“Buy silver” is the mantra promoted by many preppers. For those of you pondering this, you may be wondering exactly what the best silver for survival to buy actually is. That’s a good question, and I have a suggestion toward the end of this article, but before you race there to see, it’s important to read through the entire article so you can get a full understanding preppers and their affinity for silver.
I’m not only a prepper, but I’ve bought and sold silver countless times over the years, so while I am no coin expert, I know enough about silver to navigate the market and know where to buy it, what to buy, and what sells best should you need to offload it.
Why Preppers Invest in Silver
Preppers like precious metals, and they generally favor silver over gold or platinum. There are several reasons for this.
Gold and silver love bad economic news. When times get tough, people flock to precious metals. These metals are seen as safe haven assets when economic uncertainty abounds. If you’re prepping, you’re doing it because you think times are or will be tough. It only makes sense that preppers would see precious metals as an extension of their preps.
Silver and gold have intrinsic value. People might debate the intrinsic value of metals (it has different definitions depending on who you ask), but the important point here is that the value of the metal is within the metal itself.
Compare that, for example, to a paper dollar bill. There is no value in the paper, only in what the paper represents. With precious metals, you hold the worth of it in your hand. The comparison is the same as stocks (representing ownership of a company) and real estate (something you can touch).
Silver can be used for bartering. If the grid goes down, SHTF and TEOTWAWKI hits, paper currency will be useless. People will need to rely on something else as an exchange of value, and what better than precious metals? Gold and silver have very long histories of use as currency.
The problem with gold being used for bartering is that it’s just so expensive. It’s hard to barter with a 1oz gold coin. How do you break it up? Compare that to “junk” silver, which is much easier to work with as a currency in transactions.
The Silver Preference
Silver has been called “the poor man’s gold,” but if you own a good pile of silver, that doesn’t sound so poor to me. In fact, while there are obvious similarities between gold and silver, it is widely recognized within the prepper community that silver is the preferred metal. There are several reasons for this.
Silver costs less. You can buy silver more easily than gold because you can get in more easily thanks to the lower price. This allows you to start building your stash more quickly and to more easily increase it over time. Spending a little money to have ounces of silver in your hand creates a faster sense of gratification than waiting months to save for an ounce of gold.
Silver has more uses than gold. Silver is used in photography, jewelry, batteries, electronics, and bearings. Additional uses include medical applications, solar energy, food hygiene and water purification. Silver is thus more versatile. It has more real world applications.
Second is easier to use than gold. Silver is better for bartering, no question. Gold is difficult to divide as currency, hard to barter for an ounce of gold. You get many ounces of silver to one ounce of gold.
Why Buying Silver is a Bad Idea
Let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment, because there are many preppers who will tell you buying silver is a terrible idea, and their arguments are not without merit.
The reason buying silver is a bad idea is because you are buying a “useless” item. I know I just went over its many uses, but from a prepper’s perspective, after a collapse, how – exactly – are you going to use that silver?
It’s not going to keep you warm. You can’t cook with it. You can’t eat it. You can’t heal wounds with it. Oh – right – bartering. Well, when the apocalypse hits and you want to offer me a few silver coins for my post-apocalyptic cans of Spam, know what my response will be? Take a hike!
The argument goes that you are much better off buying bulk ammo and freeze-dried foods. Items like those you can use after the apocalypse and use for bartering. In some preppers’ minds, that’s win-win.
Back on the opposite side of the silver coin, what if the apocalypse never actually hits and you have shelves upon shelves of freeze-dried food? Are you going to eat it all? You might… might. But silver – that will last longer than any can of freeze-dried food and it can be used to put toward a house, car, or left in your will for surviving family members.
So, if you’re in the “silver is a waste” mindset, you can probably stop reading here. If, on the other hand, you love that shiny metal as much as I do, read about…
5 Ways to Buy Silver
I am going to talk about the types of silver you can buy, not necessarily how to actually pay someone for it. If you want to purchase silver, you can either visit your local coin dealer or visit one of the many retailers online such as Money Metals Exchange (my favorite) or Universal Coin.
There are 5 basic ways you can buy silver:
- silver “stuff” (junk coins, mint coins, bars, and rounds),
- junk silver,
- silver eagles,
- silver rounds, and
- silver bars.
There are other ways to invest in silver, through stocks in mining companies as an example, but they don’t put the actual silver in your hand, which is silver’s best attribute, and from a prepper’s perspective, all that matters.
1 – Buy Silver “Stuff”
Once you begin looking for it, you will find silver all over the place. In fact, you probably own some already in sterling silver jewelry. Silver was also used extensively in higher-end silverware, serving dishes, etc. These products hold their value. You may not get collector-level value for them, but they will always be worth their “melt value,” i.e. what the silver content is worth if the products were melted down.
What is sterling silver and how does it differ from pure silver?
Sterling silver is pure silver mixed with a bit of copper, zinc, or nickel – 7.5% to be exact. That makes sterling silver 92.5% pure. These other metals are added to make the end product more functional, because with out it, the product would simply be too soft as pure silver.
Sterling silver is usually stamped “SS” or “92.5” or something similar. That leaves no question as to how much silver it contains. You simply weigh the item and take 92.5% of the weight. That’s how much silver you have. Buying silver stuff may hold interest for some, particularly if you see it as a hobby. There are some pretty, old items out there sold as “scrap silver.”
Pure silver is 99.9% silver and it is what most silver rounds and bars are made from. You will not find 100% pure silver. It doesn’t exist.
You can get pure silver “stuff,” however, but it is mostly novelty, such as these silver “bullets” I purchased from Money Metals Exchange.
You will pay a little extra for these for the novelty factor, but they’re fun.
2 – Junk Silver
Junk silver is what most preppers believe to be the best method. Junk silver mainly refers to older coins that are made of varying amounts of silver with 90% being the most common.
They’re called “junk” only because they hold no collector value. The value in the coin is in the silver itself. They’re plentiful and most people know what they’re worth.
A good site to check the value of older coins is Coinflation. There you can check daily prices for old coins of different years. Generally, if you have a coin made before 1965 it has silver in it.
Rarely you might find such an old coin in your daily travels, but very rarely. People scooped these up long ago. I hear that casinos will still come across them from older people who bring out stashes of old quarter to insert into the machines. These casinos then separate those coins and sell them in bulk.
Years ago I ran an experiment. I went to the bank and asked for $100 worth of rolled dimes. I spent probably an hour going through each and every one. I found ONE pre-1965 dime. It wasn’t worth the search. My eyes couldn’t see straight by the end of it.
If you’re good at it, though, and have good hearing, you can pick up the different sound a junk silver coin makes. That is a faster way of sifting through coins if you’re adept at it and are in a situation where you are handling mass amounts of old coins.
3 – Silver Eagles
Everyone knows the silver eagle. They are made by the U.S. Mint and they are beautiful coins. You will pay a premium for these coins.
Why do they cost more? The detail in them is astounding. That detail not only makes them more attractive, but it also makes them much harder to make fakes of, giving the owner better odds of owning the real deal and creating greater buyer confidence when selling them.
Interestingly, where these coins are made by the U.S. Mint, they are stamped with “1oz. Fine Silver – One Dollar.” In other words, they are worth their silver value and function as a one-dollar silver coin.
Not that you would ever use them that way, of course.
4 – Silver Rounds
Silver rounds are essentially like silver coins, but they are not forged by the U.S. mint. They have no value beyond the silver content they contain. These come in all kinds of different variations. Here are a few I own:
The Merry Christmas round is one of several I was buying every Christmas to put in my son’s stocking. On that note, silver rounds, bars, and eagles are all great stocking stuffers and birthday gifts.
Rounds are attractive, affordable and easily carried. They are easy to buy, sell, count, and stack.
5 – Silver Bars
Silver bars, like rounds, are another way to buy silver. They come .999 fine and come as small as a single gram and can go up to 100 ounces or more!
Bars are stamped with their weight and percent silver. They have a uniform size so it’s easy to store and handle them. They are recognized around the world making them easy to use as currency.
My favorite silver bar by far is the Royal Canadian Mint Bar. They are made by an actual governmental mint, the are not just .999 pure but .9999 pure, they are stamped with a serial number, and forged in such a way that makes them significantly difficult to counterfeit (stamped back and ridges).
What is the Best Silver for Survival to Buy?
The moment you’ve been waiting for. In my opinion, the best silver for preppers to buy is a mix of both junk silver coins and silver eagles.
This is based on both recognizing the prepper desire to have silver for bartering purposes and the present day value of different coins and – particularly – the ability to quickly sell your silver should you need to.
Junk silver coins are easy to buy, comparatively less money to buy, and they are the ultimate precious metal barter coin. Coming as small as a dime and as large as a half dollar, you will have no problem using junk silver coins for bartering when the collapse hits. They are also widely recognized.
Silver eagles are probably the most sought after silver product out there. I had a healthy stock of junk, rounds, bars, and eagles at one time. I had enough that I wanted to sell them so I could have the money to use toward home improvements. I listed the silver on Craigslist, and I can tell you that everyone went nuts for the eagles. That was significantly less interest in all other silver products. This spoke volumes.
How Much Silver Should a Prepper Have
How much silver should you stock? Hard to say, that’s a bit relative to your situation. Suffice to say, it should not be the first, second, third, or fourth type of product you should buy if you’re just getting into prepping. In fact, I would advise against it entirely until you are well on your way with other preps.
That said, silver is really fun to buy and hold. You can watch the market go up and down and play investor. Some investors also suggest owning precious metals as part of your larger investment strategy.
Silver also makes a great gift, so that gives you an excuse to buy some (as if you needed an excuse).
If you are storing your silver in your home, and you have a fair amount of it, make sure to keep it in a fireproof lockbox and that you have assessed all of the places to hide valuables in your house. That’s the danger of keeping wealth in your home – fire and burglaries.
I always kept mind inside a safe deposit box at the local bank. To each his/her own.
Want to read more on silver and precious metal investing? Try these titles:
- Precious Metals Investing for Dummies
- Guide to Investing in Gold & Silver: Protect Your Financial Future
- Stack Silver Get Gold – How to Buy Gold and Silver Bullion Without Getting Ripped Off!
Those are my thoughts on silver. Let me know yours in the comments section.