Between 1966 and 1970, U.S. Treasury sales of silver were a major secondary source of supply. Because silver had been a U.S. monetary standard along with gold, the U.S. government held the world’s largest source of secondary supply in an effort to meet a growing production/consumption deficit. In 1965, it appeared that in less than two years the Treasury would effectively lose control of the price of silver. If silver had been allowed to rise above $1.40 per ounce, the silver content of U.S. coins would have been worth more than their face value, causing them to disappear from circulation. Under the Coinage Act of 1965, Congress eliminated the use of silver in coins and authorized the mining of cupro-nickel substitutes and the sale of silver to the public. The right of holders of U.S. silver certificates to redeem them for silver was suspended in 1968. The following year, a federal ban on the melting of U.S. coins was lifted, freeing anywhere from 400 to 700 million ounces for secondary recovery.
In late 1970, the General Services Administration was authorized by Congress to release the national strategic stockpile of silver to the Treasury Department, primarily for coinage of new commemorative silver dollars (40 percent silver content). The same act provided for the auction of approximately 3 million old uncirculated silver dollars (90 percent silver). In 1973, the Cost of Living council freed commercial-grade silver from price ceilings imposed the year before to allow domestic silver to advance to current international price levels.
Silver has reacted erratically to world political and economic news in recent years. The New York spot settlement price for silver has ranged from a low of $3.92 in 1975 to a high of $48.70 in 1980.
In the early 80’s, the U.S. government’s strategic stockpile of silver was locked in by law at 139.5 Moz. Congress has since authorized legislation to dispose of these stockpiles. In late 2000 the U.S. Defense National Stockpile Center delivered its remaining stockpile of nearly 15 Moz to the U.S. Mint for coinage programs. Since 2001, the U.S. has had to purchase silver for its coinage programs from the open market. This has boosted silver consumption by 1% annually.