How to Easily Identify Silver Coins in Circulation

How to Easily Identify Silver Coins in Circulation

You may find yourself wondering if the silver content of the coins in your wallet is worth more than the coins themselves.

If they contain silver, it actually might be.

It’s not that likely that these will truly be silver coins, unfortunately, as precious metals are no longer used in the minting of coins. However, it is possible to find coins containing silver that are still in circulation today, especially if you know what to look for.

There are several collector’s mints that produce coins they claim contain silver, such as the Franklin Mint. You won’t find these coins in circulation as they aren’t recognised as currency, and so they are either worth only the price of the silver content, or the price a collector is willing to pay to have one.

If you have some of these coins you wish to sell, it is worth looking into both options.

If you have coins from the U.S mint, or a foreign national mint, and you want to determine if they have a high content of silver, or none at all, there are four easy tests you can perform. These are the tests of age, color, sound and temperature.

Silver Coins Age

Older coins that contain silver may still be in circulation. You can find out when silver stopped being used in the minting of these coins with a simple google search.

For instance, the Kennedy Half Dollar was 90% silver until 1964, and 40% silver until 1970. It is hard to find Kennedy Half Dollars in circulation today, as a lot of them were hoarded for commemorative reasons.

The Coin Color

Another way to determine if the coin in your hand is silver is to know a little about the metals used in coins today.

Some of these metals include zinc, bronze, and nickel. Once you know a little about these metals, you’ll be in a better position to quickly judge if a coin contains silver.

For instance, if the edge of your coin has turned a copper color, it doesn’t contain silver.

The Coin Sound

There is also an interesting, and somewhat enjoyable, silver test called a ring test.

Silver makes a high-pitched bell-type ringing sound when it is tapped. You can flick your coin to hear this or, if you have a pre-1930 – 1964 quarter (90% silver) and a modern quarter (91% copper), tap them together.

The copper ring will have a dull sound and the silver will be much higher pitched. Just be careful not to scrape or damage your coins as you might reduce their value.

The Coin Temperature

You can also use ice to test the silver content of your coins.

Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. This means it has the highest speed of transferring heat to and from it. If you set an ice cube on a silver coin, the ice will melt a lot faster than if you set it on a copper coin.

Check online

All of these tests are good indicators of a coins silver content but none are completely fool-proof.

There are sites online, such as The Professional Grading Coin Service, where you can enter a coins distinguishing features (year it was minted, country of origin, value, whose head is on it, what image makes the tail) and the sites will search their databases to find the appropriate coin. This is a good way of determining the silver content of your coins.

Further Reading

By on July 31st, 2013