How can you tell if a quarter is silver? Have you ever wondered if that quarter in your pocket is made from precious silver? With rising silver prices, some older quarters can be worth much more than 25 cents if they contain silver.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Look for quarters minted in 1964 or earlier. Also check the coin’s edge – silver quarters have a smooth, uninterrupted rim while modern-clad quarters show a copper core between two outer layers.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through multiple methods to test your quarters for silver content. Learn how to spot mint years and mint marks indicating silver, what to look for when inspecting the rim, sound, visual details, weight, and dimensions, and how to perform simple magnet and conductivity tests.
Identifying Silver Quarters By Mint Year And Mark
There are a few key things to look for when trying to identify if a quarter is made of silver:
Quarters minted between 1932 and 1964 may contain silver. Specifically:
- 1932-1964 – Washington quarters contain 90% silver
- 1965-1970 – Transition years where some quarters contain 40% silver
So focusing your search on quarters minted in those years will increase your chances of finding silver.
The mint mark indicates which US mint the coin was made at. Below are the mint marks to look for on silver quarters:
- No mint mark – Struck at the Philadelphia mint. Silver from 1932-1964.
- D – Struck at the Denver Mint. Silver from 1932-1964.
- S – Struck at the San Francisco mint. Silver from 1932-1954 and 1956-1964.
Finding one of those mint marks significantly raises the probability you’ve got a silver quarter.
Using this criterion – date, and mint mark you can accurately identify which of your quarters are 90% silver bullion, 40% silver transitional coins, or non-silver modern issues. With a little practice, it becomes quick and easy to spot the valuable silver quarters for further inspection.
Inspecting The Rim Or Edge Of The Quarter
One of the easiest ways to tell if a quarter is silver or not is by carefully inspecting the rim or edge of the coin. The edge of a silver quarter will be distinctly different than that of a normal clad quarter.
Check For Copper Strips
Closely inspect the rim or edge all around the circumference of the quarter. A normal clad quarter has an inner layer of copper covered by outer layers of copper-nickel alloy. This creates two distinct copper strips that encircle the edge.
A silver quarter lacks these copper layers and instead will show a solid gray-silver color around the edges without any copper stripes visible.
A silver quarter is also considerably heavier than a clad quarter due to the difference in metal composition. Weight each coin on a precision scale to compare. A quarter minted after 1965 weighs 5.67 grams while a silver quarter weighs roughly 6.25 grams, almost a full gram heavier.
Checking The Unique Sound Of Silver Quarters
One easy way to determine if a quarter is made from silver is to listen to the sound it makes when dropped. The unique properties of silver can produce a ringing or chiming quality that is noticeably different from regular clad quarters.
Here’s what to listen for and why silver quarters have their distinct sound.
The Clear, Sustained Ring of Silver
When dropped flat onto a hard surface from around waist level, a 90% silver quarter will emit a high-pitched ringing sound that is both clear and sustained. That is, the ring will have a pure tone that lasts a full second or longer before fading out.
This effect occurs because silver is denser than copper or nickel, and better reflects acoustic waves to produce a unique chiming quality.
By comparison, normal-clad quarters produce more of a dull “clunk” rather than a ring. Additionally, any ring sound dies out quickly. So if you drop a quarter and hear a long, ringing after-sound, that’s a good sign it may contain silver.
Testing Quarters from Different Years
Quarters made before 1965 are almost always 90% silver, while normal quarters dated 1965-1970 contain 40% silver. Both varieties are significantly more silver-heavy than modern quarters.
When tested side-by-side, pre-1965 quarters have the longest, purest ring, while 40% silver quarters produce more of a high-pitched bell tone that still rings clearly. If you’re not sure of a quarter’s silver content, comparing sounds with a known clad quarter can help reveal obvious audio differences.
|Typical Sound When Dropped
|90% silver (pre-1965)
|Long, clear ringing tone lasting 1+ seconds
|40% silver (1965-1970)
|Higher-pitched bell tone with some sustain
|Copper-nickel clad (Post-1970)
|Dull “clunk” sound quickly fading
Caveats With The Ring Test
While the unique ring of silver quarters is a handy identifier, there are a couple of caveats. Extremely worn quarters can lose some of their ringing quality before becoming too thin for circulation. Quarters that are bent or have edge deformities may also sound odd.
For these reasons, it’s good to combine a visual inspection, weight test, ping test, and magnet test to fully authenticate silver coins.
Still, listening for the telltale chime remains a fast, convenient way to pinpoint quarters potentially containing precious silver. With a trained ear and a little practice, anyone can reliably pick out these more valuable quarters from their pocket change.
Examining The Visual Details On Silver Quarters
When determining if an old quarter is made from silver, there are some key visual details you can look for. Genuine silver quarters will have a brighter, shinier appearance than normal clad quarters due to the properties of the precious metal.
Additionally, silver quarters tend to be darker or slightly yellowed in areas due to natural tarnishing that occurs over decades of oxidation.
Under close inspection with a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass, the surface of a real silver quarter may also show tiny striations or brushed lines in the metal. These are minting marks that can indicate authenticity.
Normal-clad quarters from 1965 onward will have a smoother, more uniform surface.
Another way to potentially spot a silver quarter is to examine the edge. Silver quarters minted before 1965 were made with 90% silver and thus the edges should show the grey-colored interior silver beneath the outer coating. Clad quarters have a copper interior and edges with a brownish hue.
However, there was a “sandwich” transition period during 1965 where some quarters were minted partially from silver blanks. These 40% silver quarters may still have copper edges rather than silver. So edge examination is useful but not definitive.
Pre-1965 quarters with 90% silver content are also heavier than modern clad quarters. Silver is denser than copper and nickel, allowing a genuine silver quarter to have a nice hefty, solid feel when holding it.
There can be approximately a 20% difference in mass, with silver quarters weighing about 6.25 grams versus clad quarters at 5 grams.
|90% Silver (pre-1965)
You’ll need a sensitive jewelry or kitchen scale to notice the deviation. But combined with visual tests, weight can serve as another useful indicator when identifying real silver quarters.
Verifying Silver Content By Weight And Size
There are a couple of key ways to check if a quarter is made from the precious metal silver instead of a base metal. The main methods involve carefully examining the coin’s weight and diameter compared to known silver coin specifications.
Check the Weight
An easy test is to verify the quarter’s weight with a precise digital scale, as silver is denser and heavier than base metals like copper and nickel used in normal quarters. A 90% silver quarter minted in 1964 or earlier should weigh around 6.25 grams.
This is compared to regular clad quarters which weigh 5.67 grams. So if your quarter weighs noticeably more than 5.67 grams, it’s a good sign it has valuable silver content.
Other Unofficial Tests
There are a couple of other basic methods collectors use such as visual inspection, the ping test based on sound, and magnet testing. However, these are more subjective and not as reliably accurate for quarter silver content.
So for definitive silver verification in quarters, carefully checking weight and diameter is key. Just be sure to use a fine-resolution scale and caliper tool for precision.
Using A Magnet Test On Quarters
One simple way to test if a quarter is made of silver is by using a magnet. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Get a Strong Magnet
You’ll need a reasonably strong magnet for the test. Small fridge magnets likely won’t be enough. A good option is a rare earth neodymium magnet or a strong cylindrical magnet.
2. Check if the Magnet Sticks
Hold the quarter securely with one hand and bring the magnet close to the quarter with your other hand. If the magnet sticks strongly, the quarter is not silver. Genuine silver quarters are non-magnetic, so the magnet will slide right off.
|Magnet sticks to quarter not
|t silver – likely a clad quarter
|Magnet slides off quarter
|Possibly silver – proceed to visual tests
3. Double Check with Visual Tests
If the magnet slid off, the quarter could be silver. But it’s still important to double-check with a visual inspection.
Pre-1965 quarters contain 90% silver, so check for that tell-tale silver shine and ringing sound when flicked. Compare to a known clad quarter to spot differences.
Also, examine the coin’s edge. 90% of silver quarters have edges showing alternating stripes of silver and copper. Clad quarters are copper colored all the way through.
Doing both a magnet test and visual comparisons gives the most reliable way to verify if you have a valuable silver quarter.
Testing Electrical Conductivity Of Quarters
One easy way to test if a quarter is made of silver is to check its electrical conductivity. Silver is the most conductive metal, even more so than copper. This property can be leveraged to differentiate silver quarters from normal clad quarters.
Here’s what you need to conduct a simple electrical conductivity test:
- 9V battery
- Alligator clips or wires
- Multimeter set to continuity or resistance mode
- Glass of water
- Quarter to test
First, attach an alligator clip or wire to each terminal of the 9V battery. Make sure not to let the clamps touch each other as this will short-circuit the battery.
Next, submerge both wires into the glass of water, spaced a few inches apart. The water acts as a conductor in this circuit.
Now, take the quarter you want to test and touch it to both wires at the same time while they are submerged. Observe if the multimeter gives a resistance reading. An authentic silver quarter will have very low resistance, less than 1 ohm.
A clad quarter on the other hand will show much higher resistance, over 20 ohms.
You can test multiple quarters this way. Silver quarters will allow electrical current to pass through easily compared to copper-nickel-clad ones. This is because silver has an extremely high conductivity rating of 63 x 106 S/m compared to that of nickel at 14 x 106 S/m.
While not definitive, checking a quarter’s conductivity is a quick way to gauge the probability of it containing more pure silver. You can then further examine promising candidates with other methods like visual inspection, magnet, and weight tests.
How Can You Tell If A Quarter Is Silver – Conclusion
As you have learned, many techniques like mint marks, edge inspection, magnet tests, and more can determine if your quarters contain precious 90% silver. With some practice inspecting lots of quarters, these identification methods will become second nature.
Checking your spare change for silver coins can prove rewarding – silver quarter values have ranged from $3.50 to over $5 in recent years due to the intrinsic value of their precious metal content. Happy treasure hunting!