Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Friday, May 29, 2009


I've long been an admirer of silver, more so than gold. Don't get me wrongo, I appreciate gold as much as anybody; but there has always been something about silver that has given it an edge in my mind. Now I'm no hoarder of silver -- not yet, anyway; and I'm not particularly enamored of silver jewelry, or any jewelry, for that matter. Yet, having said that, I've been a collector of silver coins for over a decade now: primarily U.S. silver half dollar issues, along with the occasional dollars, dimes, quarters, and foreign silver, with a significant exploration of the fascinating world of Roman silver denarii (still missing you, Nerva!).

Up until this year, I've had an eye for silver mainly as a collector, with the aim of forming sets of coins of the best quality I could afford, and with little regard for silver's market value and/or melt value. But as I've been watching the stock market for the past year, my eye has been drawn constantly towards commodities; and gold's spectacular rise, especially over the last few months, was hard to miss. As of today, gold is over $950 an ounce in futures trading. I think, though, that it's overpriced right now. Regardless, I don't have that kind of money to invest.

Silver's performance is much more modest, more low-key, but in the end it could possibly end up being even more profitable than gold. Now it is well-known how precious metals serve as a hedge against inflation, which daily seems to be growing like a black cloud on our current economic horizon. The nagging worry I've had about that cloud has led me to consider multiple options for protecting my meagre wealth, beyond stuffing cash under my mattress (the cash is losing value daily, anyway). I have no faith in investing in anything I can't put my hands on anymore, or anything I don't completely understand (I think it was Warren Buffet who said, "If you don't understand it, don't buy it."). If it's one thing I do understand in the investing world, though, it's gold and silver. And I can buy silver.

As I stated, gold is well over $950 an ounce at present. Silver, however, is a more affordable $15. This, however, is likely to change. This article, while a bit above my understanding, nevertheless shows how silver could push past $50 an ounce in the next couple of years. (This has already been forseen by the author of the Survivalblog website, who has been fairly accurate with other predictions of late.)

So what am I doing to take advantage of this? Being as we are poor people, I have limited cash after our weekly budget takes a bite. I have managed, however, to buy small amounts of what is known as "junk silver" nearly every week over the past 4-5 months. Junk silver refers to U.S. coins issued for circulation before 1965; in that year, the dime, quarter, and half dollar went from a composition of 90% silver to their current (near-worthless) copper-nickel sandwich composition (check the CoinFlation.com website link at right for an idea of what the melt value of our current coins is worth). Mostly, I've been getting silver halves; their prices are more in line with melt value than silver dollars (the Peace type silver dollar is shown above), which tend to have somewhat higher than melt value prices due to the romance associated with them in popular culture. Silver halves, in Good to Very Good condition, can be had for $7-10 on Ebay, or $4-5 above current melt value, with the right seller (this takes some hunting). Silver dollars can be had for usually a minimum of $16, or six dollars above current melt value (again, this takes some hunting).

I do not buy Silver Eagles, the current silver dollar coin issued by the Mint, as they usually cannot be had for less than $20; too much above melt value for my liking. As for silver bars, I cannot comment, since I do not own any and have not tried to buy them. This leads me to another point about buying old silver coins: in a TEOTWAWKI situation, I suspect that old silver coins will be a standard medium of trade in a largely barter economy. You wouldn't want to trade a gold dollar for a loaf of bread; and it is doubtful that many outside collector and investor circles will even know what a U.S. Silver Eagle is. So the so-called "junk silver" coins of the past may have a practical circulating value again, if and WTSHTF.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"