We’re rerunning this piece because it continues to be one of the most asked-for explanations on the Stock Gumshoe website. What follows below was originally published in mid-2012, it has been updated for the change in silver values but otherwise remains unchanged.
Dr. David Eifrig over at Stansberry’s Retirement Millionaire newsletter has been teasing us with “five magic words” that he says you can use at your local bank to get free silver.
Huh? What’s he talking about?
Don’t worry, we’ll sniff through his clues and try to figure out what specific opportunity he’s talking about … and maybe we’ll even be able to guess exactly what his “Magic words” are. Here’s how he gets us interested:
“Say These 5 “Magic” Words To Your Local Bank Teller—
“And You Could Walk Away With A Handful Of Silver
“I never thought this would work. But it did! I tried it, and to my surprise, I got 34 silver coins from a single bank. Needless to say, I’m going back for more! Thanks for the great idea!” — Maury D., Tyler, TX”
Sounds great, right? Don’t worry, there’s more where that came from …
“I recently heard a wild rumor about a major loophole in the U.S. retail banking system…
“One that enables you to get real, ‘hold-in-your-hand’ silver from practically any FDIC-insured bank in the U.S. All you do is walk in, say 5 simple, but very specific words and – according to this rumor – you could walk out minutes later with a handful of silver, as part of a totally free transaction.
“You don’t even need an account with the bank where you want to collect your silver….
“Right now, a group of banks in the U.S. are finding themselves in possession of a certain type of government-created coin, which does not circulate widely in the general population…
“You see, these coins were originally produced during the early part of the 20th century, as part of a government mandate – called H.R. 2934 – to create money that was respected and easy to use. More than 750 million of these coins were minted, all containing varying amounts of silver.
“These coins – which contain as much as 90% pure silver – were designed by many of the best sculptors and engravers of the day – people like Augustus St. Gaudens, Charles E. Barber, and Gilroy Roberts. One of these coins is even listed by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) as one of the “20th Century’s most beautiful silver coins.”
“The coins were date-stamped and engraved with official U.S. government markings, to ensure authenticity.
“These unique ‘silvers’ were originally intended to be kept in circulation. But the Feds ceased production in 1971 because people were hoarding them and not circulating them like the government planned.
“But what 99% of the public doesn’t realize is that many banks today still hold large quantities of these coins.”
So what are these coins?
Well, from the general tone of the letter it appears likely to me that he’s talking about old US currency from the silver coinage days, not about specialty or collectible coins — and he has often teased so-called “junk silver” coins before. Junk silver refers to the pre-1965 circulating dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars that were made of 90% silver and which are the easiest low-cost entree into silver accumulation for a lot of people — either because they buy bags of old “junk” silver or because they sift through their pocket change and set aside those occasional 1963 dimes that are actually worth a few dollars each.
But what about that 1971 date? That tells me we’re looking at something else — and my guess is that he’s talking about Kennedy half dollars.
The fifty cent piece is one of the most common coins in US history, and was very widely used up until about 50 years ago, but it has effectively disappeared from circulation. Part of the reason it disappeared is that the half dollar became the Kennedy half dollar in 1964 to honor the assassinated president, and it was extraordinarily popular as a memento of a much-loved public figure so people tended to hold on to it. Add that to the fact that this is also the time when silver was getting taken out of circulating coinage and folks started to hoard all coins that had real silver content, and the 50 cent coin was pretty much killed as a circulating piece of currency.
But the key is that 1965 isn’t the only key date for silver in JFK half dollars — 1970 is also important. Because although all the other common coins stopped containing silver starting in 1965, the JFK half dollar was struck in 40% silver for several more years, from 1965-1970. So you have an extremely common coin (hundreds of millions were minted) that’s almost never seen, and one that’s not pre-1965 and therefore not as widely known for its silver content, and people don’t use them in daily commerce, so there must be at least a few still out there waiting to be found.
The theory then, I suppose, is that a ton of these fifty cent pieces are just sitting in the dusty back portion of bank vaults — stores don’t want them to give change, but they occasionally get them in change, and every once in a while bank customers will bring in a roll or two of fifty cent pieces, and they probably sit in a box in the back of the vault until someone asks for them. So maybe if you go to the bank and ask for any half dollars they have, you’ll get some of these older ones.
Of course, plenty of banks probably don’t have any half dollars at all or would have to order them for you (which might be worth it, I don’t know, the Federal Reserve banks are certainly loaded with them but I have no idea if the coins in storage have any potential for silver dates), so it won’t work every time.
So if you walk into a bank and ask them if they have any half dollars, maybe you’ll get a little trove that you can search through and see if it includes any treasures — and of course, you can’t really lose money, because this is circulating coinage so the bank won’t charge you anything, you just give them $20 (or whatever) for $20 worth of half-dollar coins.
The rub? Well, part of the rub is that they might not have these coins, since no one ever wants or asks for them and they’re rarely used in commerce. And the other part of the rub is that the next decade or so worth of JFK half dollars are also very, very common … so if you do get some half dollars, it’s likely that almost all of them will be from the early 1970s or the widely minted 1976 bicentennial half dollar, pretty much all of which are worth, well, fifty cents. And you can’t use them in most vending machines or parking meters.
But if you DO get lucky and find a few older half dollars that are from 1970 or before, they’re worth a lot more than 50 cents — so that’s how you can be compensated for the time you spent searching for these coins and sifting through them.
The silver half dollars from 1964 and earlier, including the 1964 JFK half dollar, the 1948-1963 Benjamin Franklin half dollar or, if you’re really lucky, the Walking Liberty half dollar that was minted from 1916-1947 are all 90% silver and that silver content is, at $23 silver, worth a little less than $8.20.
The more common and perhaps not as widely known 40% silver JFK half dollars, which are the ones that are theoretically more likely to still be found in rolls at the bank on occasion, are the ones that were minted from 1965-1970 — and they have about $3.35 worth of silver in them. Some of the years also may have collectible value, including some of the post-1970 non-silver years, but if you’re talking just about the silver content you want coins that were minted 1970 or earlier. An easy place to check for silver content and the (constantly updated) value thereof is the free calculator at the Coinflation.com website.
Eifrig does, to his credit, caution that this “free” silver isn’t completely free — it doesn’t work all the time, at every bank, so you have to put time in (and, of course, you have to be fortunate):
“How often does saying these 5 magic words actually get you free silver?
“Well, from my experience, after observing more than 250 people to try this technique in dozens of banks around the country, I estimate that if you go to the right banks (I’ll show you which ones), and say the right words (again, I’ll give you the specifics) it works about 25% of the time.
“So, you’re going to have to do a little legwork to get this secret to work for you. But remember, this is basically FREE silver we are talking about here. If you are too lazy or too busy to do a little work to get something as valuable as silver, essentially free of charge, well, I’m sorry, but you can stop reading right now….
“The reason this works is because most Americans (including the people who work at banks) have no idea how this “loophole” works.
“But eventually, word will get out and this opportunity will end.”
And the special magic words? I don’t know exactly, but I’ll wager the phrase goes something like, “May I please have half-dollars?” Or “Do you have half dollars?”
There are bajillions of web articles and discussion boards about how to get your mitts on collectible or silver-content coins by getting an “in” at the local bank or trying to find the customer-rolled coins — the guess being that if Grandma let her grandchildren roll up the old jar of coins they found in the attic and take them in to the bank to exchange for bills so they can buy video games, maybe you’ll get lucky and find that the roll of dimes had a bunch of pre-1965 coins and is worth more than ten times the face value.
That’s also the hope for half dollars, though I guess they’re probably not as widely requested or talked about, or rolled up for that matter, so you may want to either cruise around to any sleepy bank branches you know about to give it a whirl, or chat up your friendly neighborhood bank teller so you can get an “in” when a promising pile of coins gets turned in. Though why any teller wouldn’t sift through them on her own is beyond me.
Or heck, maybe your brother in law runs the local Coinstar operation (those are the automatic coin counters you’ll see at some grocery stores) and will let you sort through the coins every week.
The point is that this is not just something you can do at your local bank branch every day to get a guaranteed free $50 every time — it’s probably best thought of as a hobby that will occasionally provide a nice perk of some “free” money if you’re willing to drive around to a lot of bank branches and look at a lot of coins. Unless you live in a very small town, however, you’re probably not the only person trying to look for these kinds of old coins … so be nice.