What Was Silver Thursday? Hunt Brothers Attempt to Corner Silver

Published on 7 February 2024 at 05:23

Welcome to this in-depth exploration of Silver Thursday, a significant event in the history of the silver market. On March 27, 1980, the silver market experienced a dramatic crash that sent shockwaves through the financial world. This crash, known as Silver Thursday, was the result of the actions of the Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, who attempted to corner the silver market.

The Hunt brothers had accumulated massive quantities of silver, driving up the price to nearly $49 per ounce. However, their strategy ultimately backfired, causing a sharp decline in silver prices and leading to severe consequences for the Hunt brothers. The events of Silver Thursday serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of market manipulation and its lasting impacts on the commodities market.

Key Takeaways:

  • Silver Thursday refers to the crash that occurred on March 27, 1980, in the silver market.
  • The Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, attempted to corner the silver market by accumulating large amounts of silver.
  • Their strategy resulted in a surge in silver prices, reaching nearly $49 per ounce.
  • However, their actions eventually led to a significant drop in silver prices, causing severe consequences for the Hunt brothers.
  • Silver Thursday highlights the dangers of market manipulation and its lasting impacts on the commodities market.

The Precipice of Silver Thursday: A Background Investigation

In order to fully understand the events leading up to Silver Thursday, it is important to delve into the background of the key players involved. This section explores the rise of the Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, and the empire they built under the guidance of their father, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr. This powerful family dynasty, known as the Hunt Empire, played a significant role in shaping the events that unfolded in the silver market.

Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr. and the Hunt Empire

The Hunt Empire traces its roots back to the late Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr., a remarkable oil tycoon who built an immense fortune in the petroleum industry. With his foresight and business acumen, Hunt Sr. established a legacy that would be carried on by his sons.

The Beginnings of Silver Accumulation by Hunt Brothers

It was through their father's success that Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt were able to embark on their own venture into the commodities market, specifically in silver. Recognizing the value and potential of this precious metal, the Hunt brothers began accumulating vast quantities of silver, aiming to corner the market and drive up prices.

The Formation of International Metals Investment Company

As part of their strategic efforts to accumulate silver, the dynamic duo, along with their brother Lamar Hunt, established the International Metals Investment Company (IMIC). This Bermuda-based shell corporation served as a front for their silver dealings, enabling the Hunt brothers to discreetly amass their silver holdings.

The Hunt Brothers

Understanding the Commodities Market and Silver Futures

In this section, we will provide you with an overview of the commodities market and delve into the concept of silver futures trading. Understanding these key aspects is crucial for comprehending the dynamics of the silver market and the potential for price manipulation.

The Commodities Market

The commodities market, also known as the futures market, is where various raw materials, such as metals, energy, and agricultural products, are traded. This market allows individuals and businesses to manage price risks by entering into futures contracts, which are agreements to buy or sell a specific commodity at a predetermined price and date in the future.

The commodities market operates on the principle of supply and demand, with prices fluctuating based on factors such as global economic conditions, geopolitical events, and weather patterns. Traders and investors participate in this market to speculate on price movements, hedge against potential risks, or diversify their investment portfolios.

Silver Futures

Within the commodities market, silver futures contracts enable participants to trade silver at a future date and price. These contracts provide traders with the opportunity to speculate on the future value of silver without physically owning the metal.

Market dynamics play a significant role in silver futures trading, affecting prices and investment decisions. As with other commodities, the price of silver is impacted by factors such as supply and demand, economic indicators, geopolitical developments, and investor sentiment.

However, it is important to note that the silver futures market is not immune to potential price manipulation. The nature of futures trading leaves room for individuals or entities to influence prices artificially, leading to distortions in market dynamics.

By understanding the mechanics of the commodities market and silver futures, you gain insight into the complexities of price dynamics and the potential vulnerability to manipulation. This knowledge is essential for investors, regulators, and market participants to identify and address instances of price manipulation, ensuring transparency and integrity in the silver market.

The Brothers Hunt: Key Players in the Silver Boom

This section delves deeper into the role of the Hunt brothers in the silver market boom. It explores the individual contributions of Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, highlighting their personalities, ambitions, and their involvement in the silver market. Additionally, it examines the Hunt brothers' partnerships, particularly their connection to Saudi Arabian businessmen and the Saudi royal family. These partnerships played a significant role in the Hunt brothers' ability to corner the silver market.

Nelson Bunker Hunt: A Titan of Industry

Nelson Bunker Hunt was a prominent figure in the silver market and an influential titan of industry. Known for his business acumen, he was one of the key architects behind the Hunt brothers' strategy to accumulate silver. Nelson Bunker Hunt's ambitious nature and financial resources contributed to their success in driving up silver prices and creating a silver boom. His determination to dominate the silver market propelled the Hunt brothers to unprecedented heights.

William Herbert Hunt's Role and Ambitions

William Herbert Hunt, the younger brother of Nelson Bunker Hunt, played a significant role in the Hunt brothers' silver empire. While Nelson Bunker Hunt was the driving force behind their silver accumulation strategy, William Herbert Hunt provided essential support and expertise in executing their plans. His ambitions aligned with those of his brother, and together they pursued their vision for the silver market. William Herbert Hunt's involvement was instrumental in establishing the foundation for the silver boom that followed.

Partnerships Beyond Borders: The Saudi Connection

The Hunt brothers' partnerships extended beyond domestic alliances, with their notable connection to Saudi Arabian businessmen and the Saudi royal family. This Saudi connection proved crucial in the success of their silver manipulation. Through strategic collaborations and joint ventures, the Hunt brothers gained access to additional resources, financial support, and market intelligence. These partnerships strengthened their grip on the silver market, reinforcing their ability to manipulate prices for their advantage.

What was Silver Thursday

This section delves into the events of Silver Thursday on March 27, 1980, and explores the significant impact it had on the silver market and the broader economy. The Hunt brothers' strategy, aimed at cornering the silver market, led to a surge in silver prices and the subsequent crash that reverberated throughout the financial world.

March 27, 1980: The Crux of Silver Thursday

On March 27, 1980, the world witnessed the climax of the Hunt brothers' aggressive pursuit of the silver market. Their accumulation of massive amounts of silver had driven prices to unprecedented heights, reaching nearly $49 per ounce, a staggering increase from around $11 per ounce just months earlier.

From a Rally to A Crisis: The Bubble Bursts

Unfortunately, the Hunt brothers' bold strategy to dominate the silver market eventually backfired. As the price of silver skyrocketed, traders and investors grew increasingly skeptical, and regulators stepped in to curb the Hunt brothers' activities. With the introduction of margin calls and position limits, the foundations of the silver market began to shake.

The bubble that had formed as a result of the Hunt brothers' actions finally burst, leading to a significant drop in silver prices. Within a matter of days, silver plummeted to around $10 per ounce, leaving the Hunt brothers and those who had joined their cause in substantial financial distress.

Impact on the Market: Broader Economic Consequences

The repercussions of Silver Thursday extended far beyond the silver market itself. The crash had a domino effect on various sectors of the economy, causing financial institutions to suffer significant losses and resulting in a broader economic downturn.

The bursting of the silver bubble not only undermined investor confidence but also led to increased scrutiny and tighter regulations in commodity markets. The crash exposed the vulnerabilities of unchecked manipulation and highlighted the need for greater oversight to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Aftermath of Silver Thursday and Its Ripple Effects

After the events of Silver Thursday, the market was left to grapple with the aftermath and the far-reaching ripple effects. The Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, faced severe legal repercussions for their attempt to corner the silver market through market manipulation. Their actions had significant financial consequences, leading to a substantial decline in their family's wealth and the need for financial restructuring.

Furthermore, the Commodity Exchange (Comex) responded to the market turmoil by implementing stricter regulations to prevent similar incidents in the future. One notable regulation introduced was the Silver Rule 7, which aimed to safeguard the market against excessive speculation and manipulation of silver prices.

The repercussions of Silver Thursday highlighted the need for stronger market regulations and oversight to maintain the integrity and stability of financial markets. The events served as a cautionary tale of the devastating consequences that can arise from unchecked market manipulation.

A Comparative Inquiry: Silver vs. Oil Market Dynamics

When examining the dynamics of the commodities market, it is essential to compare the dynamics of different commodities to gain a comprehensive understanding of their behavior. In this section, we will explore the similarities and differences between the silver market and the oil market, focusing on their respective dynamics and price fluctuations.

The silver market is known for its volatility, with prices often experiencing significant fluctuations in response to various factors such as economic indicators, geopolitical events, and market sentiment. On the other hand, the oil market also exhibits price volatility, but it is influenced by additional factors such as global supply and demand dynamics, OPEC decisions, and geopolitical tensions in major oil-producing regions.

Both the silver and oil markets are subject to fluctuations in global demand and supply, which profoundly impact their prices. This is particularly evident in the oil market, where changes in production levels, inventories, and consumption patterns can lead to substantial price movements. In contrast, the silver market dynamics are influenced by a combination of industrial demand, investor sentiment, and the monetary policies of central banks.

Furthermore, the silver market is heavily influenced by speculative activity, making it prone to price manipulation and sharp price swings. While the oil market also experiences speculation, the sheer size and global significance of the oil industry provide a more balanced market with less susceptibility to manipulation.

One notable similarity between the silver and oil markets is the impact of global economic conditions on their prices. Economic factors such as inflation, interest rates, and economic growth play significant roles in determining the demand for both silver and oil. In times of economic uncertainty or geopolitical tensions, both commodities can serve as safe havens for investors, driving up their prices.

Despite these similarities, it is essential to recognize that the silver and oil markets are distinct in their underlying dynamics and drivers. While the silver market is closely tied to industrial demand and precious metal investment trends, the oil market's dynamics are influenced by factors such as energy consumption patterns, technological advancements, and environmental regulations.

In conclusion, understanding the dynamics of both the silver and oil markets provides valuable insights into the complexities of trading and pricing commodities. By examining the similarities and differences in how these markets function and respond to various factors, investors and traders can make more informed decisions in their commodity investments. It is important to note that both markets are subject to price fluctuations driven by a multitude of factors, making them dynamic and potentially lucrative areas for investment.


The events of Silver Thursday serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of market manipulation and the far-reaching consequences it can have. The Hunt brothers' attempt to corner the silver market led to a dramatic price surge followed by a catastrophic crash, leaving a lasting impact on the commodities market. This historic event highlights the importance of maintaining transparency and fair practices in financial markets to ensure their stability and integrity.

One of the key lessons learned from the events of Silver Thursday is the need for vigilant regulation and oversight to prevent market manipulation. The legal repercussions faced by the Hunt brothers serve as a deterrent and reinforce the importance of enforcing regulations that protect against unfair and deceptive practices. The response of regulatory bodies, such as the introduction of the Silver Rule 7 by Comex, demonstrates the industry's commitment to preventing similar incidents in the future.

Furthermore, the story of Silver Thursday emphasizes the need for investors to exercise caution and conduct thorough research before making investment decisions. It serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that even seemingly infallible strategies can have dire consequences. By understanding the dynamics of the commodities market and being aware of the potential for manipulation, investors can make informed decisions and mitigate their risks.


Q: What does it mean to "corner the silver market"?

A: To "corner the silver market" means to gain control over a significant portion of the market for silver. The term originated from the Hunt Brothers' attempt to acquire a large amount of silver and thus drive the price up to immense heights. Their acquisitions were so significant they held billions of ounces of silver.

Q: Who are the Hunt Brothers and why did they attempt to corner the silver market?

A: The Hunt Brothers, members of a billionaire Hunt family, were American oil industry magnates. In the late 70s and early 80s, they made significant silver purchases with the aim to control the silver prices. Their intent was to hoard a massive quantity of physical silver, thereby reducing its availability in the market, and consequently, drive the price up.

Q: How did the Hunt Brothers try to corner the silver market?

A: The Hunt Brothers began buying silver as early as the mid-1970s. Their purchases increased in the late 70s, using leverage and buying on margin via commodities firms - most notably Bache Halsey Stuart Shields. At one point, they reportedly possessed about 1.1 billion ounces of silver, nearly a third of the world's supply of privately-held silver.

Q: What impact did the Hunt Brothers' efforts have on silver prices?

A: The Hunt Brothers were successful in their attempts to drive the price up initially. From 1979 to 1980, the price of silver rose from just over $6 per ounce to a record high of nearly $50 per ounce. This was largely because of their large and frequent silver purchases.

Q: Did the Hunt Brothers successfully corner the silver market?

A: No, the Hunt Brothers did not successfully corner the silver market. Their attempts led to a bubble in the silver market, and when it burst, the price of silver dropped dramatically. This happened on a day known as Silver Thursday.

Q: What is Silver Thursday and why is it significant?

A: Silver Thursday is the day the price of silver began to drop rapidly as a result of regulatory changes and margin calls. It occurred on March 27, 1980. Its significance comes from the Hunt Brothers' failure to fulfill a margin call of 100 million dollars set by Bache Halsey Stuart Shields, triggering panic-selling and leading to a collapse in the silver market.

Q: What was the aftermath of the Hunt Brothers' silver venture?

A: After the failure to corner the silver market, the Hunt Brothers faced bankruptcy as they were unable to fulfill their obligations to commodities brokerages. By 1988, the Hunt Brothers finally missed a margin call and declared bankruptcy. An investigation into the Hunt Brothers was launched by the Federal Reserve, and they were subsequently held responsible for manipulating the silver market.

Q: What is the "silver rule 7" and how does it relate to the Hunt Brothers?

A: "Silver rule 7" was a rule implemented by the commodities exchanges in response to the Hunt Brothers' attempt to corner the silver market. It was designed to control market manipulation by limiting the number of contracts any one trader could hold.

Q: How did the attempt to corner the silver market affect the Hunt Family’s net worth?

A: The Hunt family’s net worth, which was at its peak roughly around 1.7 billion dollars, plunged significantly after their failed attempt to corner the silver market. They were penalized millions of dollars by the Federal Reserve for market manipulation and they had to file for bankruptcy.

Q: What are the long-term effects of the Hunt Brothers' attempt to corner the silver market?

A: The Hunt Brothers' attempt to corner the silver market led to significant changes in market regulations, including greater control over speculative trading. It also resulted in a lasting distrust in the silver market, as the dramatic price fluctuations left many investors financially ruined.

      Author Bio: Adam Taylor  

Author Bio: Adam Taylor

  Adam Taylor  

Designation: Founder & CEO


Bio: It all started with Scrooge McDuck. Adam has been fascinated with gold ever since he saw Scrooge McDuck dive into his pool of gold when he was a child. This started a lifelong love affair of precious metals. Adam has invested 10% of his wealth into gold and silver because he believes in their power to retain wealth.


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