Silver coins and silver bullion also discussed
Investors buy silver coins, silver bullion coins, and coin silver for one of three purposes: as an investment, as an inflation hedge, or for survival purposes. Investors who buy for investment purposes look for price increases because of silver’s supply/demand fundamentals. For example, in 1998 Warren Buffett purchased 129.7 million ounces of silver for Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company that Buffet heads.
Buffett’s silver purchase, which became legendary among silver investors, was probably for investment purposes. However, it may have been an inflation hedge; Buffett did not say. In fact, Buffett said very little about his silver investment, even after he disposed of it. One thing is certain, however, Buffett did not buy 129.7 million ounces of silver for survival purposes.
Buying silver bullion as an inflation hedge
Investors who want protection against inflation buy silver and gold as inflation hedges. During the 1970s, silver and gold prices skyrocketed in response to price inflation that reached 13%. During the ’70s, popular silver and gold investments included any form of silver bullion, from 1-oz silver rounds and pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver coins to 100-oz silver bars and 1-oz Krugerrand gold coins. When the Federal Reserve brought inflation under control in the 1980s, much of the silver bullion and the gold coins purchased in the 1970s were sold and the proceeds put back in paper investments.
Silver coins for the worst-case scenario
Investors who buy silver and gold for survival purposes fear the worst. Those fears include the Federal Reserve printing so many dollars that the dollar will become worthless, which is the history of all paper currencies not redeemable in gold or silver. Fear of a financial meltdown, which would close banks as in Argentina and Paraguay in 2002, is another.
Argentineans and Paraguayans who had to foresight to bail out of the banking systems and convert their assets to gold or coin silver were protected. Not only did banks close, but also when they reopened depositors were limited in the amount of money they could withdraw. Meanwhile, the Argentinean peso and the Paraguayan guarani sank in value. Shortly after those crises, Brazil defaulted on its international debt and its paper currency, the real, sank.
Those are the kinds of situations that investors who buy coin silver and small gold coins for survival purposes want to protect against. In doing so, these investors buy silver and gold in forms that can be used for money or to barter for goods and services.
Buying silver bullion and silver coins for barter
Small gold coins for barter
The most useful forms of gold would be fractional-ounce gold coins, such as the 1/10-oz Gold Eagles, the 1/10-oz Krugerrands, the 1/4-oz Gold Eagles and the1/4-oz Krugerrands. But, before going forward, it is imperative that we discuss which coins to avoid. That is because hundreds of web pages promote numismatic and collector coins, as well as foreign coins. Such coins are simply wrong for survival purposes.
If the time ever comes that silver coins and gold coins were again used as money, coins would be worth only their metal content. Numismatic (collector) premiums would disappear. Anyone using gold or silver coins to buy goods or services would not be asked, “What’s the mint mark on your coin?” Nor will they be asked, “When was it minted?” The question would be, “What’s the gold content?” Hand someone a St. Gaudens and tell him it contains .9675 ounce of gold, and it will be difficult–if not impossible–to convince him to accept it at more than .9675 times the price of gold.
Numismatic premiums are fleeting in normal markets. (See our Double Eagle coins page.); you may also want to read our Myths, Misunderstandings, and Outright Lies page, which exposes the tactics used by telemarketers. Additonally, The Dangers of Buying Gold is a short warning about buying from telemarketers. Numismatic coins are bad investments for the average investor anytime; for survival purposes, they are simply wrong.
If you ever need to use your silver and gold to buy goods and services, you will want silver coins and small gold coins. Additionally, those coins should have certain characteristics to ensure they are readily accepted. First, survival coins should be stamped in English. Most Americans do not read foreign languages.
Second, the coins should have their gold or silver contents stamped on them; except for the modern bullion coins, most do not. In an emergency, having the gold content stamped on a coin could go a long way toward causing someone to accept it.
Bartering with silver coins
If your furnace goes out in January, the local heating guy may have never seen a gold coin before. If you hand him a $20 St. Gaudens, how does he know it contains a little less than an ounce? If you try to get him to take British Sovereigns, how can you prove they contain .2354 ounce each? Try convincing the guy at the auto parts store that a French 20 franc contains .1867 ounce of gold.
Third, the coins you buy for survival purposes should contain amounts with which Americans are comfortable. Americans understand one-ounce, 1/2-ounce, 1/4-ounce, and 1/10-ounce coins. Americans do not easily grasp the concept of .2354 ounce or .1867 ounce.
For survival purposes, avoid arcane foreign gold coins. (Despite more British Sovereigns having been minted than any other coin, Sovereigns are not well known in the U.S.) Simply buy the popular modern bullion coins. Krugerrands are the cheapest and best known. American Eagle gold coins are also readily recognized in the U.S., but carry higher premiums (markups over spot) than Krugerrands.
Both Krugerrands and Gold Eagle come in four sizes: one-ounce, 1/2-ounce, 1/4-ounce, and 1/10-ounce. For more information, visit our Modern Gold Bullion Coins page. (If you have been told that bullion coins are subject to confiscation and that old U.S. gold coins and/or foreign coins dated before 1933 are exempt, you really need to read Myths, Misunderstandings, and Outright Lies.)
Another plus for Krugerrands and Gold Eagles is that both are basic bullion coins and sell at small mark-ups over the value of their gold content. Generally, however, Krugerrands carry lower premiums than Gold Eagles, but both Krugerrands and Gold Eagles carry smaller premiums than foreign coins of comparable sizes. And certainly, Krugerrands and Gold Eagles are cheaper than old U.S. gold coins.
Silver bullion or gold bullion?
Finally, the question arises whether to buy silver or gold. Probably both, but if you are investing $10,000 or less, go exclusively with one-ounce silver rounds or circulated pre-1965 UD 90% silver coins. Pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver coins are commonly called junk silver coins because they have no collector value and trade for the value of their silver content. If you are investing larger amounts, say $30,000 up, you may want silver and gold.
If conditions were to deteriorate to the point that silver and gold re-emerged as the preferred forms of money, you would want lots of small silver coins. If you were buying canned food, you would need silver coins because gold coins, even 1/10-ounce ones, would have great value. If you have only silver coins and need to buy something of high value, then you simply trade a larger number of silver coins.
At current prices, an investment in silver results about fifty times the bulk and weight than if the same investment were made in gold. Therefore, large investments in silver create storage and handling challenges for some people. If storage and handling is a problem for you, then go exclusively with 1/10-oz Krugerrands or 1/10-oz Gold Eagles for the first $10,000 or so. Still, try to have some silver coins on hand.
Buy silver bullion coins or junk silver coins?
When buying for survival purposes, many investors have a tough time choosing between one-ounce silver rounds and junk silver coins. Rounds have their silver content and purity stamped on them. However, circulated pre-65 US. 90% silver coins once served as money in the US. and could do so again.
Actually, US. 90% silver coins were used for money in the US as recently as the late 1960s, and many Americans remember using them. Yet pre-65 silver coins do not have their silver content stamped on them, but if the dollar were repudiated people would quickly learn the value of pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver coins.
Another differene between 1-oz silver rounds and junk silver coins: With junk silver coins, you get many more pieces of silver. For example, a $1000 face value bag of junk silver contains right at 715 ounces of silver. Buy a bag of dimes, and you get 10,000 dimes; buy a bag of quarters, and you get 4,000 quarters. Buy 715 one-ounce silver rounds, and you get 715 pieces of silver.