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Get More For Your Silver Coins
February 18, 2011

Silver is trading at a level last seen in March of 1980. The $31.84 number I saw on Kitco in my daily check of precious metals prices this morning means that $1 face amount of pre-1965 dimes, quarters and half dollars has a metallic content worth $22.77, or 22.77 times face value.

I calculate the value from .715 rather than .723 because dealers have for many years used the lower figure to account for average wear on coins usually found in $1,000 face value bags. What that means is on average a bag contains 715 troy ounces of the precious metal.

While I have seen the market go through this price level before, what is fortunate for average collectors today is that the present price level has arrived slowly enough that it hasn’t had quite the same impact on silver refiners as it did in 1980.

Three decades ago, the price rose so fast that everybody and his brother was lined up in front of coin shops to sell off coins and tableware for unprecedented prices.

This heavy selling backed up the system, causing lengthy delays in getting payments from refineries. The predictable consequence was that prices paid to the public became progressively more discounted from actual value.

At the roughly $50 peak, $1 in silver coins had a value of 35.75 times face. The highest price that the public ever received was 24 times face and that amount did not last long enough to give many people much chance to sell.

So far in this price advance, collectors and the public who are dealing with reputable dealers are getting a multiple for their coins that is closer to actual value rather than being discounted by one-third.

Keep in mind that every dealer has to discount from melt value to make a profit, but when it comes time to sell, keep an eye on business conditions generally and do business with those who keep their discounts reasonable.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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