Engelhard 1 oz. Prospector Silver Coins
In the early 1970s, investors turned to silver bullion as protection against rising inflation. (Americans did not regain the right to legally own gold bullion until December 31, 1974.) In addition to the problem of inflation, the US government had suppressed the price of silver in the 1960s, making silver an attractive investment.
Initially, numerous small mints turned out a variety of silver bullion products: 1-oz and 2-oz rounds, 5-oz, 10-oz, 25-oz, 50-oz and 100-oz bars. In only a few years, however, 1-oz rounds and 10-oz and 100-oz bars became the preferred forms for owning physical silver bullion, and production of the other sizes ceased. Today, some of the earlier items surface from time to time.
In the late 1970s as the price of silver began to climb, the major silver refineries, such as Handy & Harman, Johnson-Matthey, and Engelhard, began producing silver bullion products, primarily 100-oz and 10-oz bars. Engelhard was the first to market 1-oz silver bullion rounds, which carried an image of a prospector panning, oddly enough, for gold. Silver, unlike gold, is not found in alluvial deposits.
Engelhard's silver Prospectors soon dominated the 1-oz silver round market. Even Johnson-Matthey, which introduced an inspiring series of Freedom Rounds centered on the Bill of Rights, was unable to compete. In the late 1980s, though, as interest in precious metals waned, Engelhard stopped producing products for silver investors. Undoubtedly instrumental in Engelhard's decision to cease production of Prospectors was competition from the US Mint's legal tender Silver Eagles, which sold at only a few cents more than did the non-legal tender Prospectors.
The same kneeling prospector graces the obverse of all Prospectors; however, Engelhard used several different designs for the reverse. Prospectors are dated, 1983-1987, and generally come in tubes of twenty-five coins. Some Prospectors were packaged individually in thin protective plastic packets and sometimes show up still in plastic.
Because of their excellent striking and because they carry the Engelhard hallmark, Prospectors sell at higher premiums over spot than do the Sunshine silver rounds and the Indian Head/Buffalo silver rounds. Since Prospectors are no longer produced, they are not always available.