Everyone has their own personal tastes, reasons or requirements when it comes to investing in precious metals. Some who are hedging against inflation may be primarily looking for the best value for money. Others may find they have an appreciation of the collectible side of coins as well as a desire to hold physical metals. Those trying to protect against a potential collapse of fiat currency may be aiming for a wide span of type and denominations. When it comes to pure aesthetics though, many do have strong preferences and for some people nothing beats hand poured silver bars.
Poured silver bars are similar to cast bars, with the former having a higher degree of individuality. For cast silver bars, molten silver is poured into a fully enclosed mold. With poured silver bars, the liquid silver is poured into molds with one open face. As this face is open to the air during the cooler process, distinctive lines and striations appear that are wholly unique to each bar.
Both these types of bars have arguably more character when compared to pressed bars which are highly uniform and precise in their look.
Poured and cast bars are more expensive to produce as they require the mint to be capable of heating silver to the point of it's melt. Both methods also need physically pouring so there's the element of human skill involved.
Pictured here are Scottsdale 10 oz Chunky Cast Silver Bars. They have the typical air of nostalgia that comes with a cast bar. No two bars are entirely alike and this appeals to many.
Precious metals have been poured into bars throughout history with some smaller artisans or refineries building a name for themselves based on their bars. Certain refineries in turn have become highly collectible and their value extends far beyond the value of the physical silver, even accounting for the manufacturing premiums.
Alexander Westerfeld or A & W Refineries is one such example of vintage hand poured bars that have gathered a cult following. These are sometimes referred to as Alexander Westerfall or Aztec Sun Bars, the latter due to the distinctive makers mark on all of the bars.
A & W Refineries were based out of Mojave California and an area with a rich history of refining in the 1970s. Many of their smaller bars show distinctive patterns from asbestos gloves.
The refiner was ultimately charged with a federal indictment for trying to dump hundreds of tons of metal slag into Mexico and the corporation was later dissolved in 1991.
As more and more such bars fall into collector hands, our opportunities to see them become few and far between so we took full opportunity for the chance to photograph this example.