Throughout history, gold has been the treasure of priests and kings, but silver has been the currency of merchants and businessmen. Silver coins have existed for centuries, and were likely the earliest form of metal coinage. Early silver coins were prized for their metal content and they were literally “worth their weight in silver.” Many of today’s currencies were originally derived from metallic weights, including the Drachma, the Pound, the Lira, and the Rouble.
Early silver coins prized by collectors include the Denarius, which was used to pay the centurions in the Roman Army. Spanish dollars, or “Pieces of Eight,” were minted in Mexico and Peru from raw material mined at Potosí and other New World mines.
Spanish dollars are associated with piracy in popular culture, and in truth, great quantities of them were stolen on their voyage from the New World to Spain despite the fact that they traveled in armed convoys of up to one hundred ships.
The U.S. Mint produced silver dollar coins from 1794 to 1803 when regular production was halted until it resumed in 1836. Early silver dollar coins are especially prized by collectors. In fact, the 1804 silver dollar is one of the rarest coins in the world. Only fifteen of these coins were produced as diplomatic gifts for Asian rulers, and only eight are known to exist today.
The coins were actually struck in 1834, although they bear the date 1804 because the last silver dollars minted had a date of 1803. In 1999, one of the 1804 silver dollars sold for four million dollars. Buyers should be wary; various commemorative replicas of the 1804 silver dollar have been minted over the years, and these replicas are widely available in the market.
Today coinage accounts for only about eight percent of the world’s total silver production. Some countries issue silver bullion coins, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Silver bullion coins are used for investment purposes, and their value is based on the troy weight and the market price of the metal they contain.
The Canadian Maple Leaf and American Eagle silver coins are two of the most popular forms of government minted silver bullion. The Silver Maple Leaf is struck with the national symbol of Canada. It has a silver purity of .9999 certified by The Royal Canadian Mint. American Eagle coins are 1 troy ounce each. They are 99.9 percent pure and they are legal tender.
Next, learn about the uses of Silver in Industry | The Applications of Silver.