Silver has been used as a coinage metal for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks minted silver coins for use as a trade currency as far back as 600 BC. Until around the 1900s, silver coins were still widely used as a medium of exchange in many countries including the United States. Today, however, it is no longer economically viable to use silver in circulating coins.
The Silver Dollar
Following the Coinage Act of 1792 authorizing the production of dollar coins from silver, the first U.S. Silver Dollars were struck in 1794. These coins contained 0.7737 ounce (26.96 grams) of silver and have a face value of $1, hence the name "silver dollar".
Modern Silver Bullion Coins
While no longer used as a medium of exchange, silver coins are still purchased as an effective hedge against inflation. The modern silver bullion coins contain 1 troy ounce of fine silver. Some of the most common silver bullion coins available in the market today include the American Silver Eagles, Canadian Silver Maple Leafs, the UK Silver Britannias and the Australian Silver Koalas.
The Collectible Silver Bullion Coin
The concept of the collectible silver bullion coin probably started with the Chinese Panda silver coin which was first issued in 1983. They are 99.9% fine silver bullion coins in which their reverse panda-themed design changes every year. Panda silver coins of certain years that have popular designs can command higher premiums in the open market. This made the Chinese Panda silver coins very popular with silver bullion coin collectors.
Silver bullion coins with designs base on the animals from the Chinese Zodiac are also very popular with silver coin collectors these days. These so-called lunar silver coins are issued in many countries including China, Canada and Australia.