Back in the 1980’s, I would go to the bank and buy 2 or 3 rolls of half dollars. At $10 per roll, it wasn’t too much. The purpose of this was to find silver coins. Sometimes I would be successful and find 1964 Kennedy Half Dollars which are 90% silver and 1965 – 1969 Kennedy Half Dollars which are 40% silver. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any Walking Liberty Half Dollars, minted between 1916 and 1947, or Franklin Half Dollars, minted between 1948 and 1963. Most of the half dollars would be from 1971 on which were clad coins, or made of copper and nickel. These are not worth much beyond face value, but the ones between 1964 and 1969 are worth something based on their silver content. I still have some of them I found back then.
As the years have past, more and more people have been going through coin rolls looking to make a profit. In fact, some will buy as much as $1,000 worth of coins. We call these people Coin Roll Hunters.
I thought I would give you a small example of a coin roll hunter. At the top of this article, you’ll see coin rolls that I purchased from the bank, 5 rolls of nickels and 10 rolls of pennies. Now, I’m going to go through each roll and give you a status of what I find.
Jefferson Nickel Rolls
I will search for the following:
- Nickels minted before 1971
- 4 Westward Journey / Lewis and Clark Nickels between 2004 and 2005
So, in 5 rolls (200 nickels), I found 10 Jefferson Nickels before 1971 and 7 Westward Journey nickels. I also found 2 Canadian nickels. There were only 2 nickels before 1960, a 1942-P Nickel composed of 35% silver and a beautiful 1959-D Nickel. No surprise there were 5 1964 Nickels, since it was the first year that both Philadelphia and Denver mints produced over one billion nickels each. This would happen again until 1999. From 1968 – 1970, Nickels were only minted in Denver and San Francisco, with 1970 being the last year that San Francisco would mint nickels in circulation. After that, San Francisco would only mint proof nickels for collectors. Surprisingly, I didn’t get any San Francisco Nickels, just a 1969-D and 2 1970-Ds. I didn’t keep any from the 1970’s and beyond because there were many made and probably wouldn’t be worth beyond face value. In fact, the only one that may be worth something would be the 1942-P Silver Nickel. At the current Silver value at around $17 per ounce, the silver content of this nickel would be $0.95. So, the nickel in this condition could be worth a little more than a dollar. It doesn’t sound like much but I only paid 5 cents for it. That’s profit, and that’s what coin roll hunters look for in the end.
I have 10 rolls (500 pennies) to go through. I was hoping to find Lincoln Wheat Cents minted between 1909 and 1958, but did not see one. The oldest Lincoln cent found was 1959, the first year of the Lincoln Memorial Cents. Of these 500 cents, only 84 were actual copper cents, cents minted 1982 and before. The rest were zinc cents. The value of copper has been on the rise which was the reason for using zinc, although I think zinc might be rising as well. Eventually, the mint may have to stop minting the cent like Canada did in 2012. Speaking of Canada, I did find one Canadian cent, 1976.
As some of you may know, the Philadelphia mint produced 2017 cents with a “P” mint mark for the first time in the 225 years of US Coins. Just for fun, I would see how many of these I could find in these rolls. Turns out I found 105 of them, or around 1 of every 5 cents in those 10 rolls. Though this sound like a special cent, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a rare one.
Is Coin Roll Hunting Worth It?
It depends on the time and patience you put towards it. I only bought $15 in coin rolls. So, it would be tough to find much. I was hoping to find at least one Wheat Cent, but I did find a Silver Nickel. If I was serious, I would try to do at least $100 in rolls, but like I said earlier, there are people that will buy $1000 worth. Would you consider it?
Check Your Change
First “P” Mint Cent
Lincoln Memorial Cents
Lincoln Wheat Cents
I grew up on a sailboat sailing around the world, sounds like a cool life and in ways it was. But as a young child, it was also very hard. Being on a boat all the time I couldn’t have the regular toys kids my age had due to breakage, corrosion & space restrictions.
So doing 2-3 week Atlantic crossings in a space 37’x12′ can become very taxing on the mind. So my mother got me collecting coins and stamps from the places we traveled. Whenever we did a long jump like that, she would break out rolls of coins and bags of stamps (I have no idea where she used to get them all) I would then sit for hours inspecting and cataloging them. I actually made some really good money back then.
I currently am laid up with a second broken back and becoming a roll hunter could be something I could do to pass the time and make some extra money. My question is though, would bank not go through the currency removing coins like these? I am from Canada and I know coins before 1964 were made from silver and were worth some money and with our penny recently being exiled, I am sure their prices went up. Where would be the best place to sell these coins? Shows, online or directly to collectors?
That is cool that you got to grow up on a sailboat. Of course, I wouldn’t think about how lonely or boring it could be at times, but I think it’s great your mom got you interested in collecting coins and stamps. You must have seen some interesting coins and stamps around the world.
Supposedly, banks don’t have the time to check individual coins coming from rolls. They just count them to make sure someone didn’t cheat them by putting a couple less coins or even coins with lower denominations. The US also had silver coins before 1965 as silver was on the rise and people were hoarding them and not spending them. I didn’t even know Canadian pennies were no longer minted until someone from my coin club mentioned it when he brought in a folder full of them and was missing the last year. In terms of selling, I have only gone to two places, the local coin store and Ebay. To give you an example, I had three Washington Quarters between 1959 and 1963. Two of them were certified MS-66 and one MS-65. I took them to the coin shop and they would only give me $20 for the three of them. Coin shops are looking to make a profit and sometimes they will give you an amount close to what you expect. This wasn’t one of those times. So I put the three of them on Ebay for a week with a starting bid of $0.99 each. In the end, I got around $30 for each one. Even after Ebay took its fees, I still made a profit, definitely more than the coin shop. So, I would say before going to a coin shop or show, do a little research. Get yourself a coin price book. In the US, it is called the Red Book. There are also websites online that give coin prices.
Sorry to hear about your back. I also had back issues in my early 30’s, but was lucky to find a chiropractor who really helped me. Coin roll hunting would be great to pass the time. One thing I didn’t mention is there are some collectors that will look at coins even more than I did to look for errors. That would take a lot more time, but if you find any, then the coin could be worth more.
Thanks for the comment and good luck on your coins!
Kevin, Thanks for an interesting article. I never thought about getting change rolls from the bank and going through them. I have been saving coins in several big containers for years. Your article has prompted me to go through them and look for the coins you mentioned. I’ve also saved wheat pennies for years. Do you know what value the wheat pennies have? I know it depends on the year, ect. Just a little curious.
Thanks for the comment Lisa! The later Wheat Cents from 1934 – 1958 are not worth much, but I keep them anyway with the cost of copper going up. The earlier Wheat Cents are worth more, but don’t expect to make a fortune unless you have some of the key dates.
Interesting post about buying rolls of coins. I had an experience about ten years ago when I was leaving for a fishing trip in Canada.
I went to the bank here in the United States and wanted to have Canadian money when I arrived. I traded $300 of American money for Canadian currency. When I arrived at my destination in Canada, we decided to buy some groceries. After making our selections, we went to the checkout. The cashier tallied it up. I handed her a ten dollar Canadian bill. She looked at me kind of strange and asked where in the world did I get the ten dollars bill? I told her at a bank in the States. She said that ten dollar bill was retired some years back.
It just goes to show you-you might have a real treasure and not realize it.
Thanks again for sharing your interest in coin collecting.
It’s funny that you said this about Canada. When I went up there 10 years ago, I had a $1 and $2 bill from a previous trip. I was purchasing something and was going to use those bills, but the store owner wouldn’t take them. He told me to keep them because they stopped making them in Canada back in the 1980s. They have the $1 and $2 coins (loonies and toonies) which were successful. Unfortunately, the dollar coin hasn’t been successful in the United States. Eisenhower dollars were too big, Susan B. Anthonys were close in size to the quarter. I thought maybe the Sacagawea dollars would succeed, because they had a bronze color like the Canadian loonie, but they didn’t. Thanks for the comment and the story Kevin!
I buy $200 in quarters every day. I also did some investigating and found out Chicago is the closest place to Wisconsin where the US mint drops off rolls. I was lucky to get a box of San Antonio quarters where I found 86 Ws. I sold them at $15 each and returned the rest so I was only out $21.50 for the 86. That is 86 times $15 = $1290. So does profiting $1268.50 worth 2 hours of my time searching and 3 hours driving? Was to me.
Wow! That’s excellent! I haven’t seen one yet and you found 86. Good for you. If I was close to Wisconsin like you, I would had done it too.