Coins likely not worth their weight in silver

John Norris provides some useful ideas on what to do when you receive an inheritance that contains old silver coins.

Q: We found a bag of about 100 old silver dollar coins in my late father-in-law’s safe deposit box. These were not itemized in his will. I understand the price of precious metals has gone up significantly in the last couple of years. Should we sell them to lock in the gain? Or should we give them to his children? – R.D., Prattville

A: Since the coins weren’t itemized in the will, I will assume they don’t comprise a significant portion of the estate.

The real question here: What do I do with a bag of shiny metal that doesn’t pay any form of income? It is a great question. You are right; the price of silver has gone up significantly over the last several years. The current one-month silver future is roughly $12 per troy ounce. It was less than $5 as recently as 2002.

Now, would you be wise sell them to lock in the recent return? Should you? Frankly, I don’t know enough about the coins

If they have Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea on the “heads” side, your coins are worth exactly $1. They don’t actually contain any silver. Most of the famous Eisenhower “silver dollars” were also primarily copper and nickel, with only a little bit of silver. Some proof sets were silver, but these are relatively rare.

A quick trip to a few coin sites suggests you might catch $1.25 for a standard, circulated Eisenhower. Mint condition, uncirculated coins might command $2 to $4. I imagine your “Eisenhowers” weren’t part of a proof set since you found them in a bag in a safe deposit box. It is worth double-checking though, as the proof sets are worth a lot more.

You are in luck if the coins were struck before 1971! You have far more rare coins; ones that actually contain silver. However, their value is primarily due to their rarity as opposed to their metal content. For instance, a 1935-S Peace Dollar in “proof grade” condition may command upwards of $1,500. A 1900 “Morgan” dollar with a rating of PR-66, or higher, will fetch several thousand dollars at a coin auction, even though it contains only $12 worth of silver.

If the coins were struck after 1986, and aren’t Susan B. Anthonys or Sacagaweas, you have something called a “Silver Eagle.” These mostly trade for their bullion value. The face value of the coins might be $1, but the metal content is currently $12 or so. In other words, these coins are the most affected by changes in the price of silver.

With that said, you probably have enough money for a nice dinner if you have a bunch of Eisenhowers. If you have a bunch of Silver Eagles, you have roughly $1,200 worth of silver. If you have a bunch of Peace and Morgan dollars, you have something special.

So, what would I recommend?

If you have Eisenhower coins, I wouldn’t waste another minute thinking about them. If you have Peace and Morgan coins, I would divide them among the surviving children and let them decide what they should do with them. If you have Silver Eagles, I would divide them among the grandchildren as something special that Granddad left for them.

(via Montgomery Advertiser)

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