SILVER 101: Stacking and Collecting Silver Rounds and Bars
by Al Doyle for CoinWeek ………
Whether they admit it or not, silver investors can get excited about watching their holdings grow by anywhere from a few pre-1965 dimes to a few 100-ounce bars at a time. While “stacking” is enjoyable, it’s possible to get two forms of entertainment from the process.
Thousands of different one-ounce silver rounds and bars have been produced over the past 40 years, and the possibilities for building a themed collection are endless. Think of the topical approach to collecting world coins, triple it, and that provides some idea of what can be done with silver rounds and bars.
It might be easier to come up with a subject that hasn’t been placed on silver than trying to chronicle every theme. Here are a few examples. What about the outdoorsman? Every popular freshwater and saltwater species can be found along with all the major game animals such as whitetail and mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. Firearms by Smith & Wesson, Winchester and Remington have been depicted on one-ounce bars.
Cruising? Consider all the old classics and muscle cars along with pickup trucks that have been depicted on silver. If you like the sterling (.925 fine) products of the Franklin Mint, there are hundreds of famous and obscure cars in various planchet sizes. Some of the smaller versions contain just a few hundreds of an ounce of silver. For those with a farming background, check out the classic tractors that have appeared in silver. America’s tens of millions of pet lovers can pick from popular dog and cat species, and that also applies to horses and other creatures.
These tend to cost a little more because of licensing fees, but rounds featuring famous actors and athletes often turn up at shops and on eBay. One of the more interesting areas of silver rounds and bars are the limited edition pieces struck for special events such as corporate anniversaries. They often end up mixed with so-called “generic” pieces and sell at the same price as higher-mintage silver.
While numismatists may not think of themselves as typical bullion buyers, numerous rounds featuring coin designs from the Draped Bust obverse of the 1790s, the 1804 silver dollar, Flying Eagle, Indian and Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes and the Seated Liberty obverse have been reproduced on silver rounds. Perhaps the most interesting creation in this category is the incuse Indian Head design originally used on the $2.50 and $5 gold pieces of 1908 to 1929. They are produced by the California-based Golden State Mint.
Hundreds of rounds related to Christmas, weddings and other special events such the birth of children have been issued, and this is another area for the person who wants to focus on a certain theme. Colorfully toned coins can bring large premiums, but that generally isn’t how it works with silver rounds and bars. Privately minted one-ouncers in a dealer’s bullion inventory usually carry the same price whether toned or white.
The silver investor/collector doesn’t have to stick exclusively with one-ounce units. Larger bars and rounds – especially five and 10-ounce versions – offer a combination of convenience and affordability. Those with a strong collecting bent sometimes seek out the older poured bars. Fractional (less than an ounce) pieces and odd sizes such as two or three ounces are where collecting and acquiring bullion can overlap.
Silvertowne has been the largest source for various designs since the late 1970s. The firm’s website (www.silvertowne.com) provide a mere hint of what has come out of this small-town mint, as there are countless designs that are no longer in production.
Shoppers who operate on a modest budget may think they can buy silver as a low-budget investment or do some collecting, but not both. Nothing could be further from the true. Obtain honest money and enjoy the thrill of the hunt by seeking out an assortment of silver bullion pieces.