There’s something oddly satisfying about identifying and completing collections and series of coins, especially for collectors, numismatists, and everyone who’s into antique goods and old things in general. Many coin denominations circulated throughout the last decades and centuries all around the world, and although it seems nearly impossible, many take on the adventure to complete their collections of coins. However, based on certain materials, some coins may be more valuable than others, especially the coins made of 90%

Quarter dollars are quite popular among collectors, especially because there are many variations. Some are made of 90% silver while some other ones are made of a variety of other materials such as nickel or nickel-copper alloy.

If you’re just beginning your journey and adventure of collecting different coin series and variations, know that distinguishing between the silver quarters, as well as quarters made of other materials can be difficult and confusing at first.

Nevertheless, as you’re becoming more experienced and attain more variations of circulating coins, you may be able to distinguish between these key differences much easier. Along with that experience, many things can help you make the difference between silver and non-silver coins.

We wrote this article as a guide that is supposed to help anyone who’s struggling with identifying quarters made of silver. Although those made with nickel-copper alloy have different colors compared to that of silver, there are other ways to make a difference between the two if the colors confuse you.

Continue reading our guide as we tell you a story about how silver quarters stopped being made and list the best ways to tell a quarter made of silver apart from that made with different materials.

History of Silver & Clad Quarters

When the U.S. Mint started making quarters in 1796 they were all made with some composition of silver that has been changed now and then until the silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars were discontinued for clad coins in 1965.

Since 1965, the U.S. Mint has changed the way it made coins. For example, they referred to coin materials as “clad” which is a metallic base for a coating made usually with copper, nickel, or nickel-copper alloy.

If you discover a quarter in your home or get a circulating quarter that was minted before 1965 and a change of the coin material policy, then you’re guaranteed to have a silver quarter or at least a quarter that has been made with a certain amount of silver coating.

For example, quarters that were made before 1935 are likely to consist of .1808 oz. of silver. On the other hand, quarters that were made from 1935-1965 were made with 90% silver composition, which can be seen through the prominent shine if the coin has been protected and didn’t corrode.

It’s also noteworthy that the coins that were minted before 1965 are also known as “junk silver” and they all had 90% silver content in their composition. The quarters were also included in that group.

But, what is junk silver? It is another way to evaluate silver as a material. However, because there’s “junk” in the name, as it suggests, these coins don’t have any particular numismatic or collectible value. Quarters minted after 1965 are referred to as clad, while the half dollars minted after 1970 are also considered clad.

While this information can help you have an easier time telling silver quarters than those made with nickel and copper, even the most experienced collectors and numismatists may occasionally become confused with their observations and have difficulties identifying, especially if the coin is really old and doesn’t hold information like year and other valuable info.

Tips to Tell if a Quarter is Silver

How to Tell if a Quarter is Silver - Tips to Tell if a Quarter is Silver

 Even if your mind is nimble and your eyes sharp, even the most accurate observation practice for telling silver from non-silver may fail when you’re working with dozens of coins that are in different conditions after having circulated for many years and decades.

Of course, before referring to more in-depth methods to analyze your coinage, the first thing you should do is give your quarter a good look, because a thorough examination can always prove reliable if you’re experienced.

Even if you don’t have much experience, it’s a good practice because it allows you to learn every corner of the quarter and what things to focus on when identifying, appraising, or evaluating different coins as well as antique goods.

Silver quarters have certain traits that can be easily seen by the naked eye. If you notice the overall color that looks similar to pure silver, or the coin has luster, then you’re guaranteed to hold a silver coin. The color is usually bright with a shiny luster that is easily distinguished compared to variations made with other materials.

Another thing that can be relatively easy to spot is the light-gray hue that is recognizable on them. Sometimes, that hue can also draw toward the white color.

The next thing you have to do is take a look at the coin’s edges which should be rounded edge with a smooth texture which is definitely different compared to those that are made of non-nickel. If the texture of the edge around the coin has a serrated design, likely, it’s not a silver coin.

However, the visual observation of the coins is not perfect, simply because due to age and tear, silver coins can change their texture and possibly even lose their luster over time. That’s why there are other points that you should examine as well to be sure.

With that in mind, we completed a list of accurate and reliable ways to differentiate the silver quarter from the non-silver quarter, continue reading to learn more.


If you ever have a dilemma about whether the quarter you’re analyzing and evaluating is silver or not, the best way to look at it is by looking at the date.

We mentioned already that quarter coins made before 1965 are made of silver, which is why examining the date of mintage is a very straightforward way to say whether a coin is made out of silver or not.

Quarters that are made of silver also had a combination of silver (90%) and copper (10%) until the materials changed after 1964. That said, all you have to do is check the obverse of the coin and identify whether it was minted before 1965 or after.

If you’re looking to sell your silver quarter made before 1965, they’ll likely have more value compared to those made after. After all numismatists and collectors prefer to collect those made before the shift was made.

Editor’s notes: Although checking the date on the obverse of the coin is a quick and relatively reliable way to tell if the coin is made of silver, there may be errors, anomalies, or simply wear and tear that prevent you from reliably telling which year this coin was minted in. That’s why there are other methods that you can combine.

Testing the Weight and Density

If you weren’t as successful with identification through visual assessment and date, another way to test whether your old quarter at home was made of silver is by comparing the weight and assessing the density.

It’s also a straightforward process and you won’t need particularly specialized equipment to assess the weight, but a good digital scale can come in handy. That’s because older quarters made from silver are heavier than those made from nickel-copper alloy.

The reason for that is that there’s 90% silver in the coin, which is heavier than other materials used to make quarters after 1965. The procedure is quite simple, you can weigh the quarter first and then record its weight on paper or a note-taking app so you don’t forget it.

Then you can compare the scaled weight with the common weight of pre-1965 and post-1965 quarters. We listed the weights below so that you don’t have to search online

  • Silver quarters that were minted before 1965 should weigh around 6.25 grams
  • Nickel-copper quarters that were minted after 1965 usually weigh 5.67 grams.

Keep in mind that any kind of wear, tear, or stronger damage will affect the weight of the coin. If the quarter has been contaminated with some other material, its weight will likely change and alter its weight.

However, comparing the weights to the standard weights in addition to careful observation and checking the date can help you have an easier time if the quarter is made out of silver.

Editor’s notes: Some coins were also minted with error. Although it’s unlikely that your quarter has an error, it’s still possible, so keep in mind that minting errors can alter the weight, although major deviation from the standard weight shouldn’t happen.

The Magnet Test

How to Tell if a Quarter is Silver


Don’t have a small sensitive digital scale? No problem, if you have magnets, you can still test whether the silver quarter you own is indeed made of silver. The magnet test is another reliable method, and magnets can be obtained easily.

The first thing you need to know is that silver is a non-magnetic metal, which means it doesn’t attract magnets. On the other hand, materials such as iron and nickel are easily attracted to magnets. We mentioned earlier in the article that coins made of nickel-copper alloy have nickels in them, which is why it can be quite easy to do the magnet test to see whether the coin attracts or repulses magnets.  

The best magnet to have is a strong neodymium magnet, but any other magnet may function just as well. It doesn’t need to be big, but being strong enough to attract the coin is important.

To conduct the test, keep the magnet close to the quarter and watch carefully to see what will happen. If the quarter starts getting attracted to the magnet, it’s not made of silver. Even if it doesn’t exactly get attracted to it, but has any reaction in the magnetic field, it’s not made of silver.

However, if the magnet doesn’t react to a quarter or repels it, that is a good indication that the quarter was made of silver.

Still, just like other methods, you should consider this test along with another previous test because there’s never a 100% chance that the test will work correctly. For example, some coins that weren’t made with silver may also not be exhibiting any magnetic properties, so use this test only as additional help.

Sound Test

How to Tell if a Quarter is Silver - Sound Test

The ring of authenticity is another sound for the Sound test and is another way to tell if the quarter is made of silver, and is a relatively reliable method if other methods weren’t successful in telling what it’s made of.

This auditory test helps determine whether the composition of the coin is mainly from silver or some other alloy like the nickel-copper alloy. Silver has certain acoustic properties that help audio experts tell the difference between metals used to make the coin.

For this test, you will need the coin in question, as well as another coin for comparison. You will need sharp ears to tell the difference so it’d be best to have someone experienced by your side who’s nimbler and can easily tell the difference.

Step 1: Put the quarter between your thumb and index finger and hold it tightly. Make sure that the coin sits at the tips of your fingers.

Step 2: Grab the other coin and tap the coin you’re holding gently. If you don’t have a coin, make sure to tap it with an object that is non-abrasive.

Step 3: Listen to the sound made when the coins interact.

If the coin generates a clear and stellar high-pitched noise that lasts, it’s likely made of silver. Silver is a metal that generates resonating tone when interacting with other metals in auditory tests. Those made with copper-nickel alloy generate a low-pitch sound that doesn’t last.

If you’re confused about this process, check this video guide that will help you sound-test the silver quarters.

Editor’s notes: Always make sure not to use the auditory test as the sole method for determining the composition of a coin. Combine it with other identification methods as numismatists can’t always tell if the sound test will be accurate in all instances.

Chemical Test

Finally, chemical testing is used as the last resort to determine the composition of the coin. A person that utilizes this technique will apply different chemicals to the coin and see whether it reacts to them. This is a reliable option to identify if a quarter is silver.

The most common chemical used for this testing is diluted nitric acid. Numismatists will apply only a drop of the acid to a small area of the coin and wait for the reaction. If there’s no noticeable reaction to the interaction of metal and the acid, it indicates that the coin was made from silver.

On the other hand, if the color of the coin becomes creamier and the reaction lasts and is visible, that says that the coin was made with copper or nickel. Keep in mind that although chemical testing is a reliable method, it should be used as a last resort. Only experienced people should conduct this analysis to determine the definitive composition of the quarter.

This video explains how to test using acids in detail.

Editor’s notes: Handling acids like nitric acid is dangerous. Make sure to follow all the safety standards and protocols to ensure nobody gets hurt. Additionally, you should let an expert handle these materials, so you don’t get burnt.

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