The reason I invest in silver coins

December 17th, 2007

Silver Coin GroupI have already written a bit about my affinity in my post, What I Blow Money On, but today as a follow up to my article on investing in gold it seems like a good time to talk a bit more about precious metals before we move on. In addition I am going to provide you some of my own rules on buying silver coins.

First let me lay out my case for why silver is a good investment. Simply put all metal commodities are doing very well right now and will continue to do so. Heck even copper is getting rather expensive. Back in the 80s I remember copper going for about 70 cents a pound. Today it is hovering in the range of 2.80-3.00!

Many people see silver as a “poor man’s gold” and I think that is rather short sighted. First I don’t care if silver is ounce for ounce far cheaper then gold if you have 1000 dollars worth of gold or 1000 dollars worth of silver you are holding the same value. Now silver and gold are true brothers in my opinion and the price of one is indeed tied to the price of the other. While they are not completely pinned to one another and the Hunt Brothers debacle will skew numbers from the 80s and early 90s there is a strong correlation (precentage wise) to movements between the two. To get an idea of the correlation look at the two graphs below which cover 1997-2007…

silver and gold historical pricing

As you can see again while not lock step with each other the two metals perform very closely to each other on the open market.

So why not just buy gold? Understand I am not saying to not buy gold it is just that I truly “invest in gold” I buy through my broker and I buy both actual gold, gold funds and stock in gold companies. I have nothing against doing the same with silver but I prefer to actually buy, hold, touch and own my silver mostly in the form of coins.

Why? Two answers….

First, because I love silver coins, they are history, they are beautiful and they are something material to me that I can look at and appreciate. In this way Silver Coins offer me something that 95% of my other investments can’t. Sure I can look at my stock certificates but there isn’t much fun in that. Most of my other investments are just numbers on paper then don’t have the feel, look and glitter of my coins.

Second, because investing in many different things and in many different methods creates diversity. The beauty of silver coins (at least of the type I purchase) have most of their value in the silver basis price. I can “cash in” anytime I want and do so with no paper work or government red tape. I can literally walk into a shop, sell my coins and walk out. Holding silver coins is like holding cash money with out the cancer of inflation upon it.

So what rules to I have for investing in silver? Here they are but understand these are no ones rules but my own. A few you really should follow but others are more about your risk tolerance and your personal view about numismatic values.

1. I do not belong to nor do I buy my silver in any kind of “club” or any highly advertised coin supplier. In particular Littleton Coins is among the worse places of all to buy coins. Their prices are generally 40-90% higher then local coin shops in my area. I buy from local merchants or only via mail order if the price is as good or better then local pricing.

2. Directly related to the above, I am not on any type of auto shipping or monthly arranged purchases. I buy what I want as I find it and as I want it. My silver investments are truely incremental investments outside of my conventional portfolio.

3. I never buy “junk silver coins” which are large unknown lots of mostly 1960s and older dimes and quarters. Most are worn so badly you can scarcely read the dates.

4. While I don’t buy junk coins I also don’t buy highly numismatic valued coins. In other words I never buy a coin where the bulk of the coins value is based on how “collectible” or “rare” it is. Such values are highly subjective and only represent a “real value” if you can find a buyer. Try buying a 200 dollar silver dollar this week and see what the same shop will pay you for it (with out a big jump in price) the following week. This is the one rule that I understand when others break, this is my personal preference but I have my reasons.

5. What I do buy are Silver American eagles as they are priced right about bullion prices. I also buy high quality but common Franklin, Kennedy and Walking Liberty Half dollars which are still quite affordable and made of 90% pure silver. My other big favorites are the more common Morgan and Peace dollars. These coins to me represent a nice mix and all are very affordable and most importantly highly tied in value to the silver basis.

So what is my advice? Well I think it makes a lot of sense to buy some silver over the years and just have it as a hedge against inflation not to mention an investment that remain liquid in both the best and worst of times. The beauty is you can buy say a 10-20 dollar coin just once or twice a month if you don’t have a lot of extra money to invest. Even that over the years can build a nice collection and a lot of real value. I personally buy between 20-150 dollars a month of silver and have been doing so since 1995. As you can see by the graphs in this article that has been a very good move.

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