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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buying American Eagle Silver Coins

Dear TOR:
Can you give me some specific pointers on the easiest and most cost efficient way to buy American Eagles? I have tried the ebay route and (a) the auctions are very time consuming, and (b) the prices end up being 'way over spot once you calculate the shipping.
I have also contacted a couple of online sellers and they are quoting prices that are even higher over spot. And higher shipping.
Is there a way for a person to buy a coin or two at a time (or 4 or so a month) at relatively uninflated prices or am I being ridiculously naive?
Alternatively, is junk silver a better way to go? I would like to spend about $100 a month and get the most bang for the bucks.
Thanks for you advice and for your great blog.
TOR here: In order to best answer that question I will do it in 3 parts: first American Eagles, second cheap silver and third buying in small quantities.

First I will talk about American Eagles in general. They are just more expensive than normal silver. Right now they are a couple bucks an ounce more. That difference can ebb and flow but a couple bucks is fairly typical. This is partially because they are government minted and there is a sort of collectors premium. Also some folks who have a vested interest in selling them like to talk about how they are certified by the US government and such. Go figure how businesses will talk about the benefits of more expensive products. So American Eagles (and to a lesser degree Canadian Maples, Koalas, etc) pretty much always cost more than other various types of silver. As for Ebay in general unless you are bidding on large lots (say a dozen ounces or more) the cost of shipping usually negates any small savings you may get.

The cheapest small silver (as opposed huge 100 or 1,000 ounce bars) is generally one ounce bars and rounds. Unlike American Eagles lots and lots of them are made by private companies. Unlike junk 90% silver they are still in production and thus supply and demand are not working to drive up the price. Some folks really like 90% silver because it is very divisible and easy to identify. While there are some benefits to 90% junk silver IMO they are largely negated  by its far higher cost. Remember that at the end of the day you are buying silver so get it at the cheapest price per ounce you can.
Now onto buying relatively small quantities of silver.  This is the situation most of us are in. Folks who are cashing out some savings or just have a lot of money or whatever can make one time purchases of thousands of dollars and get huge bags of 90% silver at good  prices.  Right now a thousand dollars face value (about 715 ounces) of 90% silver costs about 30 cents over spot. However most folks don't have 12k lying around at one time to buy silver with, I know we don't. You can get $100 face in 90% (71.5 ounces) for sane prices also but anything smaller has a huge premium. Rolls of $10 face from APMEX a very competitive online dealer cost more like $145 for quarters and even worse $172 for dimes (that is $24 per ounce!) before delivery. Unless there is a cool local coin shop small quantities of 90% silver can not be found at a price in any relation to spot.
As you noted any decent prices found on Ebay or what not are quickly negated by shipping costs. The same can be said by making purchases of two- four ounces by various online or mail order stores. If you are paying $18.5 an ounce each for 3 silver one ounce rounds and then $15 to ship them the real cost is $23.5 each which is a bad deal. You've got to factor shipping costs into the equation.

I learned all this for myself the hard way. I have found two solutions for this problem. 
The first is to find a local coin dealer with decent prices and buy from them. From most of my experiences and observations established coin dealers are a pretty honest bunch. they make their living based on people trusting that what they sell is what it is supposed to be and the precious metals world is not very big. Not saying that a bad apple can't exist or that a bad coin might not slip through an honest dealers shop unnoticed now, just that it is probably reasonable to consider established coin/ bullion dealers as honest. That being said there is a big difference between a dealer cheating people and their prices being great. The best thing that I can say is to be an informed buyer. Know right about what spot price is (knowing to to the cent isn't necessary but have a decent idea whereabouts it is at least to 50 cents or so) and what the price of a certain item like a 90% silver dime, one ounce round, etc in order to get a decent deal. If you can find a local coin dealer with reasonable prices then picking up an ounce or two of silver every pay day is simple enough.
The second option is that unless there is a place within reasonable driving distance which has decent prices you are either going to have to take a longer drive to a good coin shop (I would call ahead to make sure they will have what you want first, learned that the hard way too) or purchase via an online dealer. [FWIW I have had real positive experiences with APMEX and their prices are always competitive especially since their shipping is quite reasonable. The only affiliation I have with them is as a satisfied customer.] For these purchases in order to make your drive or shipping costs average you will want to save up and make larger less frequent purchases. 

What we do is put aside a certain amount every month for precious metals. You could put money aside every week or payday or whatever, it is the same principle. Save that money up and make less frequent larger purchases. We typically make 4 or so purchases a year and generally shipping is $15 or so. This lets us greatly lower the added cost of shipping. This way instead of it adding 20-30% to the cost of a purchase it adds less than 10%.

Hope this helps some. 

Tip of the Week … Bread Making

Unless you begin with good, active, yeast all the tips in the world will do you no good. If you are unsure how long you have had your yeast or if you haven’t used it in a while then test it before getting started. Place a 1/2 cup of warm water, 110º to 120º in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a 1/4 tsp. of sugar and 1/4 tsp. yeast. If the yeast begins to bubble then you are good to go, if not run to the store for new yeast. I like to purchase yeast in large, vacuum sealed, blocks and store it in my freezer until I open it. Then I keep it in a plastic covered container in the fridge.
Next, be sure the water you other liquid you use in your recipe is not too hot. Use a candy thermometer to test the water until you get used to how it should feel. If it is too hot to put in a bottle and feed a baby it is too hot. Remember that all hot liquids can kill your yeast so if a recipe calls for melted butter let it cool before adding it. With a little practice this will become second nature.
When the water is ready add part of the sugar (about 2 Tbsp.) to the water and then the yeast. Sugar will feed the yeast in a process called proofing. If your recipe calls for adding the yeast and flour together without proofing that is fine too. That recipe has been designed for a longer rising period.

For a lighter textured product try adding mashed potatoes or use the water you have boiled potatoes in as your liquid. Yeast loves potato causing it to eat more and become bigger, making the bread lighter and fluffier.

Never add salt with your yeast and water because the salt will kill it. If you salt is part of the recipe mix it with the flour and don’t add it directly to the liquid and yeast mixture.
Begin with all your ingredients at room temperature.
Never add all the flour a recipe calls for. This is probably the biggest mistake I see people make. Your dough should be sticky. If the dough remains very sticky after it raises you can place more flour on the surface of your counter and knead in some more. Still your bread should remain slightly sticky or you will end up with a dense, heavy bread.
Once your dough is ready knead away. You can’t knead bread too much. I have a friend how owned a restaurant and had a large industrial mixer. She would put her dough in there and knead it as she did dishes or other things around the house, easily 15-20 minutes. You don’t have to do this but don’t worry that you have overdone. Knead until it is very smooth and elastic.
Let your dough rest and raise until about double in size. Place in a bowl and cover with a dish towel. On cold days I turn on the oven to warm, wait until it reaches temperature and turn it off. Then I place my bowl in the oven with the door slightly ajar and let it raise. If there is a fire in the fireplace I place my bowl on the hearth.
Place your dough into a loaf pan or form into a round or oblong loaf and place on a baking sheet. Let it rise again until it is about double in size again. Be patient. They say you should press your finger into the center and if the dough pops back you are ready but I never have done this. If it looks double or a little less I bake it.
If your bread is getting too brown, cover it with foil and continue baking. If you thump on your loaf and it sounds hollow, it’s done.
When you freeze or store your finished loaves be sure to wrap them well. Wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil. Bread can lose moisture.
Most bread doughs can be frozen. Mix and knead as usual and let them rise once. Shape into loaves, or rolls. Let them rise, punch down and form into loaves or rolls. Place on cookie sheet and let freeze. Place in zippered freezer bag, squeeze out the air and place in freezer. Roll will not stick together.
When you want bread remove from freezer and place in appropriate baking pan. Let rise and bake as you normally would. It will take hours for them to rise so plan well ahead of your meal. Rolls usually take about four hours and bread about six. Bread will keep in the freezer for about six month before the yeast begins to deteriorate.
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running out of gas?

so i just recently came across the idea of a device called a wood gasifier. the basic idea is to heat up wood to the point that it releases a gas that is combustible enough to run most engines instead of gasoline. the link im posting here is a small very simplified version of one. the guy making it sorta stutters a bit but its still an interesting idea. and if you could scale it up enough i imagine it would be a viable source of energy for a very long time, depending on how much wood you have sitting around.

(of course instead of a propane stove like this person is using, you would use a wood or charcoal fire for a heat source)

---there are also many other designs that are a bit more complicated and might be a bit more evicient but this still seems to work.

Flax Muffins for Fatter Folks and Diabetics

Low carb is the way to go for those with thrifty genes before the manure flies. Those who’re diabetes prone won’t do well with a high carb diet even afterwards. Forage for edible weeds (a coming post), eat from your garden along with any game you can get. Flax is a great grain to go along with this if you’re diabetic. Also store fats.
For both the thrifty-gened and diabetes prone, carbs will decrease energy and slow you down, along with increasing food cravings and raising blood sugars.
My fav savior instant microwave flax muffins (prep and cooking time is two minutes!) It has saved me from grubbing down on cookies, muffins and homemade bread many a time.
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
Splenda to taste (I like mine sweet, so I use four packets)
1 tsp cinnamon
Tiny dash of salt
Mix together in a large coffee mug, then stir in
1 large egg
1 tsp to 1 T fat
Nuke a minute and a half to two minutes.
Dump out of the coffee cup and chow down with a lovely cuppa tea.
Basic flax muffin recipe Have some of these on hand
2 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 T fat
1/4 cup sugar free syrup (Davinci is best)
1 T vanilla
1 cup flax meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 T cinnamon (can substitute any spice or cocoa along with chocolate Davinci syrup for yummy chocolate ones)
Tiny dash of salt
Beat eggs and mix in wet ingredients, including fat. Mix dry ingredients separately and then stir into the wet ones. Let stand five minutes. Then spoon into well-greased muffin cups. Cook at 350 degrees for 15 to thirty minutes.
For your extra personal food stores
Flax seeds or meal (canned is good because the high fat content can cause this grain to go rancid rapidly, especially if ground)
Dried eggs
Splenda and Davinci syrups
Cinnamon, cocoa and sweet spices
Should be in your basic stores
Baking powder and soda
Plenty of salt
Originally posted 2008-08-19 12:32:00.
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Survival Cooking and Heating 101

This is a quick overview of some of the methods you can use to prepare your food when the power grid is down or gone. This is only beginning info to start you on your own research. You’ll have to consider your individual circumstances and choose how to approach heating and cooking. Print out info you need and save it to your emergency USB flashdrive.
All methods take preparation in advance.
First, remember folks survived winter without furnace systems and the power grid for centuries. Hot summer heat is actually more deadly.
Warm clothes and blankets. I mean the real deal with long underwear and wool.
A small tent to sleep together inside. You can be warmer at night bundled up together. In very cold days you’ll want to repair to a small area.
In that vein, block off areas of your home in winter and gather in one small, central room. Insulate it as best you can covering windows etc. You can drape a large tables in blankets and sleep underneath. You can use a tent to concentrate heat also.
You need warm WOOL clothes, including caps and socks, plenty WOOL blankets and down comforters to use in case of heat outage.
Collect sturdy,serious utensils to cook in. Cast iron, particularly a Dutch oven, will be golden. You need a cast iron dutch oven NOW to bake bread anyway.

Temporary measures

Methods that take replenishment from materials the grid provides (will the trucks be running?) are temporary. If the trucks aren’t running, you aren’t going to be able to get replacement propane canisters for cooking. Ditto for propane and kerosene. In a long, slow emergency, they may be available for some time, or at least until you can get an alternate way of cooking/heating. For temporary outages having one of these alternate methods of cooking/heating would be good. Around 1918, some families avoided the Spanish flu because they had kerosene heat stored and didn’t need to go out and buy other fuel. Having an easy, temporary stealth method of cooking and heating would be convenient to get you through the first shock-ridden days of the manure flying.
Consider cooking outside with camp stoves or your propane powered grill. You could use specific RV propane stoves designed for indoor use or kerosene stoves inside with a window cracked.
Note: Cooking with charcoal and propane can be fatal if done indoors! Only use stoves indoors that are specifically made to be used indoors and carefully follow directions.
Kerosene is my personal choice temporary backup cooking/heating method. It’s stealth, the stoves are inexpensive and I have a outdoor shed for storage.
Kerosene stoves

Kerosene heaters

Long term methods
Wood cooking and heat
How are you going to cut, store and transport wood? Think about this ahead of time. Chain saws take power. Wielding axes and moving large amounts of wood take muscle and energy. You need to plan and store the means to do this ahead of time if you’re planning to rely on wood heat.
Wood cooking isn’t stealth but it works. For long term you might need to make an outdoor kitchen with a grill. I remember barbecues on my grandfathers big outdoor brick grill fondly.
If you have a fireplace, you’re in luck. I’d invest in a wood stove insert. A grill or campstove to put over the fire would also be handy.
For wood cooking and heat indoors, you’ll need a wood stove. Now is the time to buy and store one along with the materials you’ll need to install it. Once the manure flies, they’ll be more precious than gold. A small wood stove can be used in an inexpensive trailer too (more on those later).
Do you have a place your family will gather in the event of a disaster, such as your grandparent’s paid-for place? Take along a wood stove.
What if you live an apartment? A wood stove obviously isn’t going to work. Other rentals depend on your situation with the owner. In the event the grid goes down and stays down, a wood stove is a valuable addition and probably could be negotiated.
Note on wood stove installation: Be sure and find somebody who knows what he/she is doing to install it.
I have this cool camping stove called a ZZ stove. It works on an AA battery and any solid fuel. It’s a good way to heat something up quickly outdoors.

Thermos cooking
would be a good adjunct to this and would also cut your energy usage down with any method. Here’s an article that adjusts Kurt Saxon’s advice. It’s why it’s good to test out your chosen methods before you need them.
Solar cooking is great resort for apartment dwellers and as more permanent method of baking bread etc, even in winter, if you have good sun. It’s best to test out your methods now, before you need them.
If there is a source of coal near by you, what about an old fashioned coal stove? They definitely have their drawbacks, but if coal is abundant and cheap, they will heat your home through the winter. It goes without saying to get it professionally installed.
Sharon Astyk, with her brilliant self, has a more comprehensive article. Check it out.
Originally posted 2008-08-15 06:44:00.
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