Silver bullion is one of the easiest ways to acquire investment-grade silver, and it is also one of the best. Coins tend to carry a premium, even bullion coins, as they require a great deal more effort to produce than bars do. Bullion bars are also available in many more sizes than bullion coins, which makes buying a solid lump of silver in the size you want is considerably easier.
The price you pay for a silver bar will depend on the quality of the product, the company that created it and the amount you are purchasing. You should always look for pure silver, often listed as .999 or .9999 silver. This way you can compare the product you are seeking to buy against the current spot price of silver. Don’t expect to get something that is dead-on spot. Dealers need to make a profit and will rarely sell for spot price, but you should expect to get close to this price.
You may also encounter Sterling Silver and silver of a less quantity. Although it is fairly pure, and although it has become synonymous with pure silver, Sterling Silver is not the purest of the pure. It is actually only 92.5% pure. So, when calculating the price of a Sterling Silver bar be sure to factor this in, calculating only 92.5% of the weight against the spot price.
Quantities and Types
Silver is often available in sizes from 1 gram upwards, with many dealers stocking nothing bigger than 100 ounces, and some not going above 1 kilo. There are three types of bars and whilst the purity and the silver content is usually the same, these do differ in price. The “Moulded” and “Poured” bars tend to be the same price. The difference between these two is that whilst the former is created in a mould and stamped into a defined shape, the latter is poured into a mould, creating rounder and rougher edges as a result. Moulded bars are uniform, while poured bars are more unique, thanks to the tiny differences that occur during the pouring.
There are also packaged bars, such as the ones produced by PAMP. These are produced to a higher standard and they are packaged in an air-tight seal and with a certificate of authenticity. These extras tend to drive up the retail price, but at the same time, it is easy to get more money for these when it comes time to resell.
We mentioned PAMP above, who are one of the most respected refiners of precious metals in the world. They are based in Switzerland and their product sells all over. There are many more world renowned producers of precious metal bullion bars, including many of the world’s most celebrated mints, such as the Perth Mint, the US Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint.
Metallix, Umicore and Johnson Matthey also produce a lot of silver bars, accounting for a vast quantity of the total bars sold all over the world every year. There are also many refiners who tend to limit themselves to one country or region, because this is not as much of a specialised industry as you would expect, which is why many bullion dealers also produce their own “generic” silver bars.
A silver bar should carry several stamps and marks, which go some way to proving its authenticity. These will include the name of the company that created it, the purity of the silver contained within it, and the total weight of the bar. There may also be some other details on there, and an increasing number of them are carrying unique designs like those found on bullion coin series, but these are the fundamentals, the things you should expect to find on all legitimate silver bars.