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It is customary on Taanis Esther to give a coin (or three coins each) valued at half the local currency's standard unit to tzedakah in commemoration of the mitzvah of Machatzis Hashekel (Rema 694:1).

In America, there are a number of different half-dollars. Most common in circulation are silver half-dollars and copper-clad nickel half-dollars. Ideally, should one give the silver half-dollar?

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The Rama says "the coin that is established in that place, in that time" המטבע הקבוע באותו מקום ובאותו זמן . The current half dollar which is not silver would suffice.

Kaf HaChaim 694:20 indicates that it is preferable to use real silver.

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