce
Understanding proper weight when it comes to silver is important as well. Knowing that there is a difference between a standard ounce and a "troy" ounce when purchasing silver can make a substantial difference in what amounts are being bought.
According to cointrackers.com, a standard ounce is "28.3495231 grams or 437.5 grains", while a "troy" ounces is "31.1034768 grams or 480 grains". While this might not at first seem like a substantial difference, when buying in bulk, it can add up. Knowing that when buying 100 ounces of silver, if someone sold this amount in standard ounces rather than troy ounces that there would be almost 9 fewer troy ounces, at $31 an ounce, this could equate to nearly $275.
Therefore, being sure of exactly how much silver is being purchased and in what quantities can be an important aspect of purchasing junk silver.
The "numismatic" value or the money that a coin might be worth to a collector could be significantly more than what its silver value might be. While a pre-1964 dime could be worth $2 in silver, and a quarter of similar date $6 or $7, the right coin, from the right date or mint, and in the right condition could be worth hundreds or even thousands of times more. Therefore, keeping a wary eye open for collectible coins could pay off big time.
Age and Type of Coin
Not all old coins are silver. Some coins had more or less silver in them depending upon when they were made -- like half dollars for example. Some coins -- like nickels -- may only have had silver in them during a few WWII years. This is why it's good to go on sites like coinflation.com and read up about coins and their composites before jumping the gun and just assuming that coins from certain years have silver in them.
Finding out how much a dealer charges for coins and what his or her "markup" are on those coins over the actual price of silver can be important when buying. Being able to find a seller who might charge only 1.5 percent over spot value versus 3 percent could add up to significant savings if buying in bulk quantities.
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The author is not a licensed financial, coin or commodities professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or coin buying advice. Calculations in this article have not been verified by a professional. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.