DEFINITION of 'Silver ETF'

An exchange-traded fund that invests primarily in raw silver assets, which are held in trust by the fund manager and/or custodian. Typically, silver ETFs are established as grantor trusts, where each share of the ETF represents the specific right to a precise amount of silver, measured in ounces.

Silver ETFs aim to track as closely as possible the spot price of silver on the open market.
The first to market was the iShares Silver Trust, managed by Barclays Global Investors and introduced in 2006.

BREAKING DOWN 'Silver ETF'

The introduction of silver and gold ETFs in the early 2000s opened up an attractive investment vehicle for both individual and institutional investors. Precious metals like silver are seen as a hedge against inflation. ETFs allow for greater liquidity than holding the metal itself, and are easier for individuals to access than the futures markets.

Silver ETFs held in taxable accounts are subject to a higher long-term capital-gains rate on any holdings of more than one year. Because silver ETFs are considered to be investments in the raw metal itself, gains are assessed on silver as a "collectible" and are subject to a 28% long-term capital-gains rate. Silver ETFs held in IRAs are not subject to this higher gains tax, having been given a special clearance by the Internal Revenue Service.

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