Silver bullion is the purest and most basic form of silver. Bullion is any type of marked, stamped, and weighed silver metal. You have probably seen massive silver bars in pictures or on TV, and these would be a perfect example of what bullion is.
Bullion is often referenced as "investment grade" or "investment quality" because this is the primary purpose behind it. Very few people collect bullion, per se. If you are looking to start a collection of silver, the best thing you can do is start acquiring coins, not bullion. For investors, though, bullion is the most logical and also the easiest way to invest in physical metals.
The most common type of bullion is found in the shape of a bar. While there are many massive sized bars available on the market, the vast majority of people will at least initially start off by purchasing the smaller varieties. 100 oz. and larger bars of silver are primarily found in the vaults of actual countries, investment banks, and other large firms. Very few private individuals actually store huge bricks of silver in their homes. For this purpose, 1 oz., 10 oz., and even fractional oz. bars are produced.
Bars look like they must cost an absolute ton of money. Though the very big bars are indeed going to cost a whole lot, there are plenty of affordable sizes also available. One of the most widespread misconceptions in silver is that bars are just for the rich, with random coins being the only thing that your average buyer could afford. The reality is actually quite the opposite. Bars (and rounds, as you will find below) are pure silver, with no collectible value whatsoever. As a result of this, every dime that you spend will go towards the actual silver content. With a coin, you are going to pay a markup to compensate for the collectible value. Bars are best for investors and anyone who is looking to stock up on silver as a hedge against paper money.
Another very common type of silver is the silver coin. Silver coins are disc-shaped pieces of metal which are produced by government mints, and often carry a face value in their country of origin. Silver coins are typically .999 pure silver, and weigh 1 troy ounce, although larger 5 oz pieces are occasionally produced. One downfall of silver coins is the fact that since they are released in a new version each year, they often carry a bit of a collectibility premium, making them slightly more expensive than silver rounds or bars.
Some of the most common silver coins include American Silver Eagles and Canadian Silver Maple Leafs, both of which are highly available and sought after in North America. Both of these coins weigh one troy ounce, and can be bought in tubes of 20 or 25 as well as Monster Boxes of 500 pieces each.
Silver rounds, for all intents and purposes, are the same thing as bars. The only defined difference between a round and a bar is the shape and design itself. If you are looking to buy smaller quantities of silver as opposed to sizable investments, a few rounds may very well be the way to go. With rounds, you are not going to often find anything over a few ounces. After all, a coin shaped item can only pack so much punch. There are some very large rounds that are made, but they are relatively far and few between. Rounds are going to be found in 1 oz. sizes more frequently than anything else.
A round may look like a coin at first glance, but they are not at all the same thing. A round is nothing more than raw silver that is formed into the shape of a coin. The technical difference between the two is that a coin is produced by governmental bodies whereas rounds are minted by private companies.
Who Makes Bullion
Bullion is produced by any number of private mints around the world. In fact, you could even produce bullion if you had the tools necessary to do so. Since bullion is really just metal that is manufactured to meet a specific weight, shape, and size, it is incredibly easy to make.
A government mint like the US Mint would never produce general bullion. Instead they focus on actual currency items. Even a coin that is worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars will be marked with its actual dollar value, even if it's just $5. With bullion, the item is only worth it's weigh in real silver.
Who Bullion is For
Silver bullion is almost exclusively owned by investors. A silver collector may own a few random rounds or bars, but the bulk of most any collection will be comprised of coins with much more value than raw silver.
If you are looking to buy silver simply for investment purposes, there is nothing wrong with obtaining some coins to diversify your portfolio. With that said, however, bullion will always deliver the most bang for your buck. Wipe out the markup that you pay for a coin and it will be replaced by some more silver. $100 might buy you x ounces worth of silver coins, where it could also buy 2x ounces in pure bullion. If your ultimate goal is purely for investment or as a hedge or replacement against paper currencies, bullion is what you should be ordering.