If you are old enough to remember when the U.S. converted from 90% silver coins to clad coinage in 1965, then you probably have a pile of those silver coins hidden away in a closet or safety deposit box. Or if you are too young to remember, you may have inherited a hoard of pre-1965 silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars. (Remember when half dollars actually circulated?)
Bad Money Chasing Good
During the 1960s, the old adage of bad money chasing good money out of circulation certainly held true as millions of Americans stashed away their silver coins. In either case, the question is now, "How much are your coins worth?"
For most people, their stash of silver consists of common date circulated coins, nothing special. There are no key dates or rare die varieties - no hidden gems that will make you rich. The coins are mostly worn, circulated coins pulled from pocket change as clad coins made their appearance.
What you have is a pile of "junk silver." The term doesn't imply anything bad, it just refers to coins that are common and therefore have little to no numismatic value. In otherwords, there isn't a collector demand for them to drive prices higher than the silver content in the coins.
So what are they worth? You know they are worth more than face value because you've seen the news reports about the great bull market for silver. But just how much above face value are they worth?
Luckily the answer is quite simple to figure out. Since the silver content of dimes, quarters, and half dollars is proportionate to their denomination, it is easy to calculate that for each dollar in face value there is .7234 ounces of silver originally in the coins. Since most of the coins are worn from circulation, dealers tend to figure the amount of silver left in the coins at about .715 ounces of silver per dollar of face value.
So, using the current spot price of silver (see silver price chart) we can calculate the approximate value of the silver content of the coins. Simply multiply .715 x [spot price of silver] x [face value of the coins]. The 10% copper content of the coins is usually ignored since the value is so small.
When $100 Equals $2,000
Assuming you had $100 face value in coins and the spot price of silver is $29, you would perform the following calculation: .715 x $29 x $100 = $2,073.50.
The $100 in old pocket change would now be worth about $2,000 based on the silver content alone. But before you rush to cash in those coins, you might want to take a quick look through them one more time for that hidden gem. Any 1921 quarter hidden in that pile of junk silver, regardless of mint, might just make your day a happy one!