Depending on when the coins were minted, silver half dollars can be a valuable investment. If you’re a coin collector interested in finding the right half dollars, you may not know where to look and what coins are valuable. You can find silver half dollars at your local bank, in antique shops or flea markets, or via professional coin dealers. Recognizing the markers of silver half dollars and where you’re likely to find them will help you find more rare coins when expanding your collection.
EditSpotting Authentic Silver Half Dollars
- Look for half dollars minted during 1969 or earlier. Prior to 1965, half dollars contained 90% silver. In 1965, the U.S. Mint removed silver from all dimes and quarters. They also reduced the silver content in half dollars from 90% to 40%, which is the silver content for all half dollars minted for general circulation in the years 1965-1970. Most coins minted after 1970 are not made of silver but are most likely nickel-clad half dollars.
- Kennedy 1964 half dollars are the last 90% silver coins minted by the Federal Reserve for regular circulation.
- When you have find a half dollar, make sure its date matches the symbol minted during that period. For example, a Kennedy half dollar with a date before 1965 is a potential counterfeit, but only the most rare dates are actually counterfeited.
- Use a magnet. Silver exhibits weak magnetic effects. If your coins stick to a magnet, they are most likely not silver. Your half dollar is more likely nickel-clad if it’s strongly magnetic.
- Remember that some metals (like aluminum or titanium) can look like silver. When in doubt, bring your coin to a dealer who can determine its authenticity.
- Try the ice test. Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any common metal or alloy. If you place a piece of ice directly on the silver and it melts immediately (as if it has been placed on a hot object), your coin is most likely silver.
- Avoid performing this test outdoors. The ice test will be most accurate in a room temperature area.
- Do the ring test. Flick your coin in the air and listen to the sound it makes as it hits the ground. Authentic silver will make a high-pitched ringing sound, like a bell. If it does not make this sound, the coin is likely a counterfeit.
- Check for damage on the coin. If the area is marred or looks like it’s been tampered with, a counterfeiter may have altered the date or mint mark. Don’t trust a coin with lots of strange markings or scratches, especially if they’re around the mint mark or date. You may be dealing with a counterfeit coin.
EditBuying Coin Rolls
- Choose a large corporate bank. To find silver half dollars, you’ll want to find a bank with circulated coins rather than freshly-minted coins. The best banks for circulated half-dollars are big-name banks with businessmen patrons. Corporate banks deal with large amounts of circulated coins and will have more on hand.
- Banks that specialize in merchant business will often sell coin rolls to non-account holders. Smaller banks may be more reluctant.
- Avoid rolls with coins returned in bulk. If your bank says that one person returned a large sum of half-dollars, they have probably been searched. Ask for rolls that have come from a variety of sources. These are more likely to have older coins.
- Look for banks that have hand-rolled half dollars as opposed to machine-rolled coins. The latter are usually from the Federal Reserve and were recently minted. New half dollar coins are useless to you, as any half dollar minted after 1970 will not have silver. Ask your bank teller if these coins were newly-minted before you exchange cash for them.
- Trade in cash for coin rolls at the bank. After you’ve contacted local banks, visit them and trade your money for half dollar rolls. If this is not your personal bank, bring paper cash to trade for the coin rolls. Keep track of the rolls so you can trade them back in after you’ve searched them.
- Ask the bank tellers to give you the rolls that appear to have been sitting there the longest or are at the bottom of their stacks. You’ll be more likely to find older coins.
- Search your rolls for rare half dollars. Remember key markers of a rare half dollar to find coins minted when the Federal Reserve used silver. Take care to search all your coins carefully and thoroughly. If you’re unable to focus, consider searching the rolls at another time.
- Don’t search all the rolls at once. Take breaks in-between rolls to avoid carelessly missing a silver half dollar.
- Store unwrapped coins in a specific place so you can return them to the bank later. Losing track of coins can add up over time, and you do not want to make coin collecting an overly-expensive hobby.
- Develop a good relationship with local bank tellers. Frequent the same banks when trading your money for coin rolls. Over time, get to know the tellers and let them know what half dollars you’re searching for. Ask them if they’ll contact you when new half dollar rolls arrive.
EditSearching for Circulated Coins
- Check local stores. Antique stores are an excellent place to find vintage silver coins. Ask your local shop owners if they collect or sell “junk silver,” the antique term for old coins in good condition. If so, inspect their coin collection for silver half dollars. Thrift shops may also carry vintage coins, depending on their policies.
- Ask friends who work in retail to put aside half dollars for you. You can come into their store and trade your paper money for their half dollars, which you can then inspect.
- Visit flea markets. Search in your local classifieds for flea market listings. When you arrive, move from booth to booth and look for vendors selling coins. If you find a silver half dollar, ask your vendor questions about where they obtained it and whether they have a certificate of authenticity for the coin.
- If you want to get up early on the weekends, check garage and estate sales. Someone nearby may be selling their personal coin collections. Yard sales aren’t a guaranteed place to find silver coins, but you never know.
- Purchase half dollars from coin dealers. Look for reputable coin dealers in your area and ask if they have silver half dollars for sale. Dealers often work with a variety of coins, and you’re likely to find at least one who sells half dollars.
- Find a dealer who is an Authorized Purchaser working with the U.S. Mint. This guarantees that your coin dealer is professional and safe. Most Authorized Purchasers have been in the business for over five years and have a strong client base. 
- Use a metal detector. Buy or build a metal detector and go searching in local areas. The best spots to look for coins are urban areas, like beaches, ski resorts, or campsites. Metal detecting will help you find a variety of old coins: you never know whether you’ll get lucky and find a silver half dollar.
- Heavily-trafficked areas are best for finding coins. While you can metal detect in the countryside or forests, you are unlikely to find what you’re looking for.
- For older coins, visit old areas. A building constructed in the last ten years might not have older coins, but a building fifty or more years old might have vintage coins.
- Look into smaller towns as opposed to major metropolitan areas. Smaller cities are less likely to have been picked over by coin collectors.
- Ask older friends or relatives for help. Many people have a coin jar where they store loose change. Let them know that you are looking for rare half dollars and promise to split profits with them if they let you inspect their coins.
- In some areas, metal detecting is illegal. Check your city laws before detecting in urban areas.
- Take care when obtaining large quantities of rolls of half-dollars that the rolls are not short. It is not unheard of to be short a half-dollar per roll. If you’re buying multiple rolls, your loss can add up over time.
- Be mindful of your safety and security if you are carrying large amounts of cash or coins. Consider investing in a safe to deter theft.