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A person inspecting raw silver pebbles closely with a magnifying glass

 

The Commodities Exchange, Inc. (COMEX) in New York City is a central hub for silver trading. COMEX pioneered standardized specifications for silver bars traded on its futures exchange. 

Only silver from approved refiners meeting stringent criteria can be delivered on COMEX contracts. Such silver bars are widely referred to as “Comex-approved” or “good delivery.”

This article will explore the evolution of Comex-approved silver bars over the past century, refiner marks, and security features of silver bars.

 

What are COMEX Silver Bars?

COMEX silver bars are .999 fine silver manufactured by an approved refiner. Each bar must weigh between 1000 and 1100 troy ounces. The bars are stamped with serial numbers, purity, weight, and the assay stamp of an approved refiner. 

The approval process ensures each bar meets the strict criteria for trading on COMEX. Only bars sourced from COMEX-approved refiners can be delivered against the exchange’s silver futures contracts. 

This guarantees the quality and weight of all silver traded on the exchange. Comex silver bars have become a widely recognized standard for investment-grade silver worldwide.

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Early Days of Standardized Silver Bars

In the early 20th century, silver was traded in various forms, such as coins, small bars, and bags of scrap metal. There was no standard size or quality across different suppliers and refiners. 

As silver trading grew in volume on exchanges like COMEX, the need emerged for standardized bars to facilitate smooth transactions.

COMEX pioneered specifications for “good delivery” silver bars in 1933. Handy & Harman, Engelhard Metals, and Handy & Herman were the first acceptable refiners. Each bar had to weigh 1000-1200 troy ounces at a minimum purity of .999. 

COMEX also required unique serial numbers and refiner stamps for tracking. The popularity of Comex-approved bars surged after World War 2, along with rising silver prices

The production of Comex bars by approved refiners continues today alongside other retail silver products.

 

Refiner Marks on Comex-approved Silver Bars

 

Shiny silver bars with refiner marks on its surface

 

Each Comex-approved silver bar features a stamped mark indicating the refiner. Common brands seen on vintage and modern Comex bars include:

  • Engelhard - Based in New Jersey, Engelhard was a leading fabricator of silver bullion from the 1950s to the 1980s. Look for the “E” logo.
  • Handy & Harman - This Brooklyn refinery was first approved by COMEX. See the “H&H” stamp.
  • Johnson Matthey - A British firm that is one of the most famous silver refiners globally. JM bars feature a stylized logo with “J” and “M.”
  • A-Mark - This company became a major COMEX supplier after Engelhard left the market. See the A-Mark logo with an “A” and pickaxe graphic.
  • Sunshine Minting - Based in Idaho, Sunshine is known for its anti-counterfeiting mint mark technology. Look for the distinct sun logo.
  • Silvertowne - An Indiana company manufacturing Comex bars since the 1970s marked with a “T” logo.
  • Northwest Territorial Mint - Located in Washington state, this mint produces Comex bars stamped with an armoured helmet logo.
  • Republic Metals - A Florida refinery approved by COMEX in 2000, now owned by A-Mark. See the American flag logo.
  • Ohio Precious Metals - An Ohio refiner added to COMEX in 2006. Look for the “OPM” logo on newer Comex bars.

Over 20 approved refiners of COMEX silver are currently active. Tracking the assay stamps provides insight into the manufacturing history of Comex bars over the decades. 

Vintage silver bars bearing the Engelhard “E” are among the most coveted by bullion collectors.

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Security Features on Silver Bars

As silver became a prized global commodity, security features were added to Comex bars to deter counterfeiting.

Serial Numbers - Since inception, Comex bars have carried stamped serial numbers for tracking individual bars. Refiners maintain detailed records of these serials.

Purity Stamp - All Comex-approved bars are stamped with a minimum of .999 silver purity, which reassures investors of the acceptable silver content.

Weight Stamp - To validate the stated weight, Comex bars also show the gross weight between 1000 and 1100 troy ounces.

Refiner Logo - The unique assay stamp of the producing refinery confirms the bar’s authenticity.

Markings - Many bars feature raised lines or markings, indicating whether the surface has been tampered with or altered.

Sunshine Mint ID Technology - In 2008, Sunshine Mint introduced a proprietary anti-counterfeiting system for its Comex bars. Under a decoder, a hidden security image imprinted below the bar’s surface is revealed.

Due to these advanced security protocols, genuine Comex silver bars remain one of the most secure ways to invest in physical precious metals.

 

Current Market for Comex Silver Bars

 

Close look at the features of a fine silver coin

 

Comex-approved silver bars are actively traded today on metals exchanges around the world. Hundreds of millions of ounces of Comex silver change hands annually. 

Standard 1,000 bars make up most of the market’s volume. These 1,000 oz bars are delivered against COMEX futures contracts in approved COMEX vaults in New York.

Smaller bars and rounds from Comex refiners are popular worldwide in the silver bullion coin and bar market. Many investors desire the Engelhard, JM, and other famous stamps. The limited supply of vintage Comex bars from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s also commands high premiums among silver collectors.

In 2022, silver trended to around $18/oz, lowering demand for Comex bar delivery. More buyers tend to source large bars directly from COMEX stocks if prices increase. 

Comex silver remains an efficient way to buy silver in bulk. Investors can purchase new Comex bars from approved refiners like A-Mark and Sunshine Mint.

Here’s an interesting read for you: 6 Most Traded Commodities You Need to Know

 

In conclusion,

Comex-approved silver bars have a long and interesting history, evolving into a trusted global standard for precious metals investment. As this article has shown, COMEX pioneered specifications for “good delivery” silver bars in 1933, leading to the popularity of brands like Engelhard and Johnson Matthey. 

While vintage bars are collectable, new Comex silver from reputable refiners offers investors an efficient way to add bulk silver to their portfolio. Investing in these historic silver ingots provides a tangible asset with lasting value.

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“When considering “CFDs” for trading and price predictions, remember that trading CFDs involves a significant risk and could result in capital loss. Past performance is not indicative of any future results. This information is provided for informative purposes only and should not be considered investment advice

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