Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pre-1965 silver coins, how much are they worth?

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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?

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 as clad coins made their debut.
So, how much are your silver coins worth?

For most of you, your 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!

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.

[Most Recent Quotes from]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.

Assuming you had $100 face value in coins and the spot price of silver is $13, you would perform the following calculation: .715 x $13 x $100 = $929.50.

The $100 in pocket change would now be worth close to $929.50 based on the silver content of the coins. 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, regardless of mint, might just make your day a happy one!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Readers ask is it "Numismatic News?" Or "What I Ate On My Vacation?"

For years, I've subscribed to Numismatic News and read articles of vacation travelogs that told more about what restaurants the author had eaten at than it did about coins. As I am writing this, I have the current issue of Numismatic News (March 3 ,2009) in front of me. In the letters to the editor section, there are two letters titled "Too many articles don't focus on numismatics" and "Spare us from David Ganz's travel stories." A few pages later in that same issue is a feature story titled "January travels a lot of numismatic FUN" by a different author.

Ironically, (or should I say comically?) the article is three full pages long - 39 paragraphs and approximately 4000 words. Reading the article you will discover that not one paragraph is really about coins. The few references I saw about coins were in describing the people or places the author went and not the actual coins (e.g. references to early coppers specialist Tom Reynolds or the Chicago Coin Club). Of the 39 paragraphs, 23 paragraphs reference breakfast, lunch, dinner, or "quick feed" with some paragraphs mentioning multiple meals in the same paragraph.

So where did he eat?

There are references to the B-Line Diner (6 times), Chili's (2), Antler's Grille (2), Culver's (2), Dynasty Restaurant, Ceres Cafe, Schreiner's Restaurant, Judge Baldwin's Grill and Bar, The Melting Pot Fondue Restaurant, Luigi's Italian Restaurant, La Baguette, Giuseppe's Old Depot Restaurant, Josh & John's Ice Cream Parlor, Hampton Inn's continental breakfast, and a couple of places left unnamed.

What did he eat?

He mentions having "salads and sandwiches," chicken pot pie, coffee cake, a small banana, cranberry juice, "ribs and kraut dish," "bunch of grapes," Rocky Mountain trout, Rocky Road ice cream, raspberry sorbet, black bean soup, and one "Almond Joy candy bar."

We are also treated to traveling in a car (a Town Car), roads taken, miles driven, time driving, and weather reports. I don't want to forget the times he woke up, went for his "constitutional" (morning walks), airports, airlines, flight schedules, gate numbers, flight delays, lost luggage, and one shoe shine.

Since writers get paid by the number of words submitted, I can see how it pays for an author to pad their articles whether intentional or not. It's the job of the editor to remove the padding and make sure the article appeals to their audience before publication. But, this article only had the padding in it. The numismatic content was completely missing. After reading the current issue, I have to wonder whether or not the folks at Numismatic News actually read the letters to the editor. . . . or more importantly, read the articles they actually publish.

Finally, let me just say that I have the greatest respect and admiration for the numismatic achievements of the authors of these travelogs. My hope is that if Numismatic News won't listen to their readers and focus their articles to be more numismatic, maybe the writers themselves will start to write more about numismatics than breakfast and shoe shines.