Dollar coins can be worth a mint

By Terry Maurer, What's it Worth?

Q. I have seven of these silver dollars, each has a date of 1922. Some have a mint mark "S," others have no mint mark at all. I know these probably are collectible. My question is: Has the recent jump in the price of silver made them all the more valuable? -- Martin in West Richland

A. A timely and interesting question.

For decades, coins and stamps have been said to be the No. 1 and No. 2 collecting hobby in America. Some reports say there are more coin collectors (numismatists); some say more stamp collectors (philatelists). Whichever, there are a lot of each.

To coin collectors, American silver dollars are near the top in interest.

Congress authorized the silver dollar in 1792 and the U.S. Mint issued the first silver dollar coins in 1794. These rarely are found today, as are most of the dollar coins up until the 1840 "Seated Liberty" series of coins.

Most commonly seen in the collectors' market are the "Liberty Head" or "Morgan" dollar, issued between 1878 and 1921 (there was a break between 1904 and 1921). Some of those coins, especially low-production dates from the mint at Carson City, Nev., are now worth thousands of dollars. We've included a photo of an 1894 Morgan dollar in today's What's It Worth for reference.

Martin's silver dollar is from the "Peace Dollar" series, which was issued between 1921 and 1935. As a coin, they have historically ranged in value from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending on mint mark, number made, condition and other factors.

Your question about the recent explosion in the price of "spot silver" -- the daily value of the metal -- strikes to the heart of what currently has the collectible coin market in something of a tumult.

Just a few years ago, when silver was $7 or $8 an ounce, your coins would have been worth more as collectible items than for the value of the silver they contain. In the 2001 Official Red Book: a Guide Book of United States Coins your dollars -- in extremely fine condition -- were valued at $11 each.

Today, a 1922 "S" mint mark Peace dollar, in extremely fine condition, will set you back $20 or so at an Internet store -- plus shipping.

The big difference is the value of the silver in the coin. Your dollar is 90 percent silver. Silver specialists use a multiplier to determine how much the silver in the dollar is worth at the current price of silver bullion. They call it the "melt value."

We're told you multiply the price of silver by .76 and the result is (approximately) the value of the coin if it were melted down and the silver retrieved.

As last week ended, the world market price of silver was hovering near $20 an ounce. Twenty multiplied by .76 is about $15 (give or take, I was never all that great at math).
So, the silver alone in your coin is worth about $15, then you add a premium for the coin itself and -- yes, the value of your coins has been affected by the price of silver. Pretty dramatically so.

Will they be worth more next week or next year? Stay tuned, the market always fluctuates.
And be careful -- there are plenty of U.S. dollar coins you might find in your purse or pocket that contain no silver at all.

Most Eisenhower dollars, and all Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea dollar coins have no silver. A few Eisenhower coins were issued by the Mint as "silver-clad" coins celebrating the Bicentennial in 1976.

Anthony's and Sacajawea's are composition coins. The Anthony dollars are copper and nickel and the Sacajawea dollars have a pure copper core with an outer layer of magnesium brass.

Circulated coins like those are worth about $1 each.

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