The World's Production of Silver


    THE recent action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing a Bill into the House of Commons for the purpose of debasing the silver currency from 925 to 500 parts per 1000 has directed public attention to the acute shortage of silver which exists. This action is unavoidable if a silver currency is to be maintained, since the price of the metal has risen so much that coins are no longer tokens. They are, in fact, worth to-day considerably more than their face value, and there is, accordingly, a temptation to melt them down and sell them for the considerable profit that the transaction would bring in. Such a procedure is, of course, illegal. In the years preceding the war the market price of silver, while subject to fluctuations, was never far from 2S. per “standard ounce.” This expression is rather unfortunate, since it is not the ounce that is standard, but the quality of the metal. Its real meaning, is a troy ounce of silver alloy containing 92.5 per cent, of the metal. With standard silver at about 5s. 6d. per ounce, the coins reach parity. During recent weeks the market price has fluctuated between 7s. and 7s. 5d. per ounce, though it is true that a remarkable fall of 61/8 in the price took place on March 5, and a further fall of 51/8 on March 11, owing largely to the improvement in the exchange with the United States of America. As stated, however, the Chancellor's action is necessary, since the minting of silver coins is possible only at a heavy loss. Nevertheless, this Bill was opposed in the House, although the opposition was not carried to a division.

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    The World's Production of Silver. Nature 105, 73–74 (1920).

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