Three Letters Re: Acquiring Pre-1965 Silver Coinage

One of the easiest ways to quickly go through a roll of quarters, dimes, or halves, is to look at the coins edge on. If any do not have the copper color on the edge then it is probably silver. When you look at a clad coin, you’ll notice a bit of copper on the edge. Then take a look at a silver coin and you’ll see that it doesn’t have the copper color on the edge. This is how I quickly go through rolls of coins.
Enjoy, – KJ

JWR Replies: Thanks for reminding SurvivalBlog readers–especially those of the younger generation–who might not be familiar with that indicator. OBTW, many readers might also not be familiar with the 40% silver half dollars that were minted between 1965 and 1970. These coins are often still found in circulation. It is worth the time to ask for rolls of 50 cent pieces at banks, particularly in small towns. You can also occasionally find “War Nickels” minted between 1942 and 1945–back when there was strategic shortage of nickel. So the US Mint substituted 35% silver!

Dear JWR,
Thank you for publishing the letter of 11 August 2009 regarding pre-1965 silver coinage at retail establishments and your following comments. Our family was the victim of a residential burglary one year ago, at which tie we lost several firearms of practical utility and $2,000 face value of pre-1965 silver coins. (We were visiting family out West, and our own tools were used to cut open a hidden, hardened room. It was divine providence that our house was not destroyed by fire due to the efforts of the thieves.)

We live on the periphery of a small town in central Pennsylvania and until this time, receiving “junk-silver” as change has been al but nonexistent. Since the burglary, I have not only found silver quarters along the road during my morning runs, I have received several silver dimes as change from local merchants. It has been a standing joke that we are receiving our sliver as change. Perhaps there is more truth and less humor to this assertion.

We continue to pray for you, your wife and family. – Michael X.

Mr. Rawles,
JK’s article on acquiring pre-1965 silver coins. Isn’t taking a silver dollar or 50 cent piece from someone uneducated in it’s value the same as stealing? That, and when I read about someone picking up a firearm for a song because their owner doesn’t know the value, Boston T. Party’s comments [in Boston’s Gun Bible] comes to mind. Same thing as cheating someone out of money.
Sincerely, – MK

JWR Replies: The real “cheating” and the original crime happened back in 1964, when the government unconscionably replaced our sound silver currency with debased copper tokens that are just flashed with silver, to make them look somewhat real. Having two types of currency in circulation–one genuine, and one debased–doesn’t last long. (See: Gresham’s Law.) I estimate that 98% of the silver coinage was promptly and righteously pulled from circulation by the outraged public before the end of 1968. (The debasement prompted the coinage shortage that lasted for three years. during which the various US mints produced a mix of the new “clad” coins and some 90% silver coins.) OBTW, a similar coin shortage just occurred in Argentina, when the citizenry realized that coins would retain some value, while the paper currency would not.

When some of the genuine silver coins are found in bank rolls these days, it is cause for celebration. See, for example, the forum run by coin collectors that obtain rolls of coins from banks to painstakingly sort: Treasurenet’s Coin Roll Hunting Forum. These folks call themselves Coin Roll Hunters (CRHs). It is a fun hobby for someone with time on their hands, and good eyes.

If an adult of normal intelligence hands you pre-’65 silver coins for a transaction at face value, then the odds are quite high that they stole them from someone. If a child (or an idiot, or a recent immigrant) does so, then it might be out of ignorance. They deserve a lecture, and need to be sent home to apologize for raiding their family’s silver coin hoard without permission. So at the retail level–outside of banking, which is a special case since coins have passed through several hands before being sold to you in rolls–then you are correct. A sale’s clerk’s role should be that of educator, not a coin gleaner. The individual offering the coin(s) needs to be shown the error of their ways. (Either of their ignorance or more likely their penchant for larceny.) And, for good measure, the lecture should include a bit of history about The Great Clad Coin Scam of 1964. Oh, and by the way, we would not be faced with the ethical dilemma of taking pre-1965 silver coins from anyone at face value and substituting debased coins if it were not for the grand larceny committed by our elected representatives 45 years ago.

In retrospect, we should have had a revolt in this nation in 1964-1965, against the evildoers in Washington, DC who effectively robbed us, so thoroughly. They should have been tarred and feathered.

When inflation re-emerges in the next few years (as the FedGov monetizes its way out their current predicament), I expect commodities prices to start to gallop (in Dollar terms.) This will make some US coins–most notably nickels and pre-1982 pennies–worth far more than their face value. Once they get past four times their face value, the Generally Dumb Public (GDP) will catch on, and they will disappear from circulation. My advice to SurvivalBlog readers: Panic now, and beat the rush. See my static page: “Mass Inflation Ahead–Save Your Nickels!“, for details.