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The Stanley Cup's high cost (it's not the missing teeth)

Canada's Stanley Cup drought is verging on 20 years, but this year more than ever, it might be a good idea for the Vancouver Canucks to bring home the trophy for safe keeping. It's worth too much on the open market.

As Louis Vachon, the head of National Bank of Canada, noted, the soaring price of silver makes the Cup a hotter commodity than usual.

"For national reasons we all want the cup back in Canada," Mr. Vachon joked during a speech in Toronto last week, where he expressed mock worry about what could happen if the Cup falls into U.S. hands once more.

"But now we have another reason ... silver is trading at $48 an ounce. The Americans have a bit of debt as you know. So we want to bring it back before they melt if for its silver content."

The quip got more than a few laughs, given the $1.7-trillion (U.S.) national deficit the U.S. is running with no clear sign of where the funds are going to come from. But with silver prices rising more than 150 per cent over the past year, faster than any other precious metal including gold, melting down the Cup (sadly) would bring an attractive return on the paltry 10 guineas Lord Stanley paid for the original punch bowl in 1892.

The Cup, which has since had several rings added to it and now contains about 459.74 troy ounces of silver, is worth $20,885.19 as of the end of April, based on its silver content. In fact, the team that wins it this year will be lifting a trophy worth nearly 50 per cent more than what it was valued at when Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks won it in 2010.

So in an effort to combine two national obsessions – springtime hockey and precious metal speculation – we priced out the worth of each Cup over the past 40 years.

Mr. Vachon's beloved Montreal Canadiens (National Bank is based in Montreal and owns a minority stake in the Habs) claimed the most expensive Cup in the past 40 years. However, barring an unexpected collapse in silver prices, that record is all but guaranteed to fall this year.

Their 1979 victory over the New York Rangers came as Texas oil tycoons William and Nelson Hunt attempted to corner the silver market, causing prices to spike dramatically. Valued at $17,296.55 (Canadian), and all figures not including inflation, the silver in the '79 Cup was worth more than all four of Wayne Gretzky's Stanley Cups combined in the 1980s.

Here is the yearly valuation for the silver content in the Stanley Cup, which the Hockey Hall of Fame says is 97 per cent silver. All figures, including silver prices, have been converted to Canadian dollars. The average silver price for each corresponding year is used, except for 2011, which is the year-to-date average.

2011 $20,885.19

2010 $14,132.99

2009 $8,193.34

2008 $6,374.29

2007 $6,741.30

2006 $6,913.66

2005 $4,710.77

2004 $3,769.22

2003 $3,540.55

2002 $3,463.36

2001 $3,382.67

2000 $3,176.43

1999 $3,578.75

1998 $3,558.29

1997 $3,951.97

1996 $3,036.07

1995 $3,230.68

1994 $3,164.53

1993 $3,119.79

1992 $2,143.03

1991 $2,051.08

1990 $2,235.48

1989 $2,777.15

1988 $3,317.66

1987 $4,014.49

1986 $3,353.25

1985 $3,729.09

1984 $3,820.80

1983 $5,097.82

1982 $6,145.25

1981 $4,447.11

1980 $8,511.99

1979 $17,296.55

1978 $3,284.89

1977 $2,393.36

1976 $2,020.97

1975 $1,953.53

1974 $2,038.72

1973 $1,490.93

1972 $929.64

1971 $631.82

All prices converted to Canadian dollars, not adjusted for inflation.

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