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The Best Investment: What’s In Your Wallet?

by Mike Wilcox (04/11/13).

A 1950 Washington quarter may be rolling around in your pocket. The silver content of such coins far surpass their face value and make them well worth saving.

As an appraiser, I often have to answer questions regarding antiques and collectibles as an investment, often being the bearer of bad news to clients who have invested in limited-edition collectibles, questionable Salvador Dali prints and, more recently, Victorian furniture.

Few things always retain their value or appreciate in value forever, but some thing fare better than others. Those same clients, when they learn their collections are not near as valuable as they thought, will then ask, “What would have been my best investment?”

I have to answer, “You should have invested in change.”

I nearly always get a blank look to that reply. I don’t mean cashing in on fads or rising markets for hot collectibles. I mean the stuff that jingles in your pocket and can be found stashed everywhere.

I’m talking about coins, specifically silver coins—American coins made before 1965 and Canadian coins made until about 1968. Coins like this have a silver content that vastly exceeds their face value even back in the mid 1960s.

I don’t deal in silver coins of any sort, but I do keep an eye on bullion values. If I come across a silver-content coin in my pocket change, I pop it into jar in my sock drawer for emergencies. The return on that investment outshines anything on Wall Street.

American silver coins were in standard circulation until silver was removed from all coinage in 1965, and Canadian silver coins until 1968. Silver coins from both countries have a monetary face value, a collectible value and bullion value for the amount of pure silver they contain.

Depending on the vintage and rarity of the coin, its value as a collectible coin can exceed its scrap-silver value, but for most mid-20th-century coins that contain silver, the silver value exceeds their value as a collectible coin.

To give you a general idea of just how much silver coins have appreciated on just their bullion value, a standard Washington quarter made from 1932 to 1965, today, has a scrap-silver value of $5.25, some 21 times its original face value. The humble 1946 to 1964 Roosevelt dime fetches $2.10, and a 1964 Kennedy half dollar goes for $10.51.

If you have an old piggy bank, change jar or just have coins rattling around in your sock drawer like I do, then drag them out and have a bit of fun figuring out their silver value. I’ve there are two sites where you can find the value of both American and Canadian silver coins. Both CoinNews.com, and CoinApps.com have coin calculators, with CoinNews.com focusing on Canadian coins.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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