Knowledge is power in the silver market. There is a lot of information when it comes to buying Silver Coins. This guide will help you understand some of the finer aspects of the hobby and investment of Pre 1964 Coinage. Not only will you be able to quickly identify silver coins, you will also be able to find current market prices and what each coin is truly worth. This is very powerful on either spectrum of the market when buying or selling.
In 1965 the United States of America removed silver from most of the circulating coins that were used for every-day purposes. This act changed the common Dimes and Quarters from 90% Silver to a Copper-Nickel Alloy or also known as Clad. The John F Kennedy Half Dollars silver content was lowered from 90% silver to 40% silver from 1965-1970 and then in 1971 they were also minted in Clad. This all occurred on July 23rd,1965 due to rising silver prices and coin shortages that were devaluing the American Dollar. Therefore, all US Dimes, Quarters, and Half Dollars with a date before (pre) 1964 are 90% Silver.
Besides the date being a clear reference to indicate the coin you posses is silver you can also check the rim of the coin. Silver coins will be solid yet Copper-Nickel Clad coins will have a red hue peeking through signifying that the majority of the coin’s composition is Copper. (See Picture Below.) Also, silver has a very certain high-pitched ring to it when dropped, which is significantly different than the “thud” or dull sound of a dropped clad coin.
Now that you can easily identify what coins contain silver, we can closely examine the different types of each denomination that you may find in your local coin dealer’s scrap or junk bin, or possibly an inheritance that you obtain. For the Dimes we will exhibit Barber Dimes, Mercury Dimes, and Roosevelt Dimes. For the Quarters you may see Barber Quarters, Standing Liberty Quarters, and Washington Quarters. Lastly, for the Half Dollars, there are the Barber Half Dollars, Walking Liberty Half Dollars, Ben Franklin Half Dollars, and John F Kennedy Half Dollars.
(Important disclaimer : Just because a coin is 90% Silver does not mean that it should only sell for Silver Melt Prices or that it should be considered many of the terms used to describe common circulated silver coins that are only worth their silver value. The most frequently-used terms would be “Junk Silver”, Scrap, Melt Coins, or sometimes just 90%ers. There are many different dates and mint marks that can increase a coin’s value dramatically. For the intents and purposes of this guide, we do not need to concern ourselves with that.)
So what exactly are your silver coins worth? Most coin dealers buy silver coins by their face value. What’s face value? Face is the dollar amount of the denomination of the coin you have. Therefore, a dime is 10 cents, quarter 25 cents, and a half-dollar would be 50 cents. If you had one of each, the face value would be $.85. If you had two of each, the face value would be $1.70. Or more simply put: 10 dimes is One Dollar Face Value ($1), and 4 Quarters or 2 Halves would be the same.
Next, you will need to figure out how many Troy Ounces of silver you have. Troy ounces is the measuring unit for all precious metals. There is relatively 31.103 grams or 1.097 ounces per Troy ounce. Presumably, One Dollar Face Value of 90% has .723 Troy Ounces of Silver but due to circulation and wear on the coins most dealers use the figure .7125. So if you have $10 Face value you would have 7.125 Troy Ounces, $100 Face would be $71.25 and so forth.
To make matters even simpler yet, take the current market value or “spot price” of silver (which can be found at many sites but the best in our opinion is Kitco) and multiply that by .7125. For example if Spot Price is $20 per Troy Ounce your times face value would be $14.25 per face ($20 x 0.7125 = $14.25). This becomes very handy when it is time to sell or make a purchase. Therefore, if you have $10 face-value at the figure we just calculated, then the Current Spot Price would be $142.25. $100 face would be $1422.50 and so forth.
(Note: Most Coin Dealers and Collectors charge/pay a premium for 90% Silver due to the popularity and collectibility. This can range anywhere from “Spot” (described above) plus $1-5 per Face Value. Keep this in mind when buying/selling and search out the best possible prices before making any transaction.)