July 23, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the debasement of United States’ coinage. The Coinage Act of 1965 debased the coinage of silver from the dimes and quarter dollars and diminished the silver content of the half dollar from 90% to 40% before it, too, lost all of its silver content about 5 years later. The US government claimed the reason for the act was coin shortages caused by the increase in the price of silver. The Act also forbade the mintage silver dollars for five years.
The demonetization of the silver came just over two year after US President John F. Kennedy delegated authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to issue silver certificates. In his book Crossfire, Jim Marrs posits that Kennedy created silver certificates to undermine the power of the Federal Reserve, though others say that Kennedy’s decision was merely a matter of convenience during a time of transition away from silver certificates. Here are parts of the speech by Lyndon B Johnson announcing the change:
When I have signed this bill before me, we will have made the first fundamental change in our coinage in 173 years. The Coinage Act of 1965 supersedes the act of 1792. And that act had the title: An Act Establishing a Mint and Regulating the Coinage of the United States.
Since that time our coinage of dimes, and quarters, and half dollars, and dollars have contained 90 percent silver. Today, except for the silver dollar, we are establishing a new coinage to take its place beside the old….
The new dimes and the new quarters will contain no silver. They will be composites, with faces of the same alloy used in our 5-cent piece that is bonded to a core of pure copper. They will show a copper edge…..
Here the President acknowledges that silver is a scarce material and that its demand is increasing. He points out that, in 1965, silver consumption was already silver production.
Now, all of you know these changes are necessary for a very simple reason–silver is a scarce material. Our uses of silver are growing as our population and our economy grows. The hard fact is that silver consumption is now more than double new silver production each year. So, in the face of this worldwide shortage of silver, and our rapidly growing need for coins, the only really prudent course was to reduce our dependence upon silver for making our coins.
Despite this, he maintains that demand won’t increase for the coins once they are taken out of circulation:
Some have asked whether our silver coins will disappear. The answer is very definitely-no.
Our present silver coins won’t disappear and they won’t even become rarities. We estimate that there are now 12 billion–I repeat, more than 12 billion silver dimes and quarters and half dollars that are now outstanding. We will make another billion before we halt production. And they will be used side-by-side with our new coins.
Since the life of a silver coin is about 25 years, we expect our traditional silver coins to be with us in large numbers for a long, long time.
He affirms the US government has lots of silver on hand, and that they will manage the price of silver over time if anyone has the idea to hoard silver.
If anybody has any idea of hoarding our silver coins, let me say this. Treasury has a lot of silver on hand, and it can be, and it will be used to keep the price of silver in line with its value in our present silver coin. There will be no profit in holding them out of circulation for the value of their silver content.
Now, I will sign this bill to make the first change in our coinage system since the 18th century. And to those Members of Congress, who are here on this very historic occasion, I want to assure you that in making this change from the 18th century we have no idea of returning to it.
We are going to keep our eyes on the stars and our feet on the ground.
As GoldSilverBitcoin has pointed out before, a lot of press before the debasement didn’t speak too highly of silver. In the summer of 1955, Business Week claimed that “No one seems to want the metal.” 50 years after The Coinage Act of 1965, silver demand is at record highs, and, as we write, dealers are having problems getting the metal.