Which is a better investment in silver, a brand new 2016 one-ounce American silver coin, or a circulated Morgan dollar?
If you look strictly at the numbers, there is no question that a silver American Eagle bullion coin is the better buy.
You can get them this morning on the APMEX website for $20.20 each. That is an approximately 15 percent markup from the current price of silver bullion.
For random dates of Morgan dollars 1878-1904 in anywhere from VG to VF condition, the price is $24.99 each.
The math is more complicated here because the Morgan does not contain an even troy ounce of silver. It has .7734 ounce.
That means that at the $17.57 current price of silver, it contains $13.59 worth of the precious metal.
The difference of $11.40 means the markup on a Morgan from bullion value is about 84 percent.
If you would settle for all 1921 dates, the price is $22.99 each, or a markup up of 69 percent.
A third possibility is you can even buy culls, which are coins that are badly worn and have other problems. The price is $19.29 each, or a markup from silver bullion value of 42 percent.
All three markup percentages are significantly more than the 15 percent currently prevailing for American Eagle bullion coins.
But some silver investment is not only a hedge against inflation, financial calamity or uncertainty. Some part of it should be an investment in yourself.
How does the Morgan dollar make you feel?
If you are like me, it causes a rush of powerful memories.
The good ones are about the ones I encountered and collected as a kid.
One bad one relates to a 1901-O Morgan that I dropped in the driveway of a customer on my paper route.
I had been so excited to receive it that I just had to look at it.
The result was I dropped it. That put a nice ding in the edge. I kept it. The ding is still sharp if you run your finger along the edge.
Fortunately for me, the coin was heavily circulated and I learned my lesson about never examining coins out of doors while standing on a cement driveway.
That 1901-O might only have a current retail value of $19.29, but it has given me both pleasure and a life learning moment. These are more valuable to me than its price could ever convey.
Memories like this are why even all these many years later, a possible purchase of 20 circulated Morgan dollars gives me way more satisfaction than the same number of bullion American Eagles ever could.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017. He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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