I've been a coin collector since I was a kid. I love finding old silver coins for my collection.
Why You Should Look for Silver Half-Dollars
Silver bullion prices tend to fluctuate and currently the price of an ounce of silver stands at about $26 per troy ounce. There are 11.25 grams of silver in a 1964 Kennedy half dollar, which is equal to .3617 troy ounces. That makes each 1964 and earlier silver dollar worth about $9.40.
Also, silver half-dollars made between 1965 and 1969 contain 40% silver, or 0.1607537 troy ounces in each coin. At $26 per troy ounce, each would be worth about $4.00, much higher than the face value when sold to a coin dealer. While silver prices do go up and down, the value of old coins containing any amount of silver usually makes them worth much more than their face value. For several years after the US mint quit making coins with any quantity of silver in them, it was relatively easy to find silver half-dollars, quarters and dimes in loose change. Now, since many people know to look for them, it's not quite as easy as it once was to find US coins containing silver. This being said, there are still hundreds of thousands, if not millions of part silver coins out there in circulation, hiding in plain sight for you to find.
The prospect of finding a silver dollar for "free" in a bank roll very profitable, but how realistic is this, and is anyone making money this way? I thought I'd try it out myself and here's what I found.
Looking For Silver Half Dollars in Bank Rolls
To begin my silver search I first went to my local bank and asked to $300 worth of silver half dollars. At the time my bank didn't have that quantity but was able to give me $200 worth, or 400 coins in 20 separate rolls. I took these rolls home, broke them apart and began searching for silver ones. I immediately realized one small problem, some of the rolls I'd gotten from my bank were actually brand new, uncirculated coins from 2020, which contained no silver. Most of the other rolls were mixed coins that had obviously been in circulation so I kept going, breaking the paper rolls and spreading them out on the tabletop. After carefully searching the dates on the coins I finally came across one half-dollar which was made in 1969 and which was worth about $4.00. Not considering my time spent going to the bank and with the cost of gas to get there as my only expense, I probably just about broke even with with my one find.
Still, the thought of finding more silver dollars for "free" was compelling enough to force me back to the bank, where on a later visit I was able to bring home 50 rolls of half-dollars in the amount of $500. This time I had asked the clerk for circulated coins and although I'm not sure if they actually checked or not, most of the rolls that I got this time contained that kind instead of new uncirculated ones.
My search method had become a bit more efficient by this second time. I set up a clamp-on hobbyist's magnifying glass on a low table and placed a five gallon bucket at one end. After breaking the rolls of half-dollars I quickly moved each one under the magnifying glass to check the date and if it failed the silver test I slid it off into the bucket. This time I was able to find one 1963 half-dollar, worth about $9.40 and one 1969 half-dollar worth $4.00.
I made $13.40 for a couple of hours of "work", not including my gas and time spent to visit the bank.
How to Spot Silver Coins Without Looking at the Date
- If you find a silver half-dollar with Ben Franklin on the face of the coin, these were made between 1948 and 1963 contain 90% silver.
- Look for tarnished looking coins with a grayish silver tint. Silver coins tends to age differently than regular ones, making them easy to recognize.
- Look at the edge of the coin for clues that it's silver. Silver coins are not clad with copper and have a solid silver colored metallic edge with no copper color visible.
- Don't just look for half-dollars. Quarters and dimes made before 1965 also contain silver.
The Bottom Line
You may or may not find any silver half dollars by searching bank coin rolls, yet the search itself can still be fun. That being said, if you begin to ask for large quantities of coins, or to return large quantities of loose ones, you may begin to annoy the staff at your bank, which is not a good scenario if you'd like to maintain a good relationship with them.
I'd recommend that if you're going to search for silver half-dollars in bank coin rolls, to obtain them from one branch, then take the loose coins back to another, and visit different branches in your area so as to not bother any one bank that much. First make sure that your bank offers free coin sorting as a service, otherwise they'll require you to bring the coins in rolls.
Because a nationwide coin shortage is occurring you may find that it's hard to find rolls of any coins right now. Currently many banks are offering a premium for loose or rolled coins, so any loose change you happen to have lying around could possibly make you even more money than you could earn by finding silver in it.
Finally, don't limit your search to just half dollars. Quarters and dimes from the same time period will also contain silver. Start by searching your own home and any loose change that might be lying around the house. Start searching for silver by looking at each coin's date, focusing on any ones with dates earlier than 1965. Once you've identified a few silver coins, you'll begin to notice how they look slightly different from non silver ones and you'll start to develop a knack for spotting these coins. This knowledge will help you search through change much faster in the future.