Silver was first used to manufacture coins in 700 B.C. by the Lydians, an ancient kingdom in what is now Turkey. You may assume that creating silver coins is a simple process of melting and molding, but while this may have been true for the Lydians, who lacked modern technology, today's minting process is a bit more complex than that.
Silver bullion coins have inherent value. They may be considered legal tender, a collector's item or an investment. Regardless of the purpose of the coins, this inherent value requires that the manufacturing process be consistent across the board. Each coin must exactly match and contain precisely the same amount of silver by troy ounce.
To ensure this consistency, mints use a 5-step process when creating silver bullion coins.
1. Melting the Silver
Mints start with silver scrap which has been verified to be 99.9% pure. Since silver requires at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquefy, the scrap is loaded into a furnace to melt. The melted silver is then transferred to long cylindrical molds, called billets.
Solidified billets of silver weighing 810 ounces are then moved to the next stage of the process: extrusion. Billets are fed through the extruder while still warm and pliable, which converts their shape to thin silver strips. Only after cooling and hardening are the strips cut again, this time into shorter strips to be used in the blanking process.
Blanking is where we first see the familiar rounded coin shape. This process involves feeding the smaller silver strips created during extrusion into a press to create the round blanks, which are individually weighed to verify that they contain the correct amount of silver for the final coin.
Everyone loves a shiny new coin, and the shine is a big part of the appeal. The burnishing process uses metal balls of 6 mm in diameter to rub away imperfections and create a lovely glinting reflective silver surface.
5. Creating the Final Product
The shiny, round discs the minters have created are now ready to take their final form as coins. This is accomplished by using a high-powered press to stamp the finished design onto the rounded blanks.
Turning raw metal into coins is one of the oldest manufacturing processes in the known world, but as you can see, it has come a long way since the Lydians first used an alloy of gold and silver nearly 3,000 years ago. The one thing that hasn't changed, however, is that precious metals like gold and silver continue to be valued by societies around the globe.
Patrick Langley is a novice precious metal and coin collectors. In his spare time, Patrick writes marketing copy and market commentary on the precious metal industry. Among his top favourites are silver coins from Provident Metals. Visit Provident Metals for a vast collection of silver bars and coins.
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