This is the second part of a feature by Rita Laws exploring the
proliferation of 5-ounce silver coins from around the world.
Though large silver medals helped familiarize collectors with the
concept of large silver issues, it was Panama's silver 20-balboas coin
that served as a precursor to 5-ounce silver coins.
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The parents of the 5-ounce coins are the 1-ounce silver bullion coin
and large silver commemorative coin in excess of one ounce. Silver
bullion coins like the 1-ounce South African Krugerrand, Canadian
Maple Leaf and American Eagle created a strong international appetite
for silver beginning in the late 1960s, a few years after silver was
removed from circulating coins worldwide.
In the early 1970s, Panama began issuing a huge 3.85 ounce sterling
silver 20-balboa coin honoring Simon Bolivar. These measure 61
millimeters in diameter.
This item broke the rules of coinage. Manufactured by the Franklin
Mint, a major medal maker, it was marketed as the world’s largest
silver coin and that is exactly what it was at that time.
A few detractors referred to it as a “hockey puck” but ironically,
at 76 millimeters in diameter and with a weight of 156 grams, the size
of a rubber hockey puck is much more similar to that of a typical
5-ounce silver coin.
In spite of the initial shock over its gargantuan size, many world
coin collectors eventually added this coin to their collections.
Encouraged by the response, Panama continued to issue them from 1971