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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Precious metals: a prep or a waste?

So, lots of survivalists push precious metals, others say they're a waste of time. Who is right? Let's take a look.

Complete worldwide TEOTWAWKI
In a complete, worldwide TEOTWAWKI situation that knocks out all infrastructure, topples all governments and destroys all economies, will precious metals have value? To people who are starving to death or dying of thirst, not so much. You can't eat or drink gold, so yes - there's no demand and your metals are of little use in the initial stages post-TEOTWAWKI.

If, however, there is enough stability that young people are getting married or men are buying their wives jewelry, then hey, your metals will have some value. That is what people use gold for now, it's what they've used it for hundreds and even thousands of years. A token of appreciation and love and a status symbol. That's not going to change - when people get married, precious metals are involved, and they will work or pay a good amount to buy 'em.

Heck, you don't need a whole lot of stability for people to be marrying and gift-giving, and with higher mortality rates and the logistical need for a husband/wife unit, people will get married younger and more often. There may be a surplus of wedding bands to pull from the corpses of the unlucky, but I think your metals will have some value.

So, post-TEOTWAWKI, if you're out of the initial "everyone's starving" stage and living in some measure of local stability, your precious metals will have value to others.

Other SHTF Situations

Mankind hasn't had a complete, worldwide TEOTWAWKI situation yet, so we can place that fairly low on the list of probability. Higher on the probability list are things like hyperinflation, nationwide troubles and civil war.

Things like hyperinflation and collapsing currencies have happened time and time again, and precious metals are a hedge against that. Your local currency loses its value but your metals will retain their value.

Many people have needed to make a speedy exit from their native countries when dictators took power, mobs took over or war broke out. See Germany during and post-WWII. These are the real-deal bug out situations that we saw plenty of in the 20th century, where you've gotta bail on your homeland and head for somewhere more stable and safe. You can't stop by the bank on your way out. In this situation, precious metals, especially gold and platinum are a very compact and transportable form of wealth. A single pound of gold - sixteen one-ounce Gold Eagles currently has a melt value of $19,280, and the flat little coins can easily be concealed or sewn into clothing or bags.You can use your precious metals to get your family set up and safe in your new home.

Finally, precious metals, unlike most of the rest of your preps, have investment value. That means you can sell some off when you're old, TEOTWAWKI hasn't come, and you need to support your retired-self. At a minimum, gold gets you out of the fiat currency that you hold and the associated risks. Which is why, with the depression,  Buy smart and you'll make some money when the time comes to sell. Gold right now is high, pushed up by economic concerns, but it's $50 or so less than it was two months ago, and your guess is as good as mine as to where the value will go from here.

What's the priority?

Precious metals are NOT high on the priority list. Cash on hand, food and water storage, a reasonable firearms battery and ammo and many other things take a higher priority on your "prep list." However, as you get squared away with preps and/or start investing and saving, include some precious metals.

I am not a big fan of silver, because it fails at many of the things you need your precious metals to do. It is NOT particularly concentrated/transportable form of wealth. For example, silver is currently ~$18/ounce compared to ~$1200/ounce for gold; you'd need approximately 67 ounces of silver (over 4 pounds) to equal the value of ONE ounce of gold. Silver is not also in as great of demand for wedding band/jewelry/luxury purposes, so it will be lower on the barter totem pole during the "local stability" phase. It is an inflation hedge, but doesn't do this any better than gold. It is easier to make small-scale barters with, but I don't see $20-value exchanges being the key to anyone's survival. And if you find yourself needing some silver in a precious-metals driven market, I'm sure you could trade a gold coin for some.

I don't have any gold; we do have five silver Morgan dollars that my wife received as a gift, but otherwise we have zip in the way of precious metals. The point what we're ready to start buying them up is in the future, hopefully not too distant, but for now, there are many other things that take precedence. I suppose many of you are in a similar boat, but if you've got money to spend or are looking to get out of more volatile investments, gold certainly is a worthwhile preparation.