Silver Coins vs Silver Rounds - What's the Difference?
The primary difference between silver rounds and silver coins is legal tender status. Coins are legal tender, which means they have a face value or denomination. Thus coins are money. Rounds are not legal tender, and are generally made by private manufacturers.
When you first look seriously at purchasing silver bullion, it's easy to get confused. Silver bars are pretty easy to understand. Silver bullion coins also make sense, once you get used to the idea that the face value on the coin has nothing to do with its actual worth. But when it comes to silver rounds, it's easy for the new silver investor to get confused.
Think of silver rounds as disk-shaped silver bars. You can also think of them as modern versions of silver medals. By the end of this article, you will be familiar with both silver coins and silver rounds, and be able to easily tell the difference.
Coins Compared To Silver Rounds
- Coins can only be issued by a national government.
- Coins carry the name of the government that issued them.
- Coin designs have to be approved by the government.
- Coins carry a date.
- Coins carry a denomination.
- Coins are legal tender.
- The weight and purity of bullion coins are backed by the government.
- Prices of coins are higher than that of rounds.
- Production of fake coins are prosecuted under anti-counterfeiting laws.
Highlighting characteristics of a coin on an American Silver Eagle bullion coin (Gainesville Coins photo)
- Rounds are not issued by a government.*
- Usually, only "Classic Design" silver rounds carry the name of a nation.
- Rounds can carry any design the maker wants (subject to copyright law).
- Most rounds do not carry a date.
- Rounds can never display a denomination.
- Rounds are not legal tender.
- The weight and purity of silver rounds is backed by the reputation of the dealer.
- Bullion rounds are cheaper than coins.
- Production of fake rounds are prosecuted as fraud.
*Government-issued "rounds" are called medals or medallions, and are usually thicker and smaller than silver rounds. Medals do not carry a denomination, and are not legal tender.
a one troy oz 'Morgan design' silver round, showing typical characteristics (Gainesville Coins photo)
Pros and Cons: Silver Rounds vs Silver Coins
Distinguishing between rounds and coins serves a practical purpose. Although similar, there is enough difference to create trade-offs between these two forms of silver bullion.
- Usually, rounds carry a lower premium than coins of the same weight and purity.
- Rounds can feature any design or theme.
- Rounds are typically easier to find for sale.
- Rounds often have lower production quality than coins.
- Rounds are not backed by the full faith and credit of any government.
- Most rounds are not collectible.
Why Do Silver Rounds Get Confused With Coins?
It's no surprise that many people get confused when first encountering silver rounds. They're roughly the same size and weight as silver bullion coins and can have similar designs. Some common reasons that rounds get confused for coins are:
"Rounds" is an unfamiliar term to the general public. If you stopped someone on the street and asked them "What is a silver round?", they'd have no idea. It's no wonder that someone first looking to buy silver bullion is confused as well.
Both silver bullion coins and silver rounds have their weight and purity stamped on them. Modern silver bullion coins will always have their weight and purity stamped on them. Silver rounds will as well. To keep from being confused, remember: "No denomination means it's not a coin."
Silver rounds can have designs that look like old coins. No one would confuse a 1 oz "Buffalo Nickel design" silver round with a real buffalo nickel. Likewise, a "Mercury Dime design" silver round will never be confused for the real thing, either. But...
Silver rounds are similar in size to old silver dollars. Silver rounds are close enough in size to old silver dollars that people might confuse the two. This is why all silver rounds must have the word COPY stamped on them. Still, dishonest sellers used to hide the word COPY in the design to fool uneducated buyers.
a Morgan silver dollar coin, next to a 1 troy oz Morgan Design silver round (Gainesville Coins photo)
To combat this, Congress passed the Collectible Coin Protection Act in December 2014. This law amended the Hobby Protection Act to mandate all silver rounds be prominently and clearly marked COPY.
The reverses of the Walking Liberty design and Mercury dime design one oz .999 fine silver rounds, with the required COPY stamp highlighted (Gainesville Coins photo)
Be A Smart Silver Buyer
When shopping for silver, the quickest and easiest way to tell the difference between a silver coin and a silver round is to look for a denomination. No denomination = not a coin. Remember also, that a COPY stamp means it is a silver round, not a coin. Always keep in mind, that if a price on a "coin" looks too good to be true, it's probably a silver round (or a fake!).
If you want to be 100% sure that what you're buying is what you think you're buying, you should buy your silver from Gainesville Coins! In addition to more than four decades of experience in the business, we are an Authorized Purchaser for many prestigious mints around the world. Our customers trust us thanks to our reputation for honesty and customer service.
We keep silver rounds and silver coins are in completely different categories. If you're still confused, call one of our floor traders. Our traders do not work on commission. There is no pressure, and no trying to up-sell you to a more expensive alternative.
Below you'll find a few of our best-selling silver rounds. For more to choose from, view our silver rounds category.
A published writer, Steven's coverage of precious metals goes beyond the daily news to explain how ancillary factors affect the market.
Steven specializes in market analysis with an emphasis on stocks, corporate bonds, and government debt.