Silver Price History
Silver has been used as a form of currency for over 2,600 years, dating back to around 600 BCE in Lydia, which is in present-day Turkey. Silver has been used as a trade commodity and for physical items for thousands of years throughout Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Indus Valley, and by the Minoans.
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Historical Silver Prices
It is estimated that silver mining began around 3200 - 3000 BCE. By 1200 BCE, the Greeks became the world’s leading producers of silver. In the vicinity of 100 CE, Spain became the global leader in silver production. Spanish dominance of silver mining remained intact, for the most part, until the 1800s when fluctuations in the silver price affected production. South American countries and Mexico are still some of the most silver-producing regions in the world to this day.
The Indus Valley, which covers parts of modern-day India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, uses a unit of measuring a gram of silver in what they referred to as a tola. One tola was equal to 180 grains, or 11.6638038 grams, which is exactly 3/8 Troy ounces.
This tola measurement method was used by the British East India Company when trading the sterling pound between the UK and India.
Silver Around The World
The primary countries in which mining takes place today include Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Poland, and the United States.
The element symbol for silver is Ag, which is an abbreviation of the Latin word for silver, Argentum. This is also the origin of the name Argentina, which translates from Spanish and Latin as an adjective meaning “silvery” or something being “made of silver.”
Silver is typically extracted from open pit mines that also resource other metals. It is more common to find mines for multiple resources as opposed to being exclusively dedicated to silver mining. The principal resources of silver are copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead (galena), and lead-zinc ores. Minerals in silver mines may include but are not limited to, argentite, chloragyrite, polybasite, and proustite.
The mining process can also leave behind traces of arsenic, iron, manganese, lead, fluorine, and mercury. In fact, Money Metals Exchange estimates silver mining releases around 60-65% of the world’s mercury into the atmosphere, being the single largest contribution to the global mercury cycle.
Silver Price Trends
There are many factors that contribute to the global price of silver. Some of these contributors include standard supply and demand, new silver discoveries, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risks and concerns, internationally recognized market fixes, comparative price ratios to other precious metals, energy sourcing costs, and mining processes.
Silver Price Forecasting
It is also important to note that prices of silver or any other precious metal commodity such as gold, platinum, palladium, or rhodium, can vary from company to company and website to website. This is due to variances in market data acquisition sources and methodologies. No one can predict with 100% certainty what the future price of silver, gold, platinum, palladium, rhodium, or any other metals will be. To get the most accurate, up-to-date, information on the price of silver, it is best to search for reputable precious metals websites like Money Metals Exchange.
The History of Silver Prices
The history of silver prices in the U.S. has certainly varied over the years. The following is a list of some incidents that have impacted the price of silver:
1792: The Coinage Act of 1792, which established the U.S. Mint, defined the dollar relative to silver and established the silver dollar as the country’s national currency. It pinned the U.S. silver dollar’s value to the Spanish silver dollar. This essentially put the United States on a silver standard along with a gold standard, making bimetallism an official part of the US monetary system.
1834: The Coinage Act of 1834 diminished the role of silver by adjusting the silver-to-gold ratio from 15:1 to 16:1. This coinage act reduced the gold content of a dollar and began the shift from silver to gold as the country’s currency standard.
1837: The Mint and Coinage Act of 1837 changed the weight and lowered the amount of pure silver and alloy in a coin.
1853: The Coinage Act of 1853 lowered the silver content of half dimes, dimes, quarters, and half dollars.
1861-1865: The American Civil War
1871: The Japan Mint opens.
1873: The Coinage Act of 1873 effectively demonetized silver. Silver prices fell rapidly as a result, and critics began to refer to the act as the Crime of ‘73.
1875: The Specie Resumption Act of 1875, also known as The Specie Payment Resumption Act of January 14, 1875, established the U.S. as the de facto monometallic gold standard. This foreshadowed the increased demand for gold and decreased demand for silver as a monetary reserve in the world, which led to a dip in market silver prices.
1878: In an attempt to restore the United States to bimetallism, the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 ordered the Treasury to buy between $2 million and $4 million worth of silver from miners monthly.
1882: NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) was founded to operate as a commodity futures exchange for such things as the precious metals silver and gold.
1890: The Sherman Silver Purchase Act required the U.S. government to purchase another 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion at the market price monthly. This increased the government’s silver purchases by over 50% a month. This was all happening as the U.S. was acquiring more western territories and adding at least 6 new states between 1889 and 1890.
1892: The South African Mint opens.
1893: Congress repealed The Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
1897: The London Silver Fix began. This is now operated by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). From 1897 to 2014, three banks led the organization and silver fix - HSBC USA Bank (the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited), Deutsche Bank AG, and The Bank of Nova Scotia-ScotiaMocatta. The LBMA only accepts Good Delivery silver bullion bars. These must have a weight between 750 ozt and 1,100 ozt (23 kg to 34 kg).
1899: The Australian Perth Mint opens.
1900: The Gold Standard Act of 1900 officially renounced bimetallism, and pegged the U.S. currency to gold.
1908: The Royal Canadian Mint began producing silver coinage.
1913: The 16th Amendment is ratified to enable Congress to have a federal income tax.
1913: The Federal Reserve is established.
1933: The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration issued Executive Order 6102, which required all persons in the US to exchange their gold bullion, gold coins, and gold certificates for $20.67 per Troy ounce in fiat currency. This order was made possible via the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, and the Emergency Banking Act on March 9, 1933.
1934: On January 30th, the FDR administration signed the Gold Reserve Act which forced the Federal Reserve to surrender all gold and gold certificates solely for US cash. This Act also changed the price of gold from $20.67 to $35 per Troy ounce.
1934: Silver reached the lowest price per troy ounce in history, at just $0.24 (twenty-four cents) a Troy ounce as the United States faced the Great Depression.
1934: The FDR administration issued Executive Order 6814 (The Silver Purchase Act of 1934), which ordered the nationalization of silver and required citizens to turn over all privately owned silver bullion stocks to the U.S. Mint. All domestically mined silver was forcefully purchased by the government for $0.645 (sixty-four and a half cents) per Troy ounce. This Act led the U.S. government to outlaw private ownership of quantities of more than 500 troy ounces.
1945: The Bretton Woods System, also known as the Bretton Woods Agreement, established the US dollar as the world currency, demanding participants make their currency convertible to USD while pegging USD to gold. This international monetary system, backed by the United Nations and the World Bank, went into effect from 1945 to 1971, but its positive and negative effects remain on the market at different levels today.
1946: The Silver Purchase Act of 1946 rendered the U.S. government the biggest buyer of silver in the world. The Act also bound the government to buy from domestic silver producers above the spot price and sell at a fixed price or greater.
1961: Valcambi is founded.
1965: The Royal Australian Mint opens.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson signed the Coinage Act of 1965, which phased out 90% of silver circulated coins. According to Johnson at that time, “Silver consumption is now more than double new silver production each year. So, in the face of this worldwide shortage of silver, and our rapidly growing need for coins, the only really prudent course was to reduce our dependence upon silver for making our coins.” Dimes and quarters would no longer have silver meant for circulation, and half-dollar coins meant for currency circulation were reduced from 90% silver to 40% silver to eventually have all traces of silver removed (pre-1965 silver coins are sometimes referred to as junk silver if in cull condition or have no coin collecting or numismatic value).
1967: The New Zealand Mint opens.
1968: The Royal Canadian Mint introduced cupro-nickel coins, as the cost of issuing silver coins superseded the value of silver at that time.
1968: The Singapore Mint opens.
In the 1970s, the US government began to deregulate silver prices, leading to a rapid increase in prices.
1973: The Hunt Brothers began cornering the silver market.
1980: On January 17, silver hit a record high of around $49.45 a Troy ounce. A number of commodities were achieving record-high prices at the time, including gold, oil, platinum, and palladium.
1988: The Hunt Brothers were charged with conspiracy to corner the silver market, and fined $134 million in compensation to a Peruvian mineral company. The brothers declared bankruptcy. Their scheme caused an estimated 713% jump in the global silver price and an intraday COMEX high of $50.35 per Troy ounce. It is believed the Hunt brothers had ⅓ of the world’s silver. Once things settled, prices dropped by over 50% within the first four days and this caused a small panic in the global silver market. The date is notoriously known as Silver Thursday, which happened on March 27, 1980. Even the silver jewelry company Tiffany’s took out an ad in The New York Times condemning the bros.
1989: The Austrian Mint opens.
In the 1990s, silver prices began to decline due to a decrease in industrial demand and an increase in the supply of silver.
1994: COMEX (the Commodity Exchange) merged with NYMEX.
1999: The Euro begins as an accounting and electronic payment currency in parts of Europe.
2002: The Euro is made into a physical currency of paper and coins.
2008: CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group) purchased COMEX / NYMEX.
2008: On March 17, the price of silver nearly doubled to $21.34 a Troy ounce, likely spurred by the breaking financial crisis that year, in which the global banking system nearly collapsed.
2009: Bitcoin is released as a crypto-based currency, i.e. cryptocurrency.
2009: A drop in price to around $10 per Troy ounce created a surge in demand for silver.
2011: Silver made a historical climb to around $48.70 per Troy ounce, likely in response to the massive quantitative easing measures used to falsely prop up the economy post-2008/2009, which caused investors to become risk-averse.
2014: Changes to the LBMA London Silver Fix process were made. Gold prices are released daily in the London AM and PM time, and daily silver prices are released at 12 pm noon London time. A modern alternative to the London Fix is the Kitco Gold and Precious Metals Fix.
Factors Influencing Silver Prices
Today: Silver prices are impacted by the high demand for technologies such as computers, electric vehicles, solar panels, and satellites. The price of silver can change by the second and is led by changes in other markets such as commodities stocks or bonds, and shifts in global currencies commodities, especially with monetary moves by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). There are also discussions of governments possibly starting a digital cryptocurrency of their own while implementing a form of despotic Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).
Silver Price and Inflation
Silver prices have fluctuated significantly over the past few centuries. Since the 20th Century, silver prices have ranged from as low as $0.24 (twenty-four cents) per Troy ounce in 1934 to as high as $49.45 per Troy ounce in 1980. A number of economists have estimated that the price of silver reached $49.51 per Troy ounce in 2011, but given inflation and calculation methods, most precious metals authorities and charts will still indicate 1980 as still having the highest historical price of silver. It is quite common to find mismatched numbers between websites and sources.
Prices tend to be especially volatile when viewed through the lens of the volatile U.S. dollar. Investors typically check the COMEX to access indices for prices and the NASDAQ in the AM and PM, to determine the current market value of silver. When it comes to silver, this spot price is what matters. The spot price tells how much silver is being priced per Troy ounce at that moment. This is the price, and it can be exchanged and delivered at that exact moment. Investors should always verify the spot price before trying to buy, sell, or trade silver, as it is constantly changing. It is important to use trusted, verifiable, resources such as MoneyMetals.com before any contracts are signed and approved.
The back and forth of government interventions, fixes, and other factors have surely impacted the price of silver today. Various acts of Congress have also led to the debasement of US currency, the implementation of fiat currency, and an increase in monetary inflation and price inflation. Each of these steps by government versus sound money policies have been accounts of theft and slavery of the American people and those that are reliant on the U.S. dollar.
Silver, much like gold and other precious metals, acts as a fantastic hedge against monetary inflation and price inflation, as it tends to maintain its purchasing power over the fiat dollar.
Imagine buying 100 Troy ounces of .999 silver at $10 per Troy ounce in 2008, you would have spent about $910. If silver prices are $24 per Troy ounce, that 100 Troy ounce investment is now worth around $2185 today, providing you a healthy profit of $1275. As for the purchasing power, $910 in 2008 is equal to about $1298 in purchasing power in 2023.
Silver Price and Investment Strategies
When buying silver, it is best to buy forms of silver that have the least price markups or premiums. Silver bullion bars, silver bullion coins, silver bullion rounds, and junk silver or cull silver coins, are the better options as opposed to numismatic silver coins that have a speculative value associated with them.
When you are ready to invest in silver, it is important to buy from a reputable company that has great reviews and offers insurance on all shipments. Money Metals Exchange has been in business since 2010 and has maintained an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and thousands of 5-star reviews from satisfied customers all over the United States.
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About the Author:
Joshua D. Glawson is a writer on such topics as politics, economics, philosophy, finance, and personal development. He has a Bachelor's in Political Science from the University of California Irvine. He is the Content Manager of Money Metals Exchange.