Due to the legalization of precious metals in the United States in recent decades, and the ever-growing demand for silver bullion products of every kind – including such highly dubious ones as silver grain – a large number of private mints now exist. Some companies have also tried their hand at private minting in the past but no longer do so, such as Johnson Matthey of England (and their branch in the western United States, recently fined for dumping industrial poisons into the local water supply).
Private mints have come to occupy a very important place in the silver industry. People are eager to purchase precious metals, whether to keep their wealth safe over time regardless of fluctuations in the inflation rate, or because they believe that the price of these metals is going to shoot up even higher than it already has and are hoping to cash in on this anticipated rise in prices (for which there is quite a bit of supporting evidence, though of course nothing is certain in this world).
These mints perform a number of different services which make the silver market function better. They sell gold and silver rounds and gold and silver bars, which are seldom minted by the government, with high, guaranteed silver content. These products allow people to buy silver bullion – non-numismatic and non-collectible, of course – for storage of value as well as more collectible coins from government sources.
The private mints therefore furnish a good source of silver bullion at a fairly low premium above spot, increasing the supply of the metal to individual buyers. They also serve as outlets for government minted coins, both domestic and international, due to the fact that their experience with the silver market and large resources make them ideal outlets for the large annual production runs of silver coins.
Finally, the U.S. government at least – and possibly other governments as well – relies on the private mints as a source for high quality planchets, which are the blank discs of 99.9% pure silver from which coins are struck using a coining press.
Note that private mints cannot actually strike currency, and that those which attempt to do so can get into serious trouble. This is very rare, however, since private mints are generally run by sober professionals who are fully aware of the legal ramifications of their business. Some of the more important private mints of the modern era are listed below.
APMEX (The American Precious Metals Exchange)
APMEX the American Precious Metals Exchange, stands foremost among the various mints and silver and gold suppliers of today, thanks to its professionalism, reliability, and its extensive range of products, numbering in the thousands. APMEX is one of the official buyers of Silver Eagles from the United States Mint, indicating its ability to meet the stringent standards that the Treasury enforces on those who purchase its products for resale to the general public.
APMEX produces a full range of silver bars and rounds, ranging from fairly small, one ounce products that appeal to the smaller buyer, to larger bars that can be used for bulk purchases of the metal. Its success is underlined by its meteoric rise – it is barely twelve years old, having been founded in 1999, while its Internet operation was begun in 2003. The business has witnessed such success that it recently purchased and occupied the former Oklahoma City Federal Reserve building.
Another major producer of silver rounds and silver bars for the avid market of today, Silvertowne Mint, which is an interesting firm not only because of its high quality silver products but also its willingness to strike very small runs of custom medallions for police departments, fire departments, companies, and even individuals who want to commemorate an event in style.
Silvertowne Mint is also a retail coin shop found in Winchester, Indiana. The company has no minimum order since it is a retailer, not a wholesaler, and is essentially a family owned business. It is a testament to the durability of precious metals demand across time, as well as to the “gold mine” of profit which is open to those who can afford to start a precious metals dealership, since it was founded in 1949 and is still robustly in business.
Sunshine Minting, Inc.
Sunshine Minting, Incorporated – which abbreviates its own name to SMI – is an extremely prestigious private mint which is the chief supplier of silver planchets to the U.S. Mint for the production both of the one troy ounce Silver Eagle coins and the new five ounce series of America the Beautiful quarters. Sunshine has been in business for many years in Coeur d’Aline, Idaho.
SMI produces a large range of silver rounds and bars, as well as undertaking custom minting jobs in various metals and finishes. The precious metal products the company strikes range in weight from 1 gram (roughly 1/32 of an ounce, a weight which is used for gold at its currently very inflated price) to 100 ounces (silver bars). This private mint also has a storage facility, though the strange case of NotHaus has proven that this facility is as dubious a place to leave your precious metals as any other remote location.
Heraeus Precious Metals
Heraeus Precious Metals is a branch of Heraeus Holdings which is involved with precious metals. The firm is a German one, operating out of the small city of Hanau, which has the distinction of having a population made up of a remarkably high percentage of 20% Turkish immigrants. Heraeus is still owned by the same family which founded the company one hundred and sixty years ago, in the early 1850’s.
The firm is mostly concerned with providing precious metals to high tech and cutting edge medical firms, but produces high quality silver bars as well, available through APMEX.
Northstar Mint is one of the United States’ smaller mints. The source of the name is unclear, since the company is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, at the southern end of America’s west coast. This company has very little Internet presence, but produces some interesting silver bars in 10 ounce, 25 ounce, and 50 ounce sizes, in a plain but attractive style. These bars can frequently be found on large silver dealing websites such as APMEX and similar firms.
World Wide Mint, Inc.
Located amid the northern plains and lakes of Minnesota, where the laugh of the loon and the roar of the bear has been replaced by the sound of Minneapolis traffic, World Wide Mint, Inc. is a small concern founded in 1973. This company has less than five employees, less than half a million dollars in sales annually, but produces unique silver bars that are very large but very thin, and have rather quaint depictions of bald eagles and similar emblems on them. They are typically found on APMEX.
Ohio Precious Metals LLC
Ohio Precious Metals, LLC, is a moderately large, highly successful precious metals company founded in the mid 1970’s, with a unique twist – the firm bills itself as one of the world’s foremost environmentally conscious precious metal concerns. The company makes use of recycled silver, ensuring that its products are indeed made out of recycled content rather than freshly mined metals, and complies with federal environmental regulations as well as doing its utmost to reduce waste and avoid polluting nature with the industrial effluents all too common in the industry.
Both gold and silver bars, ranging from 1 troy ounce upwards, of .9999 fineness, are sold by Ohio Precious Metals, LLC. Their 400 ounce gold bar, costing over $600,000, proves that they are no penny ante operation, and their high quality products offer a genuinely green alternative to those who are concerned with the future of our planet.