Ten years ago, silver left the $5-per-ounce mark behind for good and
winked at $8 an ounce.
By 2007, the price of silver was flirting with twice that amount and
by 2010, it was going steady with $20. The anticipated fling with the
$50 mark almost happened in 2011 but then came the break-up. The $30
range stuck around for the next two years and then left. Throughout
2014, the price of silver has bounced back and forth between $18 and
$22 per ounce, unable to commit.
Many bullion collectors remain bullish about silver, but with an
economy still in recovery they want low-cost options. Happily, world
mints have been making it easier for everyone to buy silver by
introducing smaller size silver coins. One ounce is no longer the rule.
To qualify for our exercise, the coin must state its own weight and
purity. Pure silver (.999) and sterling (.925) are the most common
standards. Some nations issue half-ounce coins annually, and in other
cases they are part of a thematic series. Not all items here are true
bullion coins (issued at prices relative to the precious metal value),
but they meet these other requirements. Here are just eight examples
The Canadian Maple Leaf silver series is 26 years old but is never
boring, thanks to many collector versions that are offshoots of the
The Royal Canadian Mint has issued Maple Leafs with different
designs, in several sizes, unique finishes, in color, gilded, and for
2014, even imbedded with genuine jade. To celebrate the 15th
anniversary of the series in 2003, an unusual hologram version was
made, including a half-ounce $4 size. How this coin looks depends
completely on the angle of viewing and on the quality of light present.
Between 1992 and 1998, Mexico issued a high number of silver coins
showcasing the pre-Columbian history of the nation, 17 designs of
which are on half-ounce silver coins.
The Teotihuacan collection of coins was the fifth of six collections
making up the pre-Columbian series. Teotihuacan coins concluded with
the Disc of Death or “Disco de la Muerte” piece, a half-ounce pure
silver 2-peso coin. The design includes a stone emblem of a skull
surrounded by rays.
Among the repeating Australian half-ounce silver coins are several
animal designs like the Koala bullion 50-cent piece. Kookaburras,
kangaroos, and great white sharks are just three of the other animals
that have been feted the same way.
Other topics honored in the half-ounce silver size include the Lunar
Year, Australian Outback, Sealife, Birds, and Bush Babies.
Niue (pronounced NEW-ay) is a small autonomous island in free
association with New Zealand. For such a small island and population
(1,600 residents), it issues a lot of coins.
Some of its themes include the Chinese zodiac colored series that
includes the Year of the Dragon half-ounce silver $2 coin, the Dr. Who
series, Lucky Symbols, Endangered Animals, Fashion, and Cave Paintings.
Also from the New Zealand Mint are the popular annual Fiji “Taku”
(Hawksbill Turtle) silver bullion coin, which has been offered in
several versions and sizes following the 1-ounce size released in 2010.
In 2012, a half-ounce $1 version was issued. But in 2013, the series
was suspended because the nation of Fiji itself was suspended from the
Commonwealth for failing to hold free elections.
The popular Hawksbill Turtle design was moved to a Niue bullion coin
for 2014 that goes by the simple name, “Turtle.”
All of the Turtle coins are issued by the New Zealand Mint and
struck in the United States at Sunshine Minting of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Britannia has graced English coins for 342 years, but Britain’s
Britannia silver bullion coin has existed only since 1997, and in the
half-ounce £1 size since 1998 (when Proof examples were struck — a
bullion version was issued in 2011 for a special customer). An
interesting fact about this series is that the fineness of the silver
was changed from .958 fine silver to .999 fine beginning in 2013.
A newcomer to bullion coins as of 2011, the Armenian Noah’s Ark coin
is available in seven sizes, including the half-ounce version. The
design shows a dove with an olive branch, and the ark in the distance.
Geiger Edelmetalle, a private mint in Germany, strikes, advertises,
and sells the Ark coins on behalf of the Republic of Armenia.
One small Ark mystery involves the math used to connect the dram
denominations and the weight of the silver. A quarter-ounce silver Ark
is labeled as a 100-dram coin, and the half-ounce size, as a 200-dram
piece. But the 1-ounce version carries a 500-dram denomination instead
of 400 drams. And the 5-ounce coin is a 1,000-dram piece instead of a
In 2002, the Shawnee became the first American Indian nation to
issue a coin. The Poarch Creek Nation had issued a silver dollar by
2004, followed by the Crow Nation and the Mesa Grande Band of Mission
Indians. Now there is a half-ounce silver option. The denomination on
the undated Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull bullion coin reads
TWENTY FIVE. It is sold by the Free Lakota Bank in Pine Ridge, S.D.,
in association with the American Open Currency Standard.