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Silver: Yes or No?
June 08, 2011

I had a phone call yesterday from someone who works in the numismatics business buying silver coins for melt value.

His immediate dilemma was a 1993-S proof half dollar. He wanted to be sure that the silver weight was identical to the old pre-1965 standard.

He was chagrined to learn that there were also 1993-S copper-nickel clad proof half dollars. (This is true of all proof half dollars since the 1992-S.)

Instead of just confirming a weight, the conversation evolved into a discussion of how to tell the difference between valuable silver coins and cheap copper-nickel.

If the coins are not in their original packaging, they will have to be examined. I expect the 1993-S clad coins will be fairly easy to spot by looking at their edges, but since I haven’t examined proof clad coins that way in many a year, I can’t say with absolute certainty that it is easy to spot the copper-nickel 1993-S. Time-consuming weighing is the only thing that is absolutely certain. A silver coin weighs 12.50 grams and the copper-nickel 11.34 grams.

Bullion buying is something that is based on speed and correct weight. Something that is out of the ordinary and slows the process down will get discounted in the price that is paid for it.

Bullion buyers don’t like having to take coins out of elaborate packaging. That also takes time and raises the cost of handling the transaction.

Of course, some dealers will buy complete sets in original packaging for the silver price, but they will have customers who are actually interested in the full set. For them, the problem is the solution. However, they are a minority.

Should the Mint put another mark on the silver proof to indicate that it is indeed made of .900 fine silver as were the coins struck before 1965?

That’s not a bad idea.

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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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