How to Value Silver Coins
To determine a silver coin’s value, you need to know a few things about your coin: the actual silver weight (ASW), the fineness of the coin, and the weight in grams. Usually, you can find the coin’s ASW simply by looking up the type of coin you have. If that doesn’t work, multiply the coin’s fineness by its weight, and then divide that number by the equivalent of a troy ounce in grams to find the ASW.
To get the value of silver coins, multiply the ASW and the current Spot price of silver. That’s the basic formula, but you also want to know what kind of silver coins you have. Do you have numismatic silver coins? Are they collectible? Are they bullion, or do they have distinctive mint marks or dates?
Determining silver coins’ value is more complicated than having a few coins on hand that you want to sell. Note also the melt value of the coins. Sometimes, the metal value of the silver rises above the face value of the coins, which means that investors sell these silver coins as simply metal. The coins can then be melted down, and the silver coins’ value increases.
What Is the Value of Junk Silver Coins?
Junk silver isn’t junk. It might not have a collectible silver coin’s value, but it’s still .999 fine silver. Junk silver differs from other types of valuable coins in that you can sell junk silver in bulk. These silver coins’ value depends on how many troy ounces are in a bag. Usually, they’re grouped as $1, $100, $500, and $1,000 bags starting at 0.715 troy ounces.
As junk silver, the silver coins’ value can be higher than the face value of the coins. Junk silver bags consist of coins made before 1965, and the price is based on the spot price of silver rather than the face value that dictates collectible and numismatic silver coins’ value. Some people consider junk silver a better investment than other bullion because of the lower costs.
It’s worth keeping in mind the melt value of these old silver coins when considering selling junk silver. In this case, the silver content is the most significant value factor, not mint or face. When the silver spot price goes up, the junk silver coin’s value does, too.
What Is the Value of Silver Dollar Coins?
There are two ways to find out the value of silver dollar coins—by melt value or by collector’s value. Several factors determine the collector’s value, including the face, year minted, and rarity of the coin. Unlike melt value, the collector’s value isn’t determined by how much silver a coin contains.
The coin’s condition also affects the collector’s silver coins’ value. There are some coins for which, even if the spot price of silver exceeds the coin’s face value, it doesn’t mean the melt value of that coin will be higher than the face value. It depends on how much silver is in the coin.
The Eisenhower Silver Dollar was minted between 1971 and 1978, but its silver content is only around 40%. That means its face value will likely always be higher than the melt value. Meanwhile, silver coins like the American Eagle Silver Dollar are just a few tenths of a percent off of 100% silver. These silver coins value highly in both melt and collector’s value.
Silver dollars are historic coins, and many of them are valued highly. The trick to getting the most out of them when you want to sell is understanding whether it’s better to sell them for the metal or the face value.
What Are Silver Quarters Worth?
Quarters made before 1965 were made with 90% silver, which automatically makes them worth more than the 25-cent quarters from 1965 on. As with silver dollars, these silver coins’ value changes based on silver prices. Therefore, a Washington 90% Silver Quarter, for example, may be worth more for its melt value than its face value.
Similarly, Single Barber Silver Quarters are worth more for their face value because they’re older and rarer. There’s no set value for all silver quarters. It’s a good idea to use a value calculator to determine the silver coin values of your quarters individually.
The last determining factors specifically for Washington's 90% Silver Quarters are the mint marks and condition of the quarters. Many of these silver coins’ value diminishes due to wear, and knowing the basics of how to grade silver coins can help you determine what you can get for them—essentially, the greater the wear, the lower the value.
Many of these quarters have mint marks based on where they were minted. The absence of a mint mark means it was minted in Philadelphia, while D stands for Denver, and S is for San Francisco. Marked quarters yield a higher silver coins value than unmarked ones. Rarer still are mint errors, whose values are determined individually depending on the errors.
How Much Are Silver Nickels Worth?
The window for the minting of silver nickels worth more than 5 cents is small. The only ones in existence are the Jefferson War Nickels minted between 1942 and 1945. These nickels were made of silver and copper instead of actual nickel because, at the time, nickel was needed for the production of World War II weapons.
Silver Jefferson Nickels only contain about 35% silver—the rest is copper and manganese—which means that, like Washington's 90% Silver Quarters, their face value always exceeds their melt value. These nickels have obvious mint marks on the back of each coin.
As with the Washington Silver Quarters, Jefferson War Nickels were minted with P, S, or D on the back, though in this case, the letter does not affect these silver coins’ value so dramatically. These are the only nickels with the mint mark on the back with Monticello. The rarity of these coins means that these silver coins’ value only increases with time. If the coins are worn, their value still diminishes, but their lingering value is invariably in their face.
In sum, when trying to find your silver coin’s value, be sure to check its ASW, spot price, face value, and mint value.
About the Author:
Clint Siegner is a Director at Money Metals Exchange, a precious metals dealer recently named "Best in the USA" by an independent global ratings group. A graduate of Linfield College in Oregon, Siegner puts his experience in business management along with his passion for personal liberty, limited government, and honest money into the development of Money Metals' brand and reach. This includes writing extensively on the bullion markets and their intersection with policy and world affairs.