When a quarter is actually worth $8*


I wrote this 6 years ago for The Liberty and Economics Review. My first website of any consequence. I thought our readers might enjoy reading it.

At the time we were just barely considering climbing out of the depths of the Great Recession and we were seeing a solid (though brief) bit of price inflation. This price inflation was hammered later however by the massive move down in oil prices as OPEC and the US frackers went toe to toe and drove the price of fuel down.

The humble quarter. Washington’s profile on the front. Eagle on the back. Simple. Silver. Well silver in color anyway.

There was a time when the quarter was made of real silver, until 1964 in fact. All quarters after 1964 are “clad” as coin collectors call them. They are 91.67% copper and the balance zinc.

Often called the Johnson Sandwich (after president Johnson) the current quarter was minted because the value of the silver in the old quarter was more than what the coin was worth. The Feds were losing money so they started making sandwiches out of copper and zinc, two much less valuable metals.

Why should you care?

Because you might want to pull out that old pickle jar and go through the mess of coins you dumped in there over the years. You never know, you might get lucky. Even better if your parents or grandparents have an old jar that you can haul out of the attic. You might have a tidy fortune tucked away that you didn’t even know about. Each one of those old quarters from 1964 and before are worth $7.95 at today’s silver prices.*

That’s right, 8 bucks.

It doesn’t matter if they are scuffed up or in poor condition. The fact that the coins are 90% silver is what makes them valuable.

It’s funny. Occasionally I’ll talk to someone and tell them of the “melt value” of pre-1964 coins and they give me a very skeptical look. After which I tell them that if they don’t believe me I’ll give them some fresh shiny quarters from the bank in exchange for their old worn out quarters. No one has taken me up yet, but this is a standing offer for anyone who prefers their quarters shiny and new. Just email me.

You’d be a fool to depart with an old quarter of course. Just look around. You’d be very hard pressed to find a pre-1964 quarter in your pocket change. The reason for this dearth is that long ago your parents and grand parents knew a good deal when they saw one and pulled the silver coins out of circulation. Hopefully you are the beneficiary.

For those who don’t know, silver prices have been on a tear since October 2008 when silver made its most recent bottom of under $9 an ounce. It is now $43.96 an ounce and it likely has quite a bit to go.**

Why are silver prices rising? Inflation baby.

Despite what we hear coming from Secretary Geithner and Chairman Bernanke, prices are rising due to an inflated money supply. The Federal Reserve, in its effort to print us out of the economic downturn we are mired in, has forced prices up. Gas, coffee, wheat, rice, silver, it’s all rising in price and quickly. This is a direct reflection of the actions of the Federal Reserve.

The CEO of Wal-Mart Bill Simon said in the March 30th USA Today that he expects “serious” inflation in the months ahead. When the CEO of Wal-Mart says in the USA Today that prices are going up, you can pretty much bet that prices are going up. Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the known universe.*** But even it is no match for the printing presses of the Federal Reserve.

So, if you are lucky enough to have a pickle jar full of coins now is probably a pretty good time to see if you have any good stuff in it. Who knows? You might be able to buy a bag of groceries with that old quarter pretty soon.****

*A silver quarter is worth $3.28 today at $18.15/oz of silver. 

** Silver briefly topped $50/oz right after this column.

*** No longer. Amazon has far surpassed Walmart.

**** Or maybe not. (Though you could have had you acted quickly.)