the fastest way of telling if you have silver or not is by looking at the side of the coin. You will not have any copper color in the coin. This works on dimes and quarters, the nickles are differnt, a large mint mark was placed above the dome of Monticello (P, S, D). Just to note: condition is big part of a coin so dropping the coin could put scratches on the coin and will reduce the value. A coin is valued by the silver content plus the condition. The conditions of rating the coin, there are about 12 main grading levels and 2 of those are broken down into several more. For example from my book, you have a 1942P nickle, the condition for one that is rated Very Fine the value is about $1.25 and for the highest rate is PF (Gem Proof) is $250, so now you can see that condition is the biggest part of the value. So protect your coins and don't wash them or polish/rub the coins!