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Silver advances boost demand


Silver has a number of properties that can make it useful in a wide variety of industrial applications.


More than 50 years ago, the use of silver to strike coins was a major industrial use of the metal. Before the widespread use of digital photography and x-rays, the uses of silver in those applications were also among the highest industrial usages for the metal. Jewelry and sterling silver flatware and hollowware were the other top usages at the time.

Rising prices led to the discontinuation of circulating silver coins. When digital technology came on the scene, there were some who predicted the demise of silver in industrial usage. That became true for silver usage in photography, x-rays (where, by the way, virtually all the silver used in this process was recycled), and sterling silver flatware and hollowware. However, the low price of silver stimulated research into other industrial applications.

Silver has special properties of electrical conductivity, relative non-toxicity and as an anti-bacterial agent. As the research expanded in possible new uses of this metal it seemed like the possibilities were endless.

There is no single place that reports on all of this research. Still, the Silver Institute does cover a number of new products that have silver content or ongoing research that may turn into usable products in the future.

For example, the October 2016 issue of Silver News ( has the following stories:

• “Nanofish” that can deliver medicine to targeted areas of the body

• An interview with Elizabeth Hunt, who has spent a career marketing silver jewelry and other products

• The British supermarket chain Marks & Spencer is now selling reusable shopping bags embedded with silver to fight bacterial and odor problems

• A “Smog Free Tower” in Beijing that absorbs smog from the atmosphere, turning the pollutants into cubes that can be worn as jewelry

• Hospital sheets and patient gowns treated with an ionic silver-based antibacterial reduced microbial contamination 88-89 percent

• A new jewelry trend of “Chrome Nails” that is actually made by mixing a silver powder into the nail polish

• An artist that uses silver nanoparticles in creating works of art

The Silver Institute is meant to serve the international silver industry (mining companies, bullion wholesalers, refiners, manufacturers and investment firms), but you can find links to general commodity news, some market guides and general mining industry news at the website. Its executive director, Michael DiRienzo was at one time a lobbyist for the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), the rare coins and precious metals national trade association.

Do collector minds age better?

Last month I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Dr. E. James Potchen, who was the founder and longtime head of the Michigan State University Radiology Department. At the time of his retirement five years ago, he was head of five departments in the MSU School of Medicine and one department in MSU’s Business School. In his career he also earned a law degree and has taught a number of subjects, including economics.

Dr. Potchen’s focus of medical research has been on what happens to the brain and people’s mental capabilities as they age. His presentation discussed some of the findings and the 13 personal traits that can help senior citizens stay sharp.

As he listed the attributes, I found that several of them would apply to active numismatists. Among his recommendations were:

• Learn something new every day

• Keep up with what is going on in the part of the world that affects your life

• Maintain your existing social circle

• Make sure to get to know younger people

• Appreciate what you have

• Find something to look forward to

As he was going through this list, it struck me that avid numismatists engage in some and possibly all of these traits. So, while I won’t tout numismatics as the Fountain of Youth, being a collector of coins, paper money and exonumia just might help senior citizens enjoy a healthier and mentally more capable life.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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