If you have any smaller banks in the area head down there and ask for any half dollars they may have.
They are only too happy to give them to you as nobody wants them in change and they have to count them every night to balance their till. After you have cleaned them out of those ask them if they have any in the vault. If not ask them to order you a couple of boxes or more.
The first time I asked my local bank they only had about 80 coins but about 10 of them turned out to have about silver. Most of them the 90% variety. You can literally hear that sweet silver ping when they drop them on the counter.
What you are looking for is so called "junk" silver. Junk because it has no real numismatic value.
If you can get $1000 worth of 90% silver you have a little under $20,000 worth of silver in your hand.
Most of what you will find will be the 40% variety. Which is still better than a slap in the face with a wet fish. Coinflation.com has all the specifics.
The simple rule of thumb is anything before 1971 hold onto. 1971 is when we decided that coins with Silver was a bad idea. Now that turned out to be a great idea if you want to print money out of thin air but a bad idea for anyone holding it.
Each box contains 1000 coins (or $500 for the math impaired).
A couple of tips.
I tried searching through about $5000 worth of coins from Bank of America and I got about 3 coins out of the whole lot. Complete waste of time. I noticed their boxes are of the longer variety and their coins are in rolls of $10 and are not stacked. Maybe they sort them?
Whereas my smaller local bank has the more square shaped box and the rolls of $10 are stacked two high. Much better results there and I average about 6 coins per box. Sometimes you hit pay dirt sometimes it's a wash.
I have found that by peeling the paper packing on a roll at one end I don't have to destroy the tube and can simply slide them out of the tube. When I am done I slide the coins back into the tube and fold the paper back.
Never, ever return the coins to the bank you got them at. The teller is your friend and you don't want to piss them off. Bring them back to one of the big banks.
This tip you want to pay attention to as it will speed up the process. When you slide the coins out don't bother looking at the dates. Just look at the sides of the coins in a stack. The ones containing silver will be uniformly zinc like in color. Whereas anything after 1971 will have either a copper edge or half copper half silver edge as long as they have been in circulation.
I haven't bothered with quarters or dimes yet. My reasoning is there are less half dollars out there than quarters and dimes. They are easier to sort as well.
I have been thinking about getting a good metal detector to see if I can pick out the rolls containing silver without opening them and really assembly line the process. I might pick one up this weekend if Radio Shack stock them. I have to do a little research on metal detectors to get the best bang for the buck.
One last tip. That big pile of shrapnel you have sitting on your shelf may contain some nuggets. To save you actually looking at them bring them down to your local "Stop for Slop" or "Wally Mart" and throw them into the coinstar machine. These machines typically reject silver coins, Canadian and wheatbacks.
Check the return slot for your silver shrapnel and wheatback pennies. The guy before you may have left some in there for you as well.
There are a few ways to avoid paying the coinstar machine service charge of 8-10%. Either take the gift card for Amazon or the local "Stop and Slop" or this is the fun one;
Disconnect the phone line from the back of the machine and choose Amazon or whatever gives you full value. It will try to call up and when that doesn't work it will default to a coupon for full value which you can cash in the store rather than a card which forces you to shop at the store.
I haven't done that in while so I don't know if it still works and I did it just out of curiosity.
P.S. Please post up success stories you may have had or any other info that may be useful.
P.P.S. I forgot to add this in the original article but it's probably the most important point.
You can order the coins without it hitting your account until you pick up. If you have the time you can really assembly line this and have it set up to pick up every day say 1000 at a time. All you need is a float of $500. Go get them before Slamhound get's them all. See comments below.