Silver Coins Tips

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I have a collection of old silver coins, what are they worth?

Grab Bag of Silver Coins

Your not-so-favorite aunt left you a bag of silver coins, while your sister got the complete Wedgwood china set. What are you supposed to do with a bunch of cracked and tarnished US and world silver coins?

Get your hands on a guide to silver coin values and coin values in general and read up on silver coin tips and information. Let's say your bequest consists of

* 1866-1883 Shield Nickel Fine, shield on the obverse, stars on the reverse, $130 for 1881 date (1877 proofs can go for $3500 in MS-64)
* 1794 Flowing Hair Half Dime, $1175 Good
* 1796 Draped Bust with "Likerty" Error, rainbow patina, lack of sharpness on the reverse eagle, rare variety, $1500 Fine
* Ancient silver coin from India, punchmarked Karshapana, selling in some places for $7.50-$15.00
* Old silver coin of Afghanistan, depicting Afghani language, minted in 1838, silver coin values typically $65-90 for Fine/Very Fine
* Chunky rare round rupee, Emperor Akhbar (1556-1605). Islamic inscriptions on both sides, Extremely Fine, can sell for $42.00 (hey, this is from the Mughal Empire, as in the people who built the Taj Mahal)

When you tally up the silver bullion values plus the face silver coin values (consult an expert coin or antiques dealer), you'll see that your aunt left you a gift of history, and that maybe, just maybe, she showed you that she loved you after all. You can break Wedgwood china (your sister does have those lively toddlers), but coins are forever.

   
What is a clad silver coin and how does it affect silver coin values?

Clad Silver Coins

Iron-clad, negligee-clad, Prada-clad. Okay, okay. Clad is a cool word usually applied to apparel. But what does it mean when old silver coins are clad? You should find out before you sign an iron-clad deal with a silver coin dealer--actually, if a silver coin dealer won't let you return the merchandise, move your Prada-clad behind out of the store.

Before you buy, know that the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) says "clad" refers to any of the modern "sandwich" coins with layers of copper and nickel, also to a 40 percent half-dollar US silver coin. Silver clad pieces don't necessariy command high silver coin values, as you might have found if you tried to collect Eisenhower silver half-dollars in the 1970s. Silver-clad proof coins didn't make Ike more desirable thanks to a glut of supply that drove down demand. Nowadays, Eisenhower clad silver coins have risen in value, and you can buy Eisenhower 40 percent silver coins.

As is typical of the Kennedys, Kennedy silver-clad pieces fared better, since proof silver coins were minted only for collectors. You can be happy with Kennedy and Eisenhower clad silver coins in your proof Mint sets. Silver clad quarter proof sets also will make you smile. One US Clad and US silver coin proof set is selling on eBay for $44.

Silver-clad is not the same as pure silver, but it's worth noting that all US coins since 1965 have been clad, and many of them, especially the new statehood quarters, are valuable. However, a coin of 90 percent silver is more valuable (not to mention heavier!) American Silver Eagles are pure one-ounce silver coins.

Beware of silver-plated commemorative medallions such as WTC and other commemoratives issued by merchants. Silver clad is not the same as silver plating. If you want a nice-looking coin to put on your mantel, buy the silver-plated commemorative coins, but if you want a collector's coin, choose silver-clad coins that can appreciate as silver bullion increases silver coin values. Note that this doesn't apply to Prada knockoffs: they still look great, and so do you in your Prada-clad mganificence.

The iron-clad moral? Buy silver clad coins from established dealers.

   
Which George Washington coins are collectible?

George Washington Silver Coins

I cannot tell a lie, some people think collecting a George Washington US silver coin is a waste of time. Even a 1932 George Washington Quarter was never issued by the US Government, but the American Mint has re-struck this silver coin and plated it in 24-karat gold. There's also an official commemorative silver coin portraying Washington's defeat of the British in Trenton. While modern silver coin commems may not be rare or may be restrikes, they're a great, inexpensive way to honor George as well as other US Presidents.

The 1982 George Washington Commemorative Proof Silver Half Dollar is 90 percent silver, a rarity since 1964, and the first commemorative half dollar issued by the US Mint since 1954. Silver coin values can take the collectors' commemorative value into account, although many commemorative or anniversary silver coins are worth only face value.

No Lie Tip: Beware a silver coin discounted excessively. Always multiply the amount of silver by the current value of silver and the face value of the coin.

You can buy a 1942-S BU Washington Quarter, priced by some dealers at $148.00. A 1932 D Quarter of Extremely Fine grade can be worth $160.00. And, George, errors such as chopping down a cherry tree aren't a blight on your presidency. Error silver coins are always valuable. An off-center strike in quarters from 1932-1964 have silver coin values of $180 - $300. Cracks and cuds could be worth $15 to $25. A broadstrike could fetch you $40.

Washington would fess up to the error in his coins. It's a pity modern politicians won't do that, or their coins could be worth more.

   
What are my Franklin half dollars worth?

Franklin Silver Half Dollars

You know the stories of Ben Franklin flying his kite (especially if you remember "Schoolhouse Rock" on ABC) and his POOR RICHARD'S ALMANACK, and oh yes, he did sign the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps you even played Ben Franklin in an elementary school play.

Now you get to reap the rewards of your historical knowledge by collecting and selling Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar silver coins. The half-dollar US silver coin even displays the crack in the liberty Bell on the reverse, so no, that's not a valuable silver coin error! One of the most useful silver coin tips is that, even without errors, Benjamin Franklin silver coins are valuable in the early years of issue. Most later coins are worth only the face and bullion value.

Some dealers sell a 1949-S Brilliant Uncirculated Franklin Half Dollar at $149.00. That's at the top of Ben's game. The silver coin values of later years drop to $5.00 in 1963, when the US Mint ceased issuing Ben Franklin silver coins.

You probably won't find a complete set of these silver coins. If you do, grab it, plastic coin folder and all. We know of one set that retails for $150.00, and another set of Average Circulated silver coins for $137.50. The Ben Franklin old silver coin is much cheaper in Circulated Good/Very Good grade. But Benjamin wouldn't disapprove.

After all, a penny, er, silver coin saved is a penny, er, valuable silver coin earned

   
What's the value of a Silver Jubilee British coin?

Value of Silver Jubilee British Coin

People joke about British teeth, but if a British citizen bit into a 1977 Jubilee silver coin, she wouldn't be disappointed, nor, for that matter, would any other citizen. Here's one of the best silver coin tips: British Silver Jubilee Proof coins have unique silver coin values.

After World War I, Britain reduced the precious metal in its old silver coin from 92.5 percent, and after World War II, no silver coins were minted until modern times. Commemorative silver coins were the exception.

The 1977 Silver Jubilee silver coins were commemorative medallions depicting Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and various designs on the reverse. The 1977 silver coin Medallion reads "Vivat Regina 1952 1977" or Long Live the Queen. The medallion is 2.59 troy ounces and some retailers sell it for 45 British Pounds, $70 US. The Manx crowns with pure silver can range from 10 to 18 British Pounds and $16 to $29 USD. Watch out for cupro-nickel silver coins, an alloy of copper and nickel.

As a comparison, the 1889 Queen Victoria Silver Jubilee Coin is worth $10 - $200 depending on the condition.

Obverse: Motto VICTORIA D.G. BRITT. REG. F.D. (Victoria by the Grace of G-d, Queen of Britain, Defender of the Faith) and Queen Victoria's Jubilee head used on the crown from 1887-1892.
Reverse: St. George slaying a dragon, and in exergue, the date.

So don't expect your British pal to bite into your old silver coin, chances are it's genuine. British dentistry has a bad enough reputation as it is.

   
What are my Jefferson war time alloy nickels worth?

War Alloy Jefferson Nickels

War is hell, especially on money. Metal was scarce during World War II. Just ask a Jefferson nickel, made of 56% copper, 35% silver and 9% manganese (the Sacagawea Dollar US silver coin also uses manganese).

In 1943, when the US war effort was in full swing, the US mint produced a Doubled Die obverse silver coin proof in Philadelphia. This meant that Monticello was doubled. Regular strike silver coins from 1939, when the US was considering entering the war, also have doubled Monticello portraits. In MS-66, a regular strike US silver coin Jefferson nickel from 1939 is worth $7,000. In proof MS-67, a doubled die obverse can sell for $2,750.

What does a doubled-die error look like? Was it the stress of battle that caused this valuable US silver coin mistake? Hardly. PCGS defines a "doubled die" as a die that has been struck more than once by a hub in misaligned positions, resulting in doubling of design elements. You look for two Monticellos on the reverse of a wartime Jefferson nickel. Other doubled-die silver coins exist in the Jefferson series, and they're amazingly easy to collect, as well as highly sought-after.

While you're profiting from World War II, don't forget to use your newfound wealth to treat your grandpa and grandma from the Greatest Generation. Listen to their war stories. Show them your Jefferson nickels. The memories you'll receive are worth more than the highest price you'd get at auction.

   
What is a fishscale or three cent silver and what's it worth?

Fishscales and Three Cent Silver

You've read in your 19th century novels of "silver," as in "one silver." Do any of these coins still exist or is that literary hyperbole?

Credit the masters a fishscale of sense. Fishscale or three cents silver is an actual old silver coin and US silver coin issued between 1851 and 1873.

Star three cent silvers often survive in MS-67 grade. An 1852 regular strike inverted date silver coin with an upside-down date is worth $650 in Almost Uncirculated condition. A three cents silver coin proof 1863/2 in MS-67 is worth $10,000. Rarer dates are from 1863 to 1873. A star on the obverse and the roman numeral III on the reverse will tell you you're holding a piece of history. They're small and about the size of a salmon scale.

It makes you want to go back and reread Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

   
What silver defects can devalue silver coins?

Silver Coin Defects

Coin errors, unlike real-life errors, can actually earn you money. Want to hear one of the most valuable silver coin tips? Some common defects can tank silver coin values. Here are some we've encountered.

* Crystallization--the surface is grainy crystals. Can become brittle, devaluing ancient and old silver coins.
* Encrustations--crusts that form over the patina and are difficult to remove, decreasing the coin's grade.
* Heavy or thick patina--obscures the detail of the coin.
* Pitting--Indentations caused by corrosion.
* Scratch--Normally caused by rough handling.
* Scuff marks--Normally caused by circulation and handling.

While you're tempted to try cleaning or doctoring your coin, do so with care. Most coin experts recommend against cleaning coins, and doctored coins can look unnatural. Some collectors will refuse doctored coins.

Besides, some coin defects may be attractive to collectors--an ancient silver Indian coin shouldn't look like a 2005 statehood quarter. But if your old silver coin is damaged and silver coin values dropped, retire it to your personal collection. Everyone makes mistakes, but you don't want yours to cost you in a coin deal.

   
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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.