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How Valuable are those Old Silver Dollars Worth?

Updated on June 3, 2013

I always get excited when I find an old silver coin in change since the value is often more than 10 times the face value. However, today it is highly unlikely that you will get a silver dollar in change since they have been out of circulation for nearly 75 years now. But this only increases the value of the silver dollar due to the scarcity of the coin.

There are two components to the value of your silver dollar. The first component is the melt value of the silver and the second is the numismatic value or collectible value.

This Video Explains it All

They Call it Junk Silver, But I call it Valuable

The melt value is the weight of the coin times the market price of silver. Silver dollars are composed of 26.73 grams of a copper-silver alloy where 90% of the coin is silver. This translates to 0.7735 troy ounces of silver. When coins have no numismatic value, they are categorized as “junk silver.” The longer a coin remains in circulation, the value decreases to the melt value.

In the 1970’s, the US minted the Eisenhower Silver Dollars for six years but only the uncirculated and proof sets from the San Francisco Mint contain any silver. The Ike Dollars are 40% silver content or 0.3162 troy oz. of silver but can retain a collectible premium over the melt value.

When Silver is not Junk, it has a Collectible Value

The numismatic value varies from coin to coin. The age of the coin does not necessarily increase the value, but the rareness and quality of the coin does. Coins are graded on a scale from 1 to 70 where 1 is the lowest and 70 is the highest. A coin graded below 60 is considered circulated while 60 and above is considered uncirculated or “mint state.” Anything above 65 is considered “proof like” and is often reserved to proof coins issued by the Mint.

Coins graded at 12 or below usually fall into the “junk” category, but this is not always true. The 1885-CC Morgan Silver Dollar is so rare that the collectible value is more than $500 above the melt value even when graded at 4.

The grading system is very subjective and can lead to an overvaluation of the silver dollar value. Several companies such as Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) have standardized grading systems to provide an accurate assessment of the coins. Coins graded by these companies are sealed in a clear acrylic coin holder with a label identifying the grade of the coin.

Market prices of silver dollars fluctuate daily due to silver prices and demand of the coin. A Guild Book of United State Coins or “The Red Book” provides a list of prices for the silver dollars and is published annually. To get a more recent price list, you will need to subscribe to the Coin Dealer Newsletter or the Greysheet.


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