Silver as an investment

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Various examples of American coins used as silver investments, including pre-1964 circulating silver coins and American Silver Eagle bullion coins. Various types of American silver coinage, 15 February 2020.jpg
Various examples of American coins used as silver investments, including pre-1964 circulating silver coins and American Silver Eagle bullion coins.

Silver may be used as an investment like other precious metals. It has been regarded as a form of money and store of value for more than 4,000 years, although it lost its role as legal tender in developed countries when the use of the silver standard came to a final end in 1935. Some countries mint bullion and collector coins, however, such as the American Silver Eagle with nominal face values. [1] In 2009, the main demand for silver was for industrial applications (40%), jewellery, bullion coins, and exchange-traded products. [2] [3] In 2011, the global silver reserves amounted to 530,000 tonnes. [4]


Collectors of silver and other precious metals who collect for the purpose of investment (either as their sole motivation or as one of several) are commonly nicknamed stackers, with their collections dubbed as stacks. The motivations for stacking silver varies between collectors.

Millions of Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins and American Silver Eagle coins are purchased as investments each year. While these bullion coins are legal tender, they are rarely accepted by shops. [5] However, "junk silver" coins, which are minted for circulation, can still be found in circulation, albeit rarely.


The price of silver from 1792 to 2005. The spike in 1980 reflects the events of Silver Thursday. Ag annual average USD price 1792-2005.svg
The price of silver from 1792 to 2005. The spike in 1980 reflects the events of Silver Thursday.
Price of silver 2009-2022 Price of silver.webp
Price of silver 2009-2022

The price of silver is driven by speculation and supply and demand, like most commodities. The price of silver is notoriously volatile compared to that of gold because of the smaller market, lower market liquidity and demand fluctuations between industrial and store of value uses. At times, this can cause wide-ranging valuations in the market, creating volatility. [6]

Silver often tracks the gold price due to store of value demands, although the ratio can vary. The crustal ratio of silver to gold is 17.5:1. [7] The gold/silver price ratio is often analyzed by traders, investors, and buyers. [8] In Roman times, the price ratio was set at 12 (or 12.5) to 1. [9] In 1792, the gold/silver price ratio was fixed by law in the United States at 15:1, [10] which meant that one troy ounce of gold was worth 15 troy ounces of silver; a ratio of 15.5:1 was enacted in France in 1803. [11] The average gold/silver price ratio during the 20th century, however, was 47:1. [12]

The price of silver has risen fairly steeply since September 2005, being initially around $7 per troy ounce but reaching $14 per troy ounce for the first time by late April 2006, and the average price of the month was $12.61 per troy ounce. As of March 2008, it hovered around $20 per troy ounce. [13] However, the price of silver plummeted 58% in October 2008, along with other metals and commodities, due to the effects of the credit crunch. [14] By April 2011, silver had rebounded to reach a 31-year high at $49.21 per ounce on April 29, 2011 due to concerns about monetary inflation and the solvency of governments in the developed world, particularly in the Eurozone. [15]


The price of silver is influenced by a variety of factors.


The highest recorded silver prices were:

London LBMA (Close)$49.45 (January 18)$48.70 (April 28)
London LBMA (Intraday)$50.50 (January 18)
New York COMEX (Close)$48.70 (January 17)$48.55 (April 29)
New York COMEX (Intraday)$50.36 (January 18)$49.82 (April 25)
Chicago CBOT (Close)
Chicago CBOT (Intraday)$52.80 (January 18)


In part due to the actions of the Hunt Brothers (Nelson Bunker Hunt, William Herbert Hunt, and Lamar Hunt), the price for silver Good Delivery Bars jumped from about $6 per troy ounce to a record high of $49.45 per troy ounce on January 18, 1980, [20] representing an increase of 724%. The highest price of physical silver is hard to determine, but based on the price of common silver coins, it peaked at about $40/oz. [21]

On January 7, 1980, in response to the Hunts' accumulation, the Commodity Exchange (COMEX) suddenly adopted "Silver Rule 7", placing heavy restrictions on the purchase of the commodity on margin, causing massive liquidations and enormous downward pressure on the price. The Hunt brothers had borrowed heavily to finance their purchases, and as the price began to fall again, dropping over 50% in just four days due to the sudden forced liquidation of margin positions, they became unable to meet their obligations, causing further panic in the precious metal markets.

The Hunts were never found guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, although they lost a civil suit in connection to the event. The event also cause the Hunts' fortune to dwindle, culminating in them filing for bankruptcy. In 1989, they agreed to a civil settlement with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, paying out fines, and agreeing to a ban from trading commodities.


There was such immense risk to the world economy that investors drove the prices up by buying defensive commodities (e.g. silver or gold). When the short-term risks were believed to have subsided, many investors reallocated their assets back into yielding (dividend or interest) investments such as stocks or bonds.

The 2011 United States debt ceiling crisis was a major factor in the rise of silver prices. The 2010, U.S., midterm elections highlighted policy differences between President Obama vs. the Tea Party movement. The price of silver concurrently rose from $17 to $30 as the elections approached. In late 2010 and 2011, silver found a "new normal" between $25 and $30.

In 2011, Republicans in Congress demanded deficit reduction be part of legislation raising the nation's debt-ceiling. The resulting contention was resolved on 2 August 2011 by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

During the first few months of 2011, Moody's and S&P both downgraded the outlook on US finances; this was a major shock to the financial world and resulted in silver's climb to $50.

  • On April 18, 2011, U.S.-based rating agency S&P issued a "negative" outlook on the U.S.'s "AAA" (highest quality) sovereign-debt rating for the first time since the rating agency began in 1860, indicating there was a one-in-three chance of an outright reduction in the rating over the next two years.
  • On April 25, 2011, silver traded $49.80 per ounce in the New York spot market.

On August 5, 2011, S&P issued the first ever downgrade in the federal government's credit rating, citing their April warnings, the difficulty of bridging the parties and that the resulting agreement fell well short of the hoped-for comprehensive 'grand bargain'. [22] The credit downgrade and debt ceiling debacle contributed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling nearly 2,000 points in late July and August. Following the downgrade itself, the DJIA had one of its worst days in history and fell 635 points on August 8. [23]

Then as it became likely that U.S. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner would order the treasury to use extraordinary measures to delay the crisis, silver settled back at $35. As the debacle continued during the summer, silver moved in the range of $33 to $43.

As it became clear that the "financial apocalypse" would be delayed by late summer, many investors dumped silver and commodities and moved back into U.S. equities. The price of silver quickly went back to $30 and declined below 2010 levels in the next few years.

Whether classifying silver's movement as a 'bubble' (seen when comparing silver with gold) has been debatable, with Peter Schiff denying that a bubble ever existed and asserting that the factors that led to the increase in the silver price have not yet been resolved.

Investment vehicles


1,000 ozt (31.1 kg) silver bar
1,000 ozt (31.1 kg) silver bar

A traditional way of investing in silver is by buying actual bullion bars. In some countries, like Switzerland and Liechtenstein, bullion bars can be bought or sold over the counter at major banks.

The flat, rectangular shape of silver bars makes them ideal for storage in a home safe, a safe deposit box at a bank, or placed in allocated (also known as non-fungible) or unallocated (fungible or pooled) storage with a bank or dealer.

Silver bars can either be cast or poured, or minted; both categories often involve the production of bars with intricate decorative designs that are attractive to collectors, often referred to as 'art bars'; these types of bars are often given as gifts.

Various sizes of silver bars are 1, 10, 100 and 1000 troy ounces, 100 gram (3.215 troy ounces) and one kilogram (32.15 troy ounces), as well as other sizes. There are various silver refiners with their own unique stamp or "hallmark" that is used to provide information about the bar and ensure quality. [24]

Coins and rounds

American Silver Eagle bullion proof coin 2006 AESilver Proof Obv.png
American Silver Eagle bullion proof coin

Silver coins may be minted as either fine silver or junk silver. Fine silver coins minted by governments include the one-ounce, 99.99% Canadian Silver Maple Leaf and the 99.93% American Silver Eagle. Government-minted silver coins are legal tender, and often enjoy special taxation treatments. Fine silver rounds are produced by a variety of private mints.

The term junk silver signifies silver coins without a numismatic premium. In the United States, this is taken to mean pre-1964 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half-dollars; $1 face value of those circulated coins contains 0.715 troy ounce (22.2 grams) of fine silver. [25] All 1965-1970 and some 1976 Kennedy half dollars are minted with a 40% silver composition. "War nickel" is the name given to certain 1942-1945 nickels minted with a 35% silver composition.

Other countries, such as Australia, Canada, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom also minted junk silver coins in the past. All three countries (except Switzerland) initially minted sterling silver coins for circulation, before the coins' silver content is reduced: Australia to 50% in 1946, Canada to 80% in 1920, and the United Kingdom to 50% near 1920.

Exchange-traded products

Silver exchange-traded products represent a quick and easy way for an investor to gain exposure to the silver price, without the inconvenience of storing physical bars. Silver ETPs include:


Most Swiss banks offer silver accounts where silver can be instantly bought or sold just like any foreign currency.[ citation needed ] Unlike holding physical silver, the customer has a claim against the bank for a certain quantity of metal. Digital gold currency providers and internet bullion exchanges, such as OneGold, BullionVault or GoldMoney, offer silver as an alternative to gold. Some of these companies allow investors to redeem their investment through the delivery of physical silver. [28]

Derivatives, CFDs and spread betting

Derivatives, such as silver futures and options, currently trade on various exchanges around the world. In the U.S., silver futures are primarily traded on COMEX (Commodity Exchange), which is a subsidiary of the New York Mercantile Exchange. In November 2006, the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) in India introduced 5 kg silver futures.

Mining companies

These do not represent silver at all, but rather are shares in silver mining companies. Companies rarely mine silver alone, as normally silver is found within, or alongside, ore containing other metals, such as tin, lead, zinc or copper. Therefore, shares are also a base metal investment, rather than solely a silver investment. As with all mining shares, there are many other factors to take into account when evaluating the share price, other than simply the commodity price. Instead of personally selecting individual companies, some investors prefer spreading their risk by investing in precious metal mining mutual funds.


In many tax regimes, silver does not hold the special position that is often afforded to gold. For example, in the European Union the trading of recognized gold coins and bullion products is VAT exempt, but no such allowance is given to silver. This makes investment in silver coins or bullion less attractive for the private investor, due to the extra premium on purchases represented by the irrecoverable VAT (charged at 20% in the United Kingdom and 19% for bars and 7% for bullion products with face value, e.g. The US Silver Eagle and the Canadian Maple Leaf, in Germany). Norwegian companies can legally deliver free of VAT to the rest of Europe within certain annual limits or can arrange for local pickup.[ citation needed ]

Other taxes such as capital gains tax may apply for individuals depending on country of residence (tax status) and whether the asset is sold at increased nominal value. For example, in the United States, silver is taxed only when sold for a profit, at a special collectibles capital gain tax rate (the normal income tax rate, subject to a maximum of 28% for silver held over 1 year [29] ).[ clarification needed ] In 2011, the Utah Legal Tender Act recognized U.S.-minted silver and gold coins as legal tender within Utah, so that they may be used to pay any debt in Utah without being subject to Utah's capital gains tax (although such a tax would still apply for federal tax purposes, as such a state law cannot override federal law). [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

Krugerrand South African coin

The Krugerrand is a South African coin, first minted on 3 July 1967 to help market South African gold and produced by Rand Refinery and the South African Mint. The name is a compound of Paul Kruger, the former President of the South African Republic, and rand, the South African unit of currency. On the reverse side of the Krugerrand is a pronking springbok, South Africa's national animal.

Commodity market Physical or virtual transactions of buying and selling involving raw or primary commodities

A commodity market is a market that trades in the primary economic sector rather than manufactured products, such as cocoa, fruit and sugar. Hard commodities are mined, such as gold and oil. Futures contracts are the oldest way of investing in commodities. Commodity markets can include physical trading and derivatives trading using spot prices, forwards, futures, and options on futures. Farmers have used a simple form of derivative trading in the commodity market for centuries for price risk management.

Precious metal Rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economic and cultural value

Precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical elements of high economic value. Chemically, the precious metals tend to be less reactive than most elements. They are usually ductile and have a high lustre. Historically, precious metals were important as currency but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial raw materials. Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an ISO 4217 currency code.

Bullion Gold, silver, or other precious metals in the form of bars or ingots

Bullion is non-ferrous metal that has been refined to a high standard of elemental purity. The term is ordinarily applied to bulk metal used in the production of coins and especially to precious metals such as gold and silver. It comes from the Anglo-Norman term for a melting-house where metal was refined, and earlier from French bouillon, "boiling". Although precious metal bullion is no longer used to make coins for general circulation, it continues to be held as an investment with a reputation for stability in periods of economic uncertainty. To assess the purity of gold bullion, the centuries-old technique of fire assay is still employed, together with modern spectroscopic instrumentation, to accurately determine its quality.

American Gold Eagle Gold bullion coin of the United States

The American Gold Eagle is an official gold bullion coin of the United States. Authorized under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, it was first released by the United States Mint in 1986. Because the term "eagle" also is the official United States designation for pre-1933 ten dollars gold coins, the weight of the bullion coin is typically used when describing American Gold Eagles to avoid confusion. This is particularly true with the 1/4-oz American Gold Eagle, which has a marked face value of ten dollars.

Bullion coin

A bullion coin is a coin struck from refined precious metal (bullion) and kept as a store of value or an investment rather than used in day-to-day commerce. A bullion coin is distinguished by an explicit statement of weight and fineness on the coin; this is because the weight and composition of coins intended for legal tender is specified in the coinage laws of the issuing nation, and therefore there is no need for an explicit statement on the coins themselves.

Perth Mint Australias official bullion mint, situated in Perth, Western Australia

The Perth Mint is Australia's official bullion mint and wholly owned by the Government of Western Australia. Established on 20 June 1899, two years before Australia's Federation in 1901, the Perth Mint was the last of three Australian colonial branches of the United Kingdom's Royal Mint intended to refine gold from the gold rushes and to mint gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns for the British Empire. Along with the Royal Australian Mint, which produces coins of the Australian dollar for circulation, the Perth Mint is the older of Australia's two mints issuing coins that are legal tender.

Gold as an investment Investment in gold

Of all the precious metals, gold is the most popular as an investment. Investors generally buy gold as a way of diversifying risk, especially through the use of futures contracts and derivatives. The gold market is subject to speculation and volatility as are other markets. Compared to other precious metals used for investment, gold has been the most effective safe haven across a number of countries.

A gold bar, also called gold bullion or gold ingot, is a quantity of refined metallic gold of any shape that is made by a bar producer meeting standard conditions of manufacture, labeling, and record keeping. Larger gold bars that are produced by pouring the molten metal into molds are called ingots. Smaller bars may be manufactured by minting or stamping from appropriately rolled gold sheets. The standard gold bar held as gold reserves by central banks and traded among bullion dealers is the 400-troy-ounce Good Delivery gold bar. The kilobar, which is 1,000 grams in mass, and a 100 troy ounce gold bar are the bars that are more manageable and are used extensively for trading and investment. The premium on these bars when traded is very low over the spot value of the gold, making it ideal for small transfers between banks and traders. Most kilobars are flat, although some investors, particularly in Europe, prefer the brick shape. Asian markets differ in that they prefer gram gold bars as opposed to troy-ounce measurements. Popular sizes in the Asian region include 10 grams, 100 grams and 1,000 gram bars.

Gold exchange-traded products are exchange-traded funds (ETFs), closed-end funds (CEFs) and exchange-traded notes (ETNs) that are used to own gold as an investment. Gold exchange-traded products are traded on the major stock exchanges including the SIX Swiss Exchange, the Bombay Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange, the Paris Bourse, and the New York Stock Exchange. Each gold ETF, ETN, and CEF has a different structure outlined in its prospectus. Some such instruments do not necessarily hold physical gold. For example, gold ETNs generally track the price of gold using derivatives.

The Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf is the official bullion platinum coin of Canada. First issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1988, it was available until 2002 in five different denominations, all of which are marked as containing .9995 pure platinum. The bullion coin was partly reintroduced in 2009 in the form of the 1 troy ounce denomination in .9999 purity, featuring a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. The coins have legal tender status in Canada, but as is often the case with bullion coins, the face values of these coins is lower than the market price of the material they are made from.

Platinum as an investment

Platinum as an investment has a much shorter history in the financial sector than gold or silver, which were known to ancient civilizations. Experts posit that platinum is about 15–20 times scarcer than gold, on the basis of annual mine production. Since 2014, platinum rates have fallen significantly lower than gold rates. More than 75% of global platinum is mined in South Africa.

Silver exchange-traded products are exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and closed-end funds (CEFs) that aim to track the price of silver. Silver exchange-traded products are traded on the major stock exchanges including the London and New York Stock Exchanges. The U.S Geological Survey cites the emergence of silver ETFs as a significant factor in the 2007-2011 price rise of silver. As of September 2011, the largest of these funds holds the equivalent of over one third of the world's total annual silver production.

SPDR Gold Shares

SPDR Gold Shares is part of the SPDR family of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) managed and marketed by State Street Global Advisors. For a few years, the fund was the second-largest exchange-traded fund in the world, and it was briefly the largest. As of the close of 2014, it dropped out of the top ten.

The London bullion market is a wholesale over-the-counter market for the trading of gold and silver. Trading is conducted amongst members of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), loosely overseen by the Bank of England. Most of the members are major international banks or bullion dealers and refiners.

Gold coin Coin made from gold

A gold coin is a coin that is made mostly or entirely of gold. Most gold coins minted since 1800 are 90–92% gold, while most of today's gold bullion coins are pure gold, such as the Britannia, Canadian Maple Leaf, and American Buffalo. Alloyed gold coins, like the American Gold Eagle and South African Krugerrand, are typically 91.7% gold by weight, with the remainder being silver and copper.

A gold IRA or precious metals IRA is an Individual Retirement Account in which physical gold or other approved precious metals are held in custody for the benefit of the IRA account owner. It functions the same as a regular IRA, only instead of holding paper assets, it holds physical bullion coins or bars. Precious metals IRAs are usually self-directed IRAs, a type of IRA where the custodian allows more diverse investments to be held in the account.

Vienna Philharmonic (coin)

The Vienna Philharmonic, often shortened to Philharmonic, is a bullion coin of gold, silver, or platinum produced by the Austrian Mint. The coin is named for the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, which inspired the design of both sides. It was introduced in 1989 as a one-troy ounce (ozt), gold coin with a face value of 2,000 Austrian schillings. It is generally one of the world's best selling bullion coins. In 2002, with the adoption of the euro currency, the nominal value of the one-ounce coin was changed to 100 euros. In 2008, the Mint introduced a one-ounce silver version of the coin with a nominal value of 1.50 euros. The silver coin is also one of the top selling bullion coins, ranked third in 2013. In 2016, the mint introduced a one ounce platinum coin with a face value of 100 euros.

PAMP SA is an independently operated precious metals refining and fabricating company and member of the MKS Group. It was established in 1977 in Ticino, Switzerland


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