Coin Roll Hunting


This was one of our favorite activities when we were kids, but then coin roll hunting was more likely to yield a profit then. It was the 1970s and the price of silver was climbing fast, yet most people still were not aware that any of their dimes, quarters and half dollars dated before 1969 had silver in them. In fact, the 1965-to-1969 ones are 40% silver, and the ones minted before 1965 were 90% silver. So we looked for those older coins.

(Flickr photo by prettydaisies)

It was like treasure hunting at the bank. We bought rolls of dimes, quarters, and half-dollars, sometimes opening them as soon as we were outside the bank. We could often spot the silver coins just by looking at the side of the stack of coins, although Canadian coins looked like silver and sometimes fooled us. After pulling out any silver coins, we replaced them or consolidated the remaining coins into rolls to return to the bank. As I recall, we received about ten time face value from the local coin shop for our finds.

Silver hunting today is difficult, but still fun perhaps. It is difficult because although some people claim to still find the silver coins in rolls from banks, it is very unlikely now. Almost all of them have been pulled from circulation over the years, and only a few reenter on occasion when, for example, a child spends the old dimes and quarters found in a parent's coin collection. On the other hand, what is making people want to try this again is the price of silver. It dropped as low as $4 per ounce since I was a child, and has been as low as $9 per ounce as recently as 2008, but as I write this in May of 2011 it is around $47 per ounce.

Banks do not particularly like selling many rolls of coins to you, but most still will sell you a few. Buy rolls of quarters and dimes from five or six different banks to make it less conspicuous at any one. Rolls of half-dollars will often have to be ordered for you, but some banks will do this without any extra charge. If you have to order, you might as well order a $500 box (50 rolls of 20 each). It's all worth at least what you pay anyhow, so there is no risk.

When you open your coin rolls, look at the edges for those coins that do not have any copper-color. They are likely to be silver coins, although if you live near Canada, there may occasionally be Canadian coins mixed in. Return all the other coins to the banks and sell the ones that are silver to the closest coin shop of silver buyer.

Although there is no guarantee that you'll find a single silver coin - even if you buy a thousands of coins - if you do find some, this is a fast way to make money. You could look at hundreds of rolls of coins in a few hours and sell any silver ones the same day.

How Much Can You Make?

The pre-65 silver coins contain about 715 ounces of silver per $1,000 bag (which is how many people invest in larger amounts). Another way to express that is that each dollar of face value has .715 ounces of silver. To tally up what the coins are currently worth, just multiply the current price-per-ounce of silver by .715 and then multiply that figure by the face value of your silver coins.

For example, at the moment (2009) silver is at $47.60 per ounce. If from your coin roll hunting you found three silver half-dollars, six quarters and eight dimes, you would have $3.80 face value. The current price of silver multiplied by .715 equals 34.03 - we'll just round that off to 34 to make the calculation easier. 34 times $3.80 is $129.20. Of course the face vale is subtracted, so your profit would be $125.40.

I personally doubt that you'll ever find 17 silver coins in a day of checking coin rolls - I doubt you'll find one - but it might be fun to try.

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As you go through the rolls of coins, you might also watch for any mint errors, such as double-die strikes or off-center strikes. Coin collectors buy these rare mistakes, sometimes for a lot of money.

Also, if you pick up a few hundred penny rolls, you might find some old pennies that have numismatic value. Look especially for "wheat pennies," which have wheat stalks on the back. These were minted prior to 1959, and unlike the silver coins, I still see them in change occasionally. Most are only worth a few cents, but some are worth a lot more. A 1914-D is worth about $125, for example, and a 1931-S sells for around $50.

Check the value of any really old silver coins you find as well. Some might have more numismatic value than silver melt-value.

When you are done checking your coins, don't bother to roll them again. Most banks have coin counters that will tally them up for you, although you may need an account at a bank to get this service for free. In fact, if you learn to spot the silver coins from the edges, and return the coins without rolling you can process hundreds of rolls in an hour.

Qualifications / Requirements

Some currency to trade for coins is all you need, and you can borrow that if necessary. It is a good idea to buy at least a couple hundred dollars' worth of coins each time to be more efficient and have a better chance of finding the good ones.

First Steps

Buy some rolls of coins and open them up. Start looking for the silver ones and/or any that are old enough to have numismatic value.


Coin Prices - This is the PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) site, where you can see what your old coins are worth.

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