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Silver May Be a Practical Investment

August 04, 1988|DON ALPERT

Question: Exactly how much over face value are silver coins--such as dimes and quarters--worth? I have many such coins from the 1940s and earlier. In addition, I have many silver dollars circa 1893, which are also silver. I guess I'd like to know whether it's been worth holding on to the coins as long as I have.--M.C.

Answer: Many people save silver coins as a hedge against inflation. The price of silver and gold invariably goes up when inflation heats up, so some investors will buy bags of silver or bullion gold just in case double-digit inflation returns. A bag of silver contains $1,000 face value of circulated coins. As you indicate, the coins are either dimes, quarters, half dollars or dollars. These are dated 1964 and earlier (the last year of silver mintage); and sometimes there are mixed bags and even half bags.

A bag of dimes, quarters and halves contains 715 ounces of pure silver; a bag of silver dollars contains 765 ounces of silver. A bag containing clad coins (1965-69) contains 295 ounces of pure silver. Prices, of course, are adjusted accordingly. To find the value, multiply the spot price of silver by the amount of pure ounces of silver. Sometimes the buy-and-sell price will be less than the melt value.

In today's market, dimes are worth about 4 1/2 times face, or 45 cents each. Silver dollars, which contain more silver, are worth about $8 to $10 each.

But the key question is: Are they worth holding onto? Proponents say yes; the coins offer a survival comfort zone, and there is always the possibility of appreciation. And they're totally liquid; many coin dealers trade in them, and as a last resort, they can be spent. Opponents say the coins don't earn interest and you'd do better leaving your money in the bank.

All this is interesting, but for my money the way to go with the greatest potential of return is with investment-quality coins, those with rare dates and in high condition. They're hard to find, which satisfies the collector urge, and they're potentially profitable, which satisfies just about everything else.

Coin News

One of the largest sea mammals, the endangered bowhead whale, is featured on Canada's 1988 $100 gold coin. The coin (pictured) is the 13th in a series that began in 1976. Mintage is limited to no more than 95,000 ordered between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30. Robert-Ralph Carmichael designed the whale reverse; Arnold Machin's effigy of Queen Elizabeth II adorns the obverse. The coin contains one-quarter ounce of fine gold alloyed with silver. The price is $210 during the ordering period from the Royal Canadian Mint, Box 445, Station A, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 9H3; telephone (800) 267-1871, Ext. 0805.

New coin issues: Hong Kong has authorized its first proof set, limited to 25,000 editions. Unlimited uncirculated sets of the seven-coin collection will also be available. Proof sets are $39.75; uncirculated $12.95 from the British Royal Mint, c/o Barclays Bank of New York, P.O. Box 2570, New York, N.Y. 10164-1060; telephone (800) 221-1215. . . .

Seven proofs depicting Mickey Mouse's 60th anniversary with a mintage of 30,000 per coin will be made available throughout the year. The first depicts Mickey in his first role as "Steamboat Willie" in 1928. The medals are in four denominations from Rarities Mint; telephone (800) 641-9585. . . .

Israel's 40th-anniversary commemorative coins are being minted in three denominations: uncirculated silver 1 New Sheqel (for $18) proof silver 2 sheqels (for $28) and proof gold 10 New sheqels (for $20). The legal tender pieces have limited mintages. The local distributor is PandaAmerica Corp., 23326 Hawthorne Blvd., Skypark Ten, Suite 150, Torrance, Calif. 90505; telephone (800) 4-PANDAS.

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