These are good days for silver exchange traded funds, both the physically-backed and equity-based varieties.

No, 2014 is not yet reminiscent of the early 1980s when the Hunt brothers cornered the silver market. Nor is this year yet on par with 2010 when the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV) surged nearly 83%, but considering the damage inflicted upon the metal last year (SLV plunged 36.3%), these are better days to be long silver.

The PureFunds ISE Junior Silver Small Cap Miners/Explorers ETF (NYSEArca: SILJ) has benefited from silver’s resurgence in significant fashion. Even with Wednesday’s 5.5% decline, SILJ ranks as one this year’s best non-leveraged ETFs with a 39% gain. [Seven Mining ETFs to Remember]

Investors have taken notice of SILJ’s out-performance of physical silver ETFs and rival mining funds. The fund started 2014 with just 150,000 shares outstanding, but that number has since swelled to 400,000.

That means SILJ’s assets under management tally has dramatically compounded, at least on a percentage basis. Granted, it is coming off a low base, but with $5.6 million in AUM as of Feb. 18, SILJ’s assets total has quadrupled since the start of the year.  Importantly, the fund’s increased assets and uptick in volume has led to lower bid/ask spreads. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, spreads on SILJ were over 1%, but have declined to around 90 basis points. [Shine On Silver Miners]

Even with the recent run-up, fundamental catalysts linger for higher silver prices.

“Only a few central banks have any silver holdings at all and if they decided to start diversifying their reserves, they could really move the needle,” PureFunds CEO Andrew Chanin told ETF Trends.

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