The Change In Your Pockets May Be Worth More Than You Think…

As you know, I’m a huge fan addict of collecting currency. It started with a strange dollar bill I found in my pocket years back, and then slowly over time progressed to interesting coins and other money-related items I’ve since come across. Like my latest find over the weekend of an old US Mint bank bag I snagged for $3! Which also happened to have strange dark red spots on it that I can only hope didn’t have to do with some sort of botched robbery, haha…

But the latest craze I’ve been getting into – outside of the $2.00 bill hoarding – is searching around for more SILVER for my collection. I don’t know how many of you follow the values of Silver or Gold or any of that kind of stuff lately, but MAN is silver pretty valuable right now. At the time of this post, an ounce of silver is currently going for about $32.00  – down from its peak of $48.00 a year ago, but up from a low of just $15.00 TWO years ago. Like when I found that 1 oz. silver coin for 25 cents at a yard sale, remember that?  It’s already doubled in value!  And you don’t even wanna know what an oz was going for back in the early 2000’s, jeesh.

So needless to say this interest in silver has some reasoning behind it ;) And it wasn’t until lately that I even realized I could very well have MORE sitting around my house without even knowing it!  Which was the shockingly good news!

I was searching around for “junk silver” to learn more, I found out that U.S. coins that were of silver color pre-1965 (like dimes, quarters, half dollars, and even some nickels) contained large portions of *actual* silver. Before they turned to making them out of copper and zinc and nickel and other stuff as the value of silver started surpassing the coins’ face value. Which gives you yet ANOTHER idea of just how much silver has increased in worth since then!

Here’s a breakdown of how much these pre-1965 “junk coins” are worth today:

  • Nickels (1942-1945): 35% @ .06 oz of silver = $1.90
  • Dimes (pre-1965): 90% @ .07 oz of silver =  $2.25
  • Quarters (pre-1965): 90% @ .18 oz of silver = $5.75
  • Half Dollars (pre-1965): 90% @ .36 oz of silver = $11.50
  • Silver Dollars (pre -1935): 90% @ .77 oz of silver = $24.50

And that doesn’t include any special coins or others minted before then either – like those from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Once you get into that type of territory, you’re usually talking about coins that are worth a ton more outside of just the silver they contain as they become more collectible in nature due to their rarity. But those numbers above give you a good idea of what you can more easily expect to find as a mere common folk ;)

(Here’s another quick tool to see how much your coin is worth or not too: Is My Coin Silver?)

So of course the first thing I did when I learned about this was scour all my change piles around the house (and cars, cabinets, boxes) to see how many goodies I already had on me! But little did I know the millions of people over the years (Almost 50 of them to be exact!) had already beaten me to the punch.  Wha wha wha… But that wasn’t going to stop me, was it? ;)

rolls of coins
I then had the genius idea to hit up the bank – just like I do with those $2.00 bills – to see what THEY were hiding from all us average consumers! They have billions of coins back there, surely there were handfuls of those dated pre-1965 too, right? So I cashed in about $40 worth of rolled up dimes and nickels and especially quarters – which had the highest % of silver back then outside of half and silver dollars – and I rushed back home to start my sneaky search.

And sneaky it sure was, dag nabit… One hour later with green finger tips and a raging headache, I’d looked through literally hundreds of coins only to find a measly ONE (that’s right – one!) and it wasn’t even one of the more bigger ones, either. Ugh. It was a 1943 “Jefferson War” nickel worth approx two bucks.  Definitely not worth the time, if you ask me. And while I considered going back a second and third time just to be absolutely SURE I didn’t get a bad batch, I just haven’t had the heart to start the whole search all over again… After a while your eyes get really pissed off! ;)

Luckily there are other ways to get your hands on this junk silver if you really want some, though:

  1. You can buy ’em online (and in bulk) from places like APMEX, or CMI.
  2. You can pick them up at your local gold and silver shops, and sometimes even pawn shops.
  3. You can pick some up at the U.S. Mint – Though not pre-1965 junks coins as we’ve been talking about. They only sell the newer stuff like that 1 oz. gold coin I got my hands on back in March.
  4. Or you can try your luck at yard sales and flea markets like I have here and there :) Or better yet your older neighbors who have been stashing away coins for over 60 years now! Haha… Maybe you can cash them in and get some type of commission?

Regardless, I’m not giving up just yet. Silver is on a major tear over the past 5 years, and I can only believe it’ll be going UP over the years as we struggle with this economy and other out-of-our-hands things like the U.S. Dollar depreciating/etc. Not to mention if any of those doomsdayer prophecies prove correct, and the only money worth trading after the world collapses is real silver and gold! (Ya never know?) We may not be able to control everything in our lives, but we sure can some of it. Just depends on what you think about all this stuff…

And personally, I’m just getting started :)  I ordered Coin Collecting For Dummies last night, as well as a magazine subscription to a coin magazine (big shocker), and I plan on immersing myself even more into this new world of coinage out there. I wanna be able to spot a killer deal a mile away! And nothing helps that more than continuing to feed the ol’ brain :)

Any other Silver Lovers out there reading this?  Anyone else have a nice stash built up?

[UPDATE: I now have a coin blog! Check it out:]

PS: Other cool resources I’ve been checking out too, if it helps:

  • Why You Should Buy Junk Silver (A great blog post by my boy Kevin @ Thousandaire)
  • (A great site for all kinds of information on silver and other valuable coins, as well as a new beta system for storing and tracking all your coins and worth! It’s pretty hot.)
  • Kitco Silver Tracker (A place for or up to date values of silver and other precious metals)
  • Gold Tracker iPhone App (A cool app that allows you to store your own silver/gold info in it and track the metal’s value on any given day. Has a nifty calculator too that can be opened on the fly.)

**Know of any others we should be aware of?

(Top photo by Muffet, bottom one by Yours Truly)

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  1. Gina September 11, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    My husband has a collection of silver dollars from 1800’s and early 1900’s, he inherited from his uncle, so thanks for posting this! At least we know that they are worth 24.00 bucks a piece!
    So he must have at least 30 of em. They are on a long vacation at the bank vault.

    Now, if only the fake Confedearate money was worth something
    j, what about the copper in pennies??

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More September 11, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    I’ve been waiting for this one! I have a few in a coin box I’ve been collecting random coins since I was a kid but nothing too valuable. Sad to hear you didn’t make more but I’m not surprised because I’m sure a ton of other have done the same thing you have. You still find them every once in a while though. I always check my change.

  3. Brian September 11, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    I used to buy boxes of Half dollars at local banks and turn them in at others. Sadly I haven’t been finding much silver recently since it seems I have picked through my area pretty well along with some other folks. I have heard that sometimes going to smaller banks in rural areas has led to success for some people.

    I have a very healthy collection going and it was boosted tremendously by the collection I inherited from my grandfather. That man had a healthy distrust of fiat currency so he hoarded PMs like it was going out of style.

    A pretty nice community of coin collectors can be found on cointalk and they are actually pretty welcoming to newbies!

    @Gina – since it is illegal to melt copper cents most people just don’t bother. I just pull the ones of my change in case they ever change the law. Of course it does take up a lot of space!

  4. K @ Get Worth September 11, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    I’m been checking my coin stash before cashing it in for the past few years now. My last bunch was over $100 and I didn’t find anything worth keeping. Back in college I somehow amassed over $600 in coins but unfortunately hadn’t started inspecting them back then. I wonder what the odds are of actually finding something valuable in circulation.

  5. Scott September 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    I’ve been in it for about 10 years. Did half dollar searching for a while that worked out pretty well – these days it’s just not really worth it.

    Careful with those intro coin books like the Redbook when it comes to value. I’ve found sites like price guides to be better.

    The single best think you can do when coin collecting is get an eye for determining CONDITION and ORIGINALITY (ie not cleaned/altered). There are photo-grade books for this that I love.

  6. LB September 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    I definitely have to go through my stash! Thanks for reminding me. Today is a day to celebrate life, so I might just go pick some up for my hubby’s B-day since we missed our anniversary.

  7. DebtsnTaxes September 11, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    I’ve never thought about looking through coins to find the old ones with silver in them. Although I probably will now just for a small hobby. The only thing I looked for before when I had coins was for wheat pennies. I’m not sure if they are worth anything but started to collect them because my grandma used to.

  8. DB September 11, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I have been on the lookout for pre 1964 coins since a child. My grandfather had a coin collection that he gave to me. I dont know the exact number of silver we have but probably around 20 individual ones? They really dont come up that often in normal circulation, I mean its been almost 50 years now since they stopped minting them and people have hoarded them all up for the most part.

    As far as the poster asking about copper in pennies, they actually have not been made of copper since 1982, so they are getting less common, plus it really isnt worth the effort…. per this website using current copper prices a true copper penny only has about 2 cents worth of copper in it.

  9. Bryan September 11, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    I bought a handful of 1 oz. silver coins back in 2006-2007. I’ve been selling them one at a time on eBay and doubling what I paid for them.

  10. Chris September 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I wrote a hub on hubpages about 1965-1970 half dollars. They are the easiest silver coins to find for face value. I’m currently at about $11 in junk silver face. I only paid silver price for about $1.50 of that. If you’re interested:

  11. Heather September 11, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    Every New Year’s Day, I roll the coins that I collected over the past year. I’ve always looked for the old coins and kept them…but never realized that they might have silver in them. I’ll have to take a look at my little stash now. :)

  12. MB @ 12 Year Career September 11, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    In addition to collectors and investors taking those coins out of the system, I’d be willing to bet the banks do, too.

  13. Rebecca September 11, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I have quite a number of these old coins- thanks to my Mother, z’l, and I have often wondered what they might be worth. I took notes on your article today and am planning on settling down with her old train travel case (what she saved the coins in all those years) and start seeing what the worth might be. And I plan on sharing the post with my sibs because Mom divided out the coins between the three of us before she died. Thanks for a great post!

  14. J. Money September 11, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Don’t some of you here work at a bank? If so, you should totally start inspecting and seeing what you can find!! :) You have a super big advantage over all of us!

    @Gina – Oh man, your husband’s coins could be worth WAY more than $24 too – no doubt about it. Depending on the years and types, they could fetch in the thousands *a piece*. Would be cool if y’all got them appraised one day just to see :) Then put in your net worth! Haha… that counts! RE: Copper in pennies – nooooooo idea, sorry!
    @Lance @ Money Life and More – Yeah, I thought I’d at LEAST find a good 8 or 9, ya know? It was pretty much a waste.
    @Brian – Oh cool, thanks! I might have to sign up and start following some forums soon – I don’t think I can hold all this excitement to myself anymore, haha… GREAT inheritance too you’ve got! I wonder if you can pass alot of the tax rules/etc if you get coins intead of cash?
    @K @ Get Worth – Man, 1 in 1,000 it seems like. Def. not worth the time unless you go for the older banks in small towns kind of deal Brian above mentioned. Or you work at a bank and can inspect every single one ;)
    @Scott – Oh, okay! Good to know – thank you! Bookmarking now :) And that’s what it seems like so far after some reading – condition is everything. Though to prove it I guess you’d have to send ’em in to be rated profesionally, yeah? So there’s no barrier at least in that department when bartering/selling/trading?
    @LB – Yeah!! Go for it!! Can I celebrate life with you too, today? :)
    @DebtsnTaxes – I like wheat pennies too :) But unfortunately I don’t think they’re worth that much. Kinda like those old steel pennies too – remember those? They were soo cool that everyone started collecting them and so now they’re not worth much! Haha…
    @DB – Oh, awesome – thanks for helping answer that question :) And even better you got some cool coins too given to you! Seems like coin collecting is a thing of the older generation?
    @Bryan – Woahhhh back when they were super cheap too! Wanna sell some to me? I’ll take some off your hands :) The J. Money discount, perhaps? Haha… seriously though, email me and let’s do it: j @ budgets are sexy dot com
    @Chris – Cool, thanks! Ofcourse I’m interested ;)
    @Heather – Yeah do it! And let me know if you find anything good :)
    @MB @ 12 Year Career – Yeah, OR those who work there and keep ’em ;) I wonder how many workers even know or pay attention? I asked a manager at one the other day and she said one time a person cashed in a $500 bill!!!! So she “bought” it and is now enjoying it immensely :) Those things are usually worth at least $400+ over face value. Sometimes a ton more depending on condition and type. So they definitely have the advantage!
    @Rebecca – Oh cool! Glad you enjoyed it :) You guys could be sitting on a gold mine! Literally! Haha… let us know what you end up finding out later :)

  15. DebtKiller September 11, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Darn. I just cashed in my coin jar about a month ago. I had no idea any of these coins were actually worth more than face value. Excellent tip and excellent time killer to sort through some old coins!

  16. Eric September 11, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    I have a pretty extensive coin collection and have been collecting since I was 10. The pre-1965 silver coins are tough to come by in bank rolls these days. When I worked in a bank, I did find a few gems here and there though.

  17. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy September 12, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    Every year I buy friends and family silver coinage and grams of gold as gifts—they all believe I’m nuts. :) Huge numismatic enthusiast here as well. My recommendation for the best silver forum is called, they are an awesome tightknit community of stackers, very knowledgeable and extremely honorable. If you’re really passionate about your hobby, you should check them out, J.

  18. Scott September 12, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    @J Money – you really want to avoid grading unless you have a nice coin (generally several $100 in value). The cost to get a coin slabbed is generally $20-50 with all fees, so you dont want to put a $50 coin in a $30 slab – in resale you’ll instantly lose any slabbing costs – if you’re interested in graded/slabbed stuff, it’s always better to buy it already graded/slabbed – let the other person take a financial bath on the fees ;)

    If you’re just looking in terms of silver value, third party grading doesnt offer any real value – it’s really for nice collectible coins ;)

  19. J. Money September 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    @DebtKiller – Would be better if you found coins from older people who never took the time to cash them in ;) Better odds!
    @Eric – Oh man, how much did you like working there? Imagine if you saw $500 or $1,000/$10,000 bills come in? Ca-ching!
    @Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy – Okay! I will, thank you :) You’re the best gift giver EVER! Haha… man that’s awesome.
    @Scott – Ahhhh, okay that makes sense. I did see that my collector coin picked up a box of coins at an auction once, and they all came graded – so I gotta go that route then if I want graded stuff… I’ll just have to wait until I get a crazy good one worth some $$! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the most valuable one you have? (Or maybe email me if you don’t want it out in the public? j @ budgets are sexy dot com)

  20. Brent Pittman September 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    You’re just getting started…I wonder about silver content in foreign coins or our good neighbors to the north eh?

  21. DC @ Young Adult Money September 12, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    J, I have to admit. I think your posts about antiques (coins in particular) have single-handedly made me interested in collecting! My wife is getting really into going to garage sales and it made me think of some of the cool things you’ve found. Her best find so far was an antique lantern that she got for $2.

  22. cashflowmantra September 12, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    My dad has several Morgan Silver dollars that I would love to look at from time to time growing up. I imagine he still has them so one day, I might get a few.

    In the meantime, I have to settle for my own 1 oz. rounds purchased in the late ’80s for $5.00 per ounce. I might consider selling sometime over $50, but will have to see.

  23. Chris September 13, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    I work at a credit union and in these hard economic times people are cashing in loose change they have laying around to get cash. I had one of our tellers keeping an eye out for me and she was given about $75 in half dollars for part of a loan payment. She called me and I walked away with $4.50 in silver coinage:).

  24. J. Money September 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    @Brent Pittman – That’s a great point actually, silver is silver no matter where it’s from, right? Just a bit harder to get your hands on, I’d imagine…
    @DC @ Young Adult Money – Awesome! Well it’s a good hobby to get into since you’re always investing in MONEY, you know? Haha… Unlike other hobbies out there ;) Maybe you and the wife can tagteam and help each other snatch up stuff you’re both really interested in! Coins and Lanterns :)
    @cashflowmantra – Nice! If you ever want to sell any to me (not joking), let me know :) It would be fun to have coins coins from readers of my site! I already had another guy shoot me an email about something similar, and I’m pretty excited about it. Win-win for everyone!
    @Chris – PERFECT!!! That’s the way to do it – get people on your side and helping you out :) Which also helps THEM out too especially if they’re coins they have to count every night before locking up, like silver and gold (in color) dollars, and $2 bills etc. Sometimes they drive tellers crazy.

  25. Prepping Is Sexy December 14, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    I love APMEX! One of my favorite things is how they keep track of all your purchases so that you can see what you paid and their current market value. What I like to do, since I don’t usually have very much money to invest is wait for a free shipping promotion. If you sign up with them, they will email you about different promotions. So all I have to do is save up whatever I can and then wait for a free shipping promo. Then I just make sure I have at least $50 to spend to meet their minimum.