Engelhard Silver Prospector
Silver rounds are a very good way to bulk up your collection of silver bullion. They have an advantage over silver bars and similar bullion items because they come in smaller, coin-sized pieces that have much greater liquidity than a single ten ounce hunk of silver. Anyone can see that having ten one-ounce silver tokens is a more flexible option than having a single rectangle of metal of the same weight.
Engelhard Silver Prospectors have all the strengths and weaknesses of silver rounds. They are a good, stable store of value in times of rapid fluctuation in currency values, and with their coin-grade fineness – with a makeup of 99.9% pure silver – and superb production values, they are some of the most desirable rounds for this purpose. Conversely, like other rounds, they are better as a “store of value” than an “investment” – they are not official coins and thus will never command a price much in excess of the current spot price of one ounce of silver.
Engelhard Silver Prospectors can be purchased in many different venues, though not direct from Engelhard, since it no longer exists as an independent company. Online sources such as the reliable APMEX (American Precious Metals Exchange) and eBay are your best bets in many cases. You may also find some Prospectors offline, however – it is worth checking with reputable brick and mortar coin or precious metals sellers as well.
Properties of Engelhard Silver Prospectors
Engelhard Silver Prospectors are exactly one troy ounce in weight, and have much the same dimensions and appearance as the world’s silver bullion coins (since they are, in fact, silver bullion coins without an official monetary denomination or face value). The diameter of the rounds is 1 ½ inches (60 mm), and the thickness is 0.13 of an inch (2.9 mm). Their edges are smooth, rather than reeded. The composition of the Prospector is 99.9% pure silver, a fineness which puts it on a par with most of the world’s official, government issued bullion coins, and ahead of some (such as the Britannia).
The obverse of Engelhard Silver Prospector rounds shows a bearded prospector in a broad brimmed hat, sitting on a streambank and panning the gravel for gold or silver. This rather dignified figure of the individual prospector is flanked by the abbreviation “USA” on one side and the year on the other. Underneath the image of the prospector, wreathed along the lower curve of the round’s obverse is the title “The American Prospector”, from which the round takes its name.
The reverse of the Engelhard Silver Prospector shows a ferocious bald eagle, wings spread wide and beak open in a scream of defiance. The bird’s talons grasp a bow (apparently symbolizing war, much as the arrows of the standard American eagle do), and an olive branch of peace. The name “Engelhard” appears at the top of the round, while the lower curve bears the legend “One Troy Ounce 999 fine silver”.
Since the Prospector is not a coin but a round, there are no proofs and no special editions of any kind. These rounds were minted between 1982 and 1987, mostly in 1 troy ounce sizes. However, one year – 1985 – witnessed the striking of other sizes of Engelhard rounds as well. These include a 1/10 ounce, ¼ ounce, and ½ ounce size, though 1 ounce rounds were also produced in this year. These smaller rounds have a higher numismatic value, relative to their constituent metal’s spot value, and are the closest approach to a “collectible” Prospector.
History of Engelhard Silver Prospectors
The 19th and 20th centuries, with their relatively free governments and lack of controls on movements and private ownership of various items, can be accurately said to be the era of the prospector, or individual miner seeking their fortune (or at least a profit) by digging or panning precious metals.
Although nobody has likely ever gotten rich in this way, the image of the individual prospector in the midst of nature, seeking the ancient wealth of Earth’s mineral resources with no help but a few simple tools and his own persistence and ingenuity, is a powerful, intriguing one. The prospector is a character of rugged individualism, patience, and perhaps a symbol of optimism as well in the popular imagination – and, in some cases at least, this impression is not too far from the truth.
The Engelhard Silver Prospector round came into being in the 1980s, at the same time as the governments of the world started attempting to profit from their stocks of silver by minting these into coins and selling them to the general public. A proliferation of non-governmental mintings occurred at the time and continue to this day.
These silver objects could not be called coins for legal reasons; a coin must be minted with a legal tender value by an official government minting agency, such as the U.S. Mint or the Royal Canadian Mint. For this reason, they are known as “rounds” – they are, in effect, privately minted and guaranteed silver bullion coins, without a face value or denomination in any currency.
Despite this, many are of superb quality, and contain 1 troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. This gives them a value equal to the current spot price for an ounce of silver, plus perhaps a dollar or two of extra value above spot. Rounds are nearly as good a store of value as coins, since they consist of a standard, finely struck amount of precious metal. Their numismatic value will never rise much above the current spot price of silver, but a few have some extra value as well.
The Engelhard Silver Prospector is one of these rounds. The Engelhard Corporation, a New Jersey firm which aided the fight against pollution by developing the world’s first automotive catalytic converter, dabbled briefly in the striking of high quality rounds, which are now known as Engelhard Silver Prospectors. The company only produced these for six years, and has since been bought out by a German firm, ceasing as of 2006 to be a separate entity, but its legacy continues not only on the highways of the world, but in the much desired Silver Prospectors, some of the world’s premier silver rounds.