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When silver bars were simply fun

Do you remember the silver bar craze of the early 1970s?

Yes, I know that was 40 years ago, but collectors are nothing if not long-lived.

I had a letter this week from a reader who said he has been collecting coins for 70 years. For him, casting his mind back four decades should be child’s play.

The silver bar craze followed the usual pattern. Someone had a good idea to stamp out one-ounce rectangular bars with rounded corners and put attractive designs on them.

Collectors, who were starved of coins made of precious metals decided that bars made of silver trumped coins made of base metals.

As more and more collectors jumped into the pond, the private firms marketing the bars multiplied and the number of issues multiplied as well.

As is the case with so many things from sports cards to Beanie Babies, eventually buyers feel like chumps because they reach a point where they cannot keep up with all of the new issues, so they stop buying.

Now I don’t claim to know much about Beanie Babies or sports cards, but any collector of silver bars from the early 1970s who simply held on to them all these years has done quite well with them.

The rise in the price of silver over the last 10 years means that the silver value of the bars created in those years is now four to five times the original cost. This past April the value was even higher.

That’s not a bad return on a hobby that did not require knowledge of scarcity, grading or slabbing.

Sure, there were scarce bars and some collectors even got caught up in error bars, but most simply bought what they liked when they liked and didn’t think too much more about it.

If bar buyers of the early 1970s can remember the investments they might have made in those same years they might discover that their fun money spent on what became known as silver art bars was money well spent.