October 30, 2012 21 Comments

The Silver Series: The History of Silver (Part 1)

The History of SilverSilver Supply and DemandSilver as an Investment

The Silver Series: The History of Silver (Part 1)

The History of SilverSilver Supply and DemandSilver as an Investment

Today, silver has thousands of modern industrial uses and is considered a store of wealth.  However, the story of this legendary precious metal begins with its use by ancient civilizations.

Silver has many attributes that made it so valuable to early peoples.  It is malleable, ductile, lustrous, resilient, antibacterial, and rare.   It was used to purify water and for ornate artwork – but more importantly it was perfectly suited to be a currency.

For over two thousand years, silver was used everywhere from Ancient Greece to the Spanish Empire as currency.

By 1967, all silver coins were removed from circulation in the US.  And although no longer used, silver is the most widely used material for coinage in history.

Enjoyed the first installation of the Silver Series?

Check out our completed series on Gold:

21 Responses to “The Silver Series: The History of Silver (Part 1)”

  1. We’d like to put your Visual Capitalist banner ad and the Gold and Silver series links ‘up’ on MineSnooper.com.
    Call me Geoff.
    David O’B
    604 987 6657

  2. Jeremy says:

    Your numbers are off in the 1859 AD section. You list $397 Million in ore (1882) would be worth $9 Trillion today, that should be Billion not Trillion. Other than that it is awesome!

    • Jeff says:

      Hi Jeremy,
      Thanks for the feedback – we’ll check into it and make the fix. We have a lot of numbers and words in each infographic and sometimes the odd mistake slips through! Much appreciated.


  3. Gerald Eaaton says:

    This is a nice format for education. Simple, graphic, and easy to remember. However, it would be a CRIME of omission to not explain the conspiratorial history of why and how real wealth (silver) was demonitised by the Western Banking System, and replaced with FIAT currencies!

  4. Kesef Silver says:

    Great collection of infographics! Well done! I’d like to see the period included from 200 BCE to 400 CE where the use of silver coins exploded during the Seleucid, Greek, and Roman Empire periods.

  5. Gharma says:

    You have a minor error in dates for withdrawal of silver from US coinage. The last 90% coinage was in 1964. Coinage of 40% silver half dollars for circulation continue through 1969 (the 1970 issue was only release in mint sets, not into circulation, as was also done in 1976 with the half and quarter dollars). So, saying “1967 – The US removes all silver coins from circulation” is only in the ballpark (I received a 40% silver half dollar in change this year, 2012 !, so they obviously were not all removed).
    You could fill the gap between 1792 and 1859 by mention of how scare US silver coinage was, resulting in the Spanish real, or pieces of eight, being the most common coinage in use in the US during the early decades. Hence the nickname for a quarter as two bits because the eight bit real generally circulated as a dollar.

  6. Farrell says:

    The last silver US dimes, quarters, and half dollars were minted in 1964. Starting in 1965 we got the “clad” dimes, quarters, and half dollars.

    As to “…all silver coins were removed by 1967 or 1968 is not accurate. I look at all my change and I find either a silver dime or quarter every several months still in circulation.

    As to silver is not rare. Please check with Ted Butler or Bix Weir and you will find out that silver is estimated to only have about 1 billion ounces above ground, but there is estimated to be 5 billion ounces of gold above ground, thus silver is presently 5 times more rare than gold.

    Additionally, the USGS estimates that at present rates of usage that silver will run out within 15 years (you can look this up on their web site). This makes it quite rare now.

    • Jeremy says:

      “As to silver is not rare. Please check with Ted Butler or Bix Weir and you will find out that silver is estimated to only have about 1 billion ounces above ground, but there is estimated to be 5 billion ounces of gold above ground, thus silver is presently 5 times more rare than gold.”

      This is quite simply not true as there is 10′s of billions of oz above ground. In silver coins alone there is well over 5 billion ounces. Just the US in 1964 minted over 600 Million troy oz of silver in coin form, that is 1 country for one year.

      And this is on top of all the bullion, silverware, and jewelry.

  7. Jeff says:

    Hi Farrell / Gharma,
    Thanks for the comments especially on the US coinage. It looks like we are off by a year or two on the dates – we can change it in the next version.

    As for the rarity of silver – you are correct that reserves of silver above ground are lower than gold. That is something we will touch in the Supply / Demand infographic (Part 2). In this one, we are just showing how much silver has been mined.

    Hope that helps,

  8. Damon W. says:

    Great and informative web site about silver. Very low key and easy to understand! Keep up the good work!!!!

  9. Ben says:

    That is why the Dutch used to say : “On the marketplace a guilder has the value of a daalder”.
    Keep up the good work.
    Greetings from Holland.


  10. CoinWhy says:

    Another great infographic. I look forward to parts 2 and 3.

  11. matt says:

    Great article, just a small point, Joachimsthal is in the Czech Republic, ( north west ), not the South, which is where Bohemia is.

  12. Jim says:

    Good stuff….BTW, if you saw the movie..”Gangs of New York”, the character played by Decaprio..he called himself..”Amsterdam”….coincidence?

  13. It has been reported that a Viruses size can range from 5 to 300 Nanometers in size, a single atom will be approximately 1,250,000 times smaller than a 5 nanometer virus. Which Simply Means that the atom will be 75,000,000.00 times smaller than a 300 nanometer virus, and because of its tiny size will seep into the viruses through their pores, much easier than nanoparticles. Nanoparticles have been measured in the range of 5 to 200 nanometers.

    Obviously if nanoparticles are equal to or the same size of a virus, it will be impossible to penetrate into the virus, bacteria or parasite,

    So the smaller the silver particle the better, and now Silver Atoms are available.

    Because of Silvers Medicinal attributes, it should be worth just as much as gold.

  14. Matt Harbowy says:

    The claim that silver did not continuously tarnish before the industrial revolution is almost certainly false. The industrial revolution is responsible for significant emissions of SOx (sulfur dioxide/trioxide, which form “sulfates” or “sulfuric acid” in solution) although levels in the air have dropped significantly in the last few decades. The expected chemical product of silver and SOx is silver sulfate.

    Silver sulfate is soluble in water, and this would be the expected product of silver plus sulfuric acid derived from dissolved sulfur dioxide/trioxide. Silver sulfide, on the other hand, is relatively insoluble in water, which is the expected product of silver plus hydrogen sulfide. http://www.saltlakemetals.com/Solubility_Of_Silver_Compounds.htm Silver sulfate should just wash off the surface, which might explain corrosion of silver, but not tarnish.

    The number one source of hydrogen sulfide or organic sulfide in the atmosphere is the decomposition of plant materials in bogs. It’s what you smell when you cross the San Francisco Bay. It’s the bad smell in farts. It’s the smell of “natural gas”. And, as this review of the chemistry of silver tarnish from the V&A museum http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-18/tarnishing-of-silver-a-short-review/ shows, not only hydrogen sulfide but also organic sulfides (like the natural amino acids methionine and cysteine) cause tarnish.

    Sulfate/sulfur oxides are almost certainly not responsible for most tarnish, and it is highly unlikely that silver did not tarnish significantly before the industrial revolution. Eggs, on the other hand are a significant source of hydrogen sulfide, which is why you never serve egg dishes on silver.

  15. Silver Coins says:

    You did a great job here, seriously! The visuals were incredible! You tend to entertain the readers in a way! Kudos!

  16. Robert says:

    Great educational documents and videos! I like Endeavour Silver. Endeavour is the few primary silver producer that has a deep and clear view in mind and knows how to utilize the uptrend of the global silver market to leverage their success. It is one of my top holdings in my portfolio.

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