The Canadian Quarter: Determing Silver Content
Written: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:23 pm PST
Perfect for a parking meter, gumball machine, or a satisfying addition to your piggy bank, the Canadian quarter is a well liked piece of change. You will not see a quarter being referenced in derogatory phrases such as ‘being nickel and dimed’, the quarter is still a worthy piece of metal. It is even referred to as a measurement guide, as in ‘about the size of a quarter’.
The technical name for what we call a quarter is a ‘25-cent piece’. First created in 1870, the Canadian quarter has a long history of change, having gone through many makeovers, inside and out.
Over time, the back of the quarter has showcased numerous kings and queens. Beginning with Queen Victoria in 1870, followed by King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI, and finally, since 1953, Queen Elizabeth II.
The content of the quarter has altered considerably, from the weight of the coin, to the quality and quantity of metals, the ingredients have slowly evolved.
This table shows the composition of metals in quarters going back 140 years.
|1870 – 1910||.925 Silver, .075 Copper|
|1910 – 1919||.925 Silver, .075 Copper|
|1920 – 1952||.800 Silver, .200 Copper|
|1953 – 1967||.800 Silver, .075 Copper (other 12.5% unknown)|
|1967b – 1968a||.500 Silver, .500 Copper|
|1968b – 1999||.999 Nickel|
|2000 – present||.940 Steel, .038 Copper, .022 Nickel Plating|
Determining the silver content in each quarter is easy, just check the date and calculate. The chart below gives a quick summary. Dollars, half dollars, quarters and dimes from 1920 - 1966 are all 80% silver by weight. As an example, $10 worth of quarters from 1966 would contain 6.56 oz, or 7.20 troy oz of pure silver. With today’s prices of $16.90 per troy ounce, the "melt" value of the coins would work out to $121.68.
|Production Year||Total Weight
||Silver Weight (oz)||Silver Weight (troy oz)|
|1870 – 1910||.204 oz||.188||.171|
|1910 – 1919||.205 oz||.189||.172|
|1920 – 1952||.205 oz||.164||.149|
|1953 – 1967||.205 oz||.164||.149|
|1967b – 1968a||.178 oz||.089||.081|
|1968b – 1999||.178 oz||0||0|
|2000 – present||.155 oz||0||0|
Note: A troy ounce is a unit of measurement used to gauge the weight of precious metals. One troy ounce is equivalent to 1.097 ounces.
The tricky part is that at one point, the quarter changed composition mid-year. Quarters made in 1967 and 1968 could go one way or another. An easy way to test this is with a magnet. If the magnet sticks to the coin, it is made of nickel. If it doesn’t stick, the composition is likely to include silver.
Generally, it does not work well when a currency can be “melted down” for more money than the face value of the coin. Changing the material makeup of the currency has been the solution, one that has been used repeatedly over the course of the last century.
So, next time you’re getting on the bus, going through a toll booth or washing your clothes at the Laundromat, check the dates on those old coins. You never know, you may be holding a quarter worth more than its value.