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How to Find Junk Silver
1964 Kennedy Half Dollar
Precious metals for cheap!
Back in the summer of 2011 when precious metals were on the rise, I started kicking myself for investing my money in a certificate of deposit instead of silver. Hindsight is 20/20, eh?
So I did not have a large amount of money, and I really wanted to get into the silver game so I had to figure out a way to get silver without spending a fortune.
I discovered junk silver
Junk silver are U.S. quarters, dimes, half dollars, and dollars that were minted with a metal composition that contained silver. These coins are dated from 1964 and before and contain 90% silver. If the spot price of silver is $27.78 / troy ounce, a 1964 Washinton Quarter would be worth $5.02!
I went crazy
Once I figured out that I could find this stuff in my piggy bank at home I got excited. My adrenaline was pumping, and I could not wait to go through every change jar we owned! First, I checked the ashtray in my truck which is overflowing with potential treasures. I was grabbing anything that was shiny and looking at the date desparately. If it was from 1965 and on I just tossed it (still finding pennies and nickels in my seats) but to no avail there was nothing that predated 1980 in my truck! I thought about all the shiny coins that could have had much more value than a gumball, pay for worthless junk and cans of soda.
After tearing up my house (I did check the couch cushions) I finally admitted defeat and resigned myself to the fact that these things actually are not all too common. I decided to check my parent's house before I just gave up my dreams of finding silver coins.
The last place you check
I went through all my parent's coins (including a 5-gallon jug - FULL OF COINS) and came up empty handed. I knocked on my little brother's door and asked him if he had any coins. He told me he did, so I went into his room and dumped them all out on his bed. I told him I was looking for silver coins. He called me crazy and went back to playing Call of Duty on his Xbox. I searched and did not have much confidence that I would find anything, but I finally stumbled upon what I was looking for. I picked up an odd looking quarter and looked at the date. It said 1963! I finally found my first silver coin!
Now that I had my first investment (for a measly quarter I gave my brother in exchange for his) I was sure I could find more. I knew that these things were hard to find but there had to be a way. I thought that maybe a bank would have rolls of these things stashed away and not even know what they were because of personnel changes. So I drove over to my local bank (a credit union, actually) and asked them if they had any dusty rolls of quarters, dimes, or half dollars. The teller told me that she did not have any "dusty" quarters or dimes but that nobody ever asked for half dollars.
OF COURSE! Nobody uses half dollars! They are big, bulky, and frankly just a hassle to deal with. So I bought all her half dollars (only about 10 dollars worth) and went home. I looked at the 20 coins I had purchased and thought that maybe I should be checking for collector value too if I was going to sit here and look at dates on coins all day. I started searching around for half dollar collector tips and found that half dollars had a dirty little secret. They were actually 40% silver from 1965 – 1970! I was baffled and knew I had hit the jackpot. I looked at the half dollars I had purchased and none of them were the correct dates (a lot of them were 1976 bicentennial coins, which are worth exactly $0.50). I was a bit disheartened, but I knew if I could buy a couple rolls of these I would definitely find some 40%ers!
I have never felt more awkward in my life
I went out one day with $500 in my pocket and a list of banks in the area. I went to ALL of them. I found 0 coins. Some banks did not even carry half dollars. The tellers often laughed at me and asked me why I wanted to buy half dollars. I was completely devastated. I thought about finally just giving up for good and cutting my losses (gas money). I had recently graduated from a university that was 20 miles away in a small town of 17,000 people. I thought that when I made my way down there one of these days I would check out one of the old local banks they had.
Local banks rock!
Something to note about old local banks is that they often have old money. I strolled into the bank at about 10:30 in the morning with a smile on face and a song in my heart. I walked up to the teller and asked, “Can I have $500.00 in half dollars, please? I collect.” She smiled, turned, and walked away. I stood there looking around to see if anybody heard me ask for an extraordinary amount of half dollars. Nobody did. The teller came around the corner with a big box full of half dollars all neatly rolled into rows and columns. I looked at them and gave her the $500.00 in cash and walked out. I got to my truck and looked at my find. I could not stop smiling; this was going to be fun.
50 rolls – 1000 coins
When I got home and finally lugged the box upstairs, I got to work. The first thing I noticed was that these coins had been in the back for a while. They were in brown paper rollers that had no markings on it. It looked like a brown paper bag was cut up and repurposed as half dollar rollers. This made me even more excited so I began ripping them open without looking at them and pouring them out all over my bed. 50 rolls is A LOT of coins. I really felt like I had gone nuts after I had emptied the last roll out and the “clink clank” had subsided. I started right in the middle. I grabbed the first couple and started looking at the dates. No surprise, more bicentennial coins (if you are wondering, they minted 521,873,248 bicentennial half dollars for circulation in 1976). I will spare you the details, but my eyes were beginning to glaze over after straining to see the small, fine print on the bottom of the half dollar. Often coins were dirty and it made it twice as hard to read!
My first half dollar
There it was. After about half of the coins were sitting in the discard pile I saw a slightly tarnished coin poking through a pile in the middle. I grabbed it and looked at the date. It was a 1969 Kennedy Half Dollar. I stopped looking and started inspecting the precious piece of metal in my hands. There is something magical about silver. It feels “real” and makes the other non-silver coins feel like funny money. I started day dreaming about the days when it was common place to walk around with these tiny wonders in your pocket. I wondered how it must have felt to have 3 or 4 jingle-janglin’ in your pocket while you went out to the store to pick up some groceries. I was hooked. I knew from that moment on that this would be my hobby. I finished looking through the pile of coins, finding 3 more ($2.00 face-value total) and 1 proof. I spent some time cleaning up and rewrapping all of the coins I had searched through so that I could return them to the bank.
For those of you keeping score, I invested $2.00 in silver coins and $0.50 in a proof. The proof is worth around $8 - $10 dollars on eBay, and the silver is worth:
Silver Spot Price * coin weight
(Spot as of 08/16/12) [$27.93 * .1479] * 4 = $16.52
That is an ROI of 826%!
For the proof that is a 1600% - 2000% ROI!
I know that will excite all the number crunchers out there.
So I know you are wondering when you will have time to do this. This hobby is not for everybody. If you are a person who likes to treasure hunt and has a little spare time on your lunch hour then this would be great for you. This is a great hobby for retirees and college students also. I have since got my father involved in this hobby and it gives us some great quality time together on the weekends. We spend all week collecting half dollars and then on Saturday we go through all the rolls. This is also a great way to teach your children or grandchildren about the value of money and U.S history. You can show them what a Return On Investment (ROI) is in a fun, rewarding way.
My growing investment
I do not cash in my silver. I save it in a vault because precious metal is a great way to hedge against inflation and invest in uncertain times. Since I started, I have grown my face value coins to $6.50 in half dollars (including 3 1964 90% silver coins) and over $4.00 in quarters. I plan on passing this on to my children or grandchildren in the future so they will have a little nest egg to cash in or grow to pass onto their children.
- Check local banks (national chains will most likely NOT have what you are looking for)
- Find a bank or credit union with a coin machine (preferably one that does not charge a percentage) and open an account. You can use this financial institution as your "dump location" where you take all the throwaways to be redeemed for cash
- Be nice to the tellers of the places you frequent (bring them doughnuts or cookies one day). A happy teller will be more prone to work FOR you instead of against you. He/She might even do a bit of searching for you or save all the loose half dollars that come in specifically for you!
- Do not attempt to clean your silver half dollars. They will appear tarnished but that is okay. If you attempt to clean ANY coin for collection or otherwise it diminishes the value.
- Start a half dollar collecting book. If you are not finding many silver coins you can try to build a collection instead!
- Have fun with it. This should not be a hassle. It should be fun and exciting with all the ups and downs.
I am not an expert. Any investing information included in this article is purely my opinion and should not be considered as professional investment advice.