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July 2024
1min read

After 194 years the federal government has formally gone out of the silver business. During most of that time the U.S. Treasury had purchased only the silver it needed to mint coins, but it began to stockpile the metal in 1934 to bolster the depressed mining industry. Then, with the increase in photographic and other industrial uses after World War II , the Treasury turned seller in an effort to keep the price of silver down, so that its own coins would not become more valuable to melt down than to use as money. Since the phasing out of most silver coins and their replacement by lead-colored “sandwiches” of nickel and copper, the Treasury’s role as a holder or seller of silver has disappeared. Last October it auctioned off its last marketable silver, 1.5 million ounces, at $1.84 per ounce. (The Treasury still has thirty-five million unrefined ounces left; they are earmarked for Eisenhower silver dollars.) With bimetallism for all intents and purposes now a dead issue, one Treasury official commented that “William Jennings Bryan must be spinning in his grave.”

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