This post is by staff writer Cindy Brick. Cindy has several published books and many published articles on a variety of subjects. You can visit her business website at CindyBrick.com or visit her personal blog.
Investing in Silver on a Shoestring
So you’ve managed to collect some extra funds for investing — but they’re not much. And definitely not what they could be. So why put them into anything except a nice dinner out, or a hot fudge sundae?
Because investment on the shoestring level can still pay off — handsomely.
Take silver. Like its flamboyant counterpart, gold, silver prices have been rising steadily in recent years. They still have some ups and downs, but the general rise has been up. And as one silver enthusiast, Jack Barnes, points out:
“A historic breakout in silver appears to be under way – in India. In other words, silver prices are starting to make a run in terms of the Indian rupee – but not in U.S. dollar terms. Silver is the last major commodity to break out, and the fact that it’s doing so in a foreign currency is tantamount to an early-warning signal that U.S. investors should place their silver bets in U.S. dollar terms.”
Silver has some interesting points in its favor:
* It’s still a major component for manufacturing. Silver has the highest conductivity rate of any element, and any metal, making it of special interest to energy companies, as well as computer giants like Intel. “Silver is looking cheap and we’re seeing strong investment demand for small ingots, as well as good industrial demand from solar-panel makers,” said Dick Poon, Hong Kong-based manager of precious metals trading at Heraeus Ltd., (Bloomberg News).
*It’s easier to store in ingot form than gold. And it’s not just the price, either — gold is heavy. A standard ‘London Good Delivery,’ the most common type of bar according to Grissoms, is 400 troy ounces — 27 pounds! Silver, on the other hand is most commonly in 1,5, 10 and 100 ounce bars. (Each ounce of .999, or nearly pure silver, weighs 31.1 grams. More on silver bullion here.) You can buy gold in smaller bar sizes, of course — but it will generally be larger and heavier than its ‘white metal’ counterpart — and far more expensive.
*It’s legal tender in coin form. (Not that you would spend these at face value…just saying.) Junk silver is what you want — half dollars, quarters and dimes minted in or before 1964, when coins were still 90% silver. (The term “junk,” by the way, refers to the coins’ value as a source of bullion. They’re generally not collectible for other reasons.) These cover Kennedy half dollars, Washington quarters and Mercury and Roosevelt dimes — and, if you’re ok with less silver content (40%, vs 90%), Kennedy half dollars from 1965-70.
You can still find these coins occasionally in loose change. Check your local Coinstar machine, a la Donna Freedman. (Or just keep your eyes open when walking.) Rolls and bags of coins are also available on Ebay for marked-up prices.
The Brick, my spouse, is a veteran junk silver buyer. His tips: look for a reputable seller who offers free or low shipping costs. Buy in larger quantities — half-rolls or more. (“They’ll really nail you on shipping and handling if it’s just one or two pieces.”) Although ‘finish’ (what the coin looks like), isn’t high on his list, the more circulated the coin has been, the less silver it will contain — so look for newer coins in better condition. (Silver wears off gradually as its handled.) His standard procedure: skim the auctions, then check Coinflation.com. “Start with their ‘melt’ price: how much you would get, if you melted that half dollar down. Subtract the shipping cost. That will be my base bid on Ebay, from 95-105% of that figure, depending on what the market is doing.”
*Wear it…or use it. How often can you actively handle your investments? If you’re displaying silver trays, tea sets, or wearing silver jewelry, you can. Get the highest quality possible. For purity, 92.5% in sterling silver is about as high as you’re going to get — and look for a reputable maker’s mark. (An excellent online guide is here.) Going to Mexico on vacation? Taxco is famous for its graceful silver jewelry…and reasonable prices.
Life may be “as good as gold” — but it’s silver that can make the difference for the frugal investor.
This is the first of an irregular series on shoestring investment options. Sure, you can get involved on a large scale, but small, regular investments are doable, too. Please note: I am a certified personal property appraiser — but not a professional investment counselor. These are my takes on the subject, albeit backed up with resesarch and expert opinions. Invest at your own risk.