In the Bible (Exodus chapter 5), the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians for many years. Moses said to Pharoah, the king of Egypt, 'Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go'. Pharoah replied defiantly, 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” A series of ten dreadful plagues answered Pharoah's question. In the final and most dreadful plague, all the firstborn of Egypt were supernaturally killed. Later, after more events unfold, the Israelites were commanded to redeem, or 'buy back from God', their first-born sons at the price of 117 grams of silver (Exodus chapter 13). The redemption ceremony is called Pidyon HaBen.
Modern Israelites, the Jewish people today, use 5 silver coins for Pidyon HaBen. Sometimes American Silver Eagles are used for this purpose (see our page on Silver Eagles here), but the Miss Liberty and bald eagle designs on these coins may be construed as 'graven images,' going against the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20). The Bank of Israel issued coins of the proper composition and weight from 1970 to 1977 with only Jewish images, and these are called Pidyon HaBen coins.
Most of the value associated with Pidyon HaBen coins is sentimental, or personal in nature. They usually sell new, in exquisite presentation boxes and with special paper certificates, for several hundred US dollars for 5 coins. But the aftermarket for these coins is more cold and calculating, ignoring sentimental value and accounting only for the value of silver in the coins.
To figure aftermarket values for individual Pidyon HaBen coins, start with the amount of silver in each coin. The Exodus 13 price is five Sheqalim of silver. The Bank of Israel meets this value using 5 coins weighing 26 grams each made with 90 percent silver. This is 23.4 grams of silver in each coin, or 117 grams of silver in five coins. There are 31.1 grams in one troy ounce, so each Pidyon HaBen coin contains 23.4/31.1 = 0.752 troy ounces of silver.
The final step for figuring value is to multiply the current price of silver, found at web sites such as kitco.com, by 0.752. Today that value is 0.752 x $36.20 = $27.23 US dollars for one Pidyon HaBen coin. But tomorrow the price of silver will be different, so do the multiplication again. Five coins are worth five times the single-coin price.