Coin Roll Hunting: The Next Treasure Hunting Craze?
By: John R. Fox
I remember years ago hearing my grandmother tell how her church used to have a small carnival every fall. My grandfather manned a booth where participants threw dimes at saucers, hoping to win a prize. They also had basketball and baseball throwing games, guessing games, and roulette wheels where people could win prizes. The games were priced at 10¢ apiece, and there was a change booth where people could buy their dimes. It ended in the 1960s, but it was fun while it lasted.
Knowing that this was a unique opportunity, the next Saturday I grabbed my metal detector and worked that field. I found 43 silver coins in one long but exciting day. Almost all of them, not surprisingly, were dimes! I have found bigger caches and better treasures since then, but nothing has topped that day for individual finds of silver coins. I still recall it in my memory as a wonderful day.
I first heard of coin roll hunting (CRH) earlier this year. I was looking for information on a cache that I hope to search for later this year, and found an internet site that had a separate blog for coin roll hunting. I soon learned that there are a lot more silver coins coming from CRH on a daily basis than from detecting.
One fellow from Oregon had a post on the board that day, talking about a box of coins that he had just searched. He found 31 silver Kennedy halves, plus three Ben Franklin half dollars. I was skeptical of this post because in all my days of swinging a detector, I had only found two Franklin half dollars ever, and here he was saying he had found three in one day! Was it real? And more importantly, was it something that could be repeated? I decided to start asking questions to find out if this hobby- and the numbers- was real or not.
I started by e-mailing someone who was a regular poster on the blog. Bonnie, from Louisiana, told me that she now searches coins almost every day of the week, and that stories like the one posted by the man from Oregon are absolutely true. She had found even better boxes, although that was definitely not an average one. She started CRH in January 2007 and, through August 20th, has found a total of 6,299 Kennedy half dollars that are 40% silver (dated from 1965 through 1970) and 770 of the 90% silver (1964) Kennedy half dollars. That's over 7,000 silver half dollars just this year!
Oh, and did I mention that she also has found 102 Franklin halves, 42 Walking Liberty halves, and one Barber half so far in 2007? Add to that the silver dimes, quarters, and "war" nickels that she has found, and she has had a year that dwarfs any that I have heard about while talking to fellow metal detecting enthusiasts in the field. Now my interest level was high, and I absolutely needed to know more about this treasure hunting offshoot.
I decided to look for people who were new to CRH, and not only talk to someone with such impressive numbers. After all, if I mentioned diving for sunken treasure and only showed the results of Mel Fisher and his organization, it would look as if every person that puts on a wetsuit can find an historic shipwreck. I needed balance.
Is CRH really as potentially successful as it seemed from my first encounter? Again, I was surprised by the answer. I saw a post by Ryan A. of Utah. He decided to try his luck at coin roll hunting for the first time ever just this past week. A detectorist by nature, he decided to stop at his bank and buy whatever he could in half dollar coins. They didn't have a box sitting there, but he bought 18 rolls of halves. He was amazed to discover that he had in his hands 12 Franklins and 8 Walking Liberty halves... on his first day! Granted, I also heard of people who searched coins and found nothing, so I knew that it wasn't as easy as walking into your bank with a little cash and walking out with armloads of silver, but I had heard enough. It was time for me to start my own journey.
Coin roll hunting is easy to do and does not require special equipment. All you need to do is talk to the tellers at your local bank and ask them about coins that their bank has. There are two types of coins within their vault and held there until needed. Other coins are ordered in, and again I heard the term "in a box." I learned that a box is a larger amount of coins than a local bank normally would keep in their vault at one time. Both these options work for the CRH person.
Start by asking if they have any rolled coins in their vault. Many times they will say no, even if they do have the coins. Be persistent and ask them to please check. Then also ask for a box of coins to be picked up when they can get them in. It seems that half dollars are the most requested coins by persons involved in CRH. The reason is twofold. First, dimes and quarters circulate more than halves, and so most silver dimes and quarters have been put away already by collectors who spotted them in their change. Secondly, half dollars were not changed to all clad in 1965, like dimes and quarters. Instead, they continued to have a 40% silver composition until 1970. This makes the possibility of finding a 40% silver half much better than a 1964 or older dime or quarter. So, halves it was, and I ordered two boxes ($1,000 worth of fifty cent coins).
I received my two boxes the next Wednesday. Opening them up, I saw that the coins were in rolls inside the boxes. They are normally wrapped in paper or plastic wrappers. Open the wrapper, and then look at the coins you have. If yo are looking at anything above a nickel, the first thing you should do is look at the side of the roll of coins. The rims will show you if you have any pre 1965 silver coins in the roll. However this is just the start of your search.
After that precursory look, then it is important to search all the dates. If you are searching half dollars, as I was, the 1965 through 1970 40% silver halves do not look like silver coins from the side. If all I did was look at the rims, I could miss some nice finds. Also, every coin type has different errors that can be searched for or rarer dates. Again using the half dollar as an example, the 2002 through 2007 coins were not intended for circulation. They were sold only in sets. Some people have broken the sets to get the "S" mintmark coin, and let the other coins go back to the bank. These coins are worth a little more than face value, and worth keeping.
Know what special dates exist, like the 1942 - 1945 nickels. These were made of silver instead of nickel, and the melt value alone is worth over 1,300% of the face value. Search slowly until you get better at seeing what you are looking at. Read a coin book to see which dates you would want to keep. Separate the good coins from the bad and then move on to the next roll. When you are done searching the coins, reality sinks in that most of the coins are not silver, or Wheat cents or rare dates. Now you have a bunch of coins that you need to get rid of. What is next?
You can re-roll the coins in new rolls and return them to a bank, or you can find a bank that has a coin counter, where you can return the coins loose, which makes it less time consuming to search rolls. More and more banks are putting in coin counters, as they are trying to save time in their teller line. I use one at a local bank that can go through $1,000 worth of half dollars in a mere 30 seconds.
I do not take my coins back to the same bank where I am picking them up. This way I do not have to explain why I am returning them at the same time that I am ordering more coins. Then I take the crisp money from the coin counter, go back to my first bank, and ask for more coins.
Bonnie reminded me that her CRH success is due to the same thing that makes most treasure hunters successful. "Persistence" is her word. The more coins she searches, the more success she has. You can't find buried coins unless you get out in the field with your machine, you can't find gold nuggets unless you pan a little dirt, and you can't find silver coins in rolls unless you ask for rolls of coins when you are at the bank. We all go there anyway, for other purposes, and asking for coins is an easy thing to do.
CRH is fairly unknown at this time, but with the success rates I have seen by others, and by the little I have done during the past month, I see it as a branch of treasure hunting that is about to explode. Good hunting to all!
* * *
Even as this article is being prepared, exciting new reports continue to pour in from other CRH'ers.
Not long ago, Bonnie wrote to say that she had found 78 keepers in a single day, including half a dozen Franklin halves and a couple of Waking Liberties. Then the very next day she did some more bank hopping and box sorting, and scored an astounding 166 keepers- among them, 16 Franklins and four Walking Liberties. "I love it!" says Bonnie... and who wouldn't!
Ryan's success rate continues to soar, too. While waiting for his next boxes of halves to arrive, he decided to try his luck with pennies. The bank didn't have a full box available, but he bought $20 worth. Returning home, he discovered that eighth of the rolls contained nothing but Wheat cents, some dated as early as 1910. "I know it's only pennies," remarked Ryan, "but 400 Wheaties was just too good to be true!"
Coin roll hunting is for real. Just ask Bonnie... or Ryan... or me! Silver coins, "war" and Buffalo nickels, Wheat cents, and maybe even an Indian Head or two- they're waiting right now to be found at banks everywhere. So, come on...