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The Potential Use of Silver Coins as Bullion During Times of Hyperinflation

I've been gold prospecting for 11 years, mainly in the Bradshaw Mountains in Yavapai County, Arizona, where I found over 8 grams of placer.

P. Domain. US coinage pictured is ineligible for copyright. Junk silver in the form of Pre-1964 US Coinage. From top left: Silver dimes in paper holders, a roll of dimes and a mixed-loose lot of half dollars, quarters, dimes and "wartime" nickels.

P. Domain. US coinage pictured is ineligible for copyright. Junk silver in the form of Pre-1964 US Coinage. From top left: Silver dimes in paper holders, a roll of dimes and a mixed-loose lot of half dollars, quarters, dimes and "wartime" nickels.

Silver: The Poor Man's Gold

Precious metals seem to be on the minds of many people today. With a recession that doesn't seem to reverse itself, and fears of an inflationary depression ahead, people are looking for a hedge to preserve the value of their "money." Silver has historically been used since ancient times as money, and was chosen because of its scarcity. But what is the rationale behind holding and buying silver; how would silver be used as money?

I am certainly not a mind reader, and nobody is going to predict a future economic blowout or collapse with perfect certainty, but history and some "common sense" might give us a useful scenario for planning. So what do you want to think about when (and if) you decide the country is heading down the road to a German-type hyper-inflation (1914 - 1923)?

If you think there is a good reason for precious metals, silver bullion, more specifically here, to be rising in value on the spot market, and if you think it is a safe bet that the reason is a trend, you might want to buy silver. The spot market or cash market, by the way, is a public financial market in which financial instruments or commodities are traded for immediate delivery.

Why Silver?

And why buy silver, and not gold, during a hyperinflation? You might want a little of both, but the average guy is probably better off focusing on silver. Here follows my explanation of a preference for silver.

With gold hovering around $1413 an ounce, using it as money might be a little difficult. Suppose we as a nation get to the point where grocery store owners are willing to take gold or silver, in addition to cash (the early part of an inflationary spiral), in return for food. If you buy three cans of vegetables and a steak valued at $28 in currency and present him with a one-ounce gold eagle coin, he will have to give you change. At today's prices (and probably more in the future), the grocer must give you back on the order of $1385. That can be problematic.

Well then, you say, why not give him a 1/10 oz or 1/4 oz gold coin? This is still a bit of a problem. 1/10 oz of gold is about $140. It is a little easier to handle, but perhaps a problem since most of his customers are still using currency that is inflating. He needs to maintain cash levels to deal with his customers.

It would probably be easiest if you have familiar U.S. silver coins and U.S. gold eagle coins, since anything else would be nerve-wracking for him to accept. Will grocers have gold test kits to prove the purity of the gold? Will someone in a back room be looking at the spot price of gold, as precious metal dealers do? There are gold testers that will determine from 6k to 24k purity. That and the weight of the coin should enable you to tell how much gold is in the coin. Incidentally, pure gold is 24.24 karat. Perhaps testing is something that would happen later as the spiral develops to a point where daily value is very unpredictable.

The other issue that would come up (in my make-believe mindset) is the simple appearances of what is exchanged. A 1/10 oz gold piece is: diameter -16.50 mm, thickness- 1.19 mm, gross weight - 0.1091 troy oz (3.393 g), and face value - $5. This is about 0.64 inches in diameter. Here the grocer is exchanging something of intrinsic value for something of very small size with intrinsic value. Bartering with gold may make a retailer nervous; he would be receiving a coin not much more than half an inch in diameter. Just sayin'.

Another reason for buying silver is that it has many more industrial uses than gold. In fact, every year, most of the silver produced from mining is used for manufacturing purposes, for catalytic converters, electronic and thermal conductivity, its ability to reflect light, and its ability to withstand extreme temperature changes. Its usefulness in the sectors of jewelry, industry, and photography is why 95% of the silver produced does not go into bullion. It is, therefore, a metal more useful than gold. In my opinion, this will keep silver a highly desired precious metal.

Swedish one and two crown ("krona") coins with 80% silver content

Swedish one and two crown ("krona") coins with 80% silver content

How Silver Coins Could Be Used for Bartering

These two reasons that gold might be awkward to use leave me with an alternative that has more commonly been used as money (money in my pocket type of money), silver. The Greeks, Romans, Spanish, and American colonists used silver coins for money. With the value of gold to silver historically being in a ratio of 15:1, the smaller value, I think, would make it easier to purchase and make change.

So, for this reason, I would prefer to own American silver eagle coins if I thought we might experience an unfolding inflationary spiral. In the past, silver has been referred to as the poor man's gold. It is more practical for the ordinary citizen. At today's silver prices (maybe more tomorrow), the silver eagle could buy $29.38 worth of stuff. In our previous example, change of $1.38 could be made in cash or small silver coins.

In addition to silver eagles, we have more silver bullion coins that would be useful. They are recognizable to everyone in this country and are made with 90% silver. Pre-1965 Franklin halves, Washington quarters, Standing Liberty quarters, Roosevelt and Mercury dimes, and other coins made with silver and engraved, just as our coins today with copper centers, it would seem, would be very acceptable. The only difference would be that the value of the American silver coins would be based on a silver content of 90% of the weight of the coins. Silver quarters would be worth more than 25 cents apiece. I think that charts with the silver weights of the various U.S. coins would be quickly drawn up and posted the way tax charts used to be posted on cash registers. Actually, modern cash transaction machines might have the weights programmed in, with a variable, the silver spot price, accessed electronically and used for calculating change.

For this reason, I think storing pre-1965 silver coins, or "junk silver coins" or "junk90", would be a good idea. A "bag" of these coins can have a face value of $1000. I have seen other bags with a face value of $750. It would seem the "bag" may vary from dealer to dealer, so make sure you know the face value of the coins in the bag. Junk90's true value varies with the price of silver. In other words, that $1000 bag of silver coins is worth more than $1000. The face values of the coins in the bag add up to $1000. Fractions of a bag have lower face values. These bags are easily traded throughout the world today.

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You might not have to access the silver eagles for quite some time into the spiral. One would have to realize that as cash became worth less, prices would go up at an increasing rate. The need for a silver eagle to buy three cans of vegetables and a steak might not be necessary until later in an inflationary spiral.

Silver can also be purchased in rounds and small ingots (silver bars) that have their purity stamped. For instance, 92.5 (%) stamped is the purity of sterling silver. But then we get back to the problem of ease of acceptance. It is not unknown for people to stamp bullion and jewelry incorrectly in order to cheat someone out of more money. An engraved American silver coin, familiar to most people and dated pre-1965, would engender more trust in a transaction at a store. I believe a businessman would be less likely to even consider accepting jewelry, ingots, or silver rounds over silver eagles or junk90 coins.

For those people who are wealthy, buying a stash of gold coins is probably not unwise. It can preserve wealth. But ALL classes of people, especially the middle class, who believe that a hyper-inflationary cycle is likely to occur, should be concerned with silver accumulation. The amount accumulated is based on the anticipated beginning of an inflationary spiral. If you strongly believe that such a spiral is imminent, buying hundreds of dollars of silver is not unreasonable. If you think from now until your anticipated hyperinflation, you have years to invest; perhaps as little as 1 ounce, a month would be appropriate. This question of timing is only based on your individual prognostication, and that will, in turn, be mainly based on READING.

Notice that in the discussion above, I looked at the use of silver mainly and gold as money, the storehouse of value that a community would possibly accept as tradeable. Something of value has to be traded for something else of value. Cash will have decreased in value systematically over time and, perhaps, come to be worthless and impractical, much like the case in the German hyperinflation. To give a specific example, I read that during the final stages of the German hyperinflation, a person could go into a cafe and order a cup of coffee for one million German marks. By the time he had finished his coffee, if he decided to have a second cup, it was two million German marks. A customer, feeling enraged, was instructed that if he wanted 2 cups of coffee, he should order them at the same time! But anticipating what will be valuable is a bit of a trick.

Pondering the Unthinkable

Some people are of the viewpoint that food should be the asset accumulated in preparation for terrible inflation. Others suggest that guns should be hoarded, as they would become very precious during such a period. Some feel ammunition should be collected and stored. Some believe that all of these things should be hoarded in order to deal with a severe economic downturn. Others believe other things for survival will become media for trade and become much more important than U.S. silver coins.

I don't know what will become most important. The focus of this article is the way silver might be used as money. The use of other things to barter is for another article. Pondering the unthinkable is very strenuous work - and not very pleasant. A segment of the population will have reasons for believing an alternate reality will exist under the duress of hyper-inflation, and that segment must come to terms with its belief.

Large cent - flowing Hair silver centered cent, 1792

Large cent - flowing Hair silver centered cent, 1792

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Silver will almost always be abundant. Will this keep the price low?

Answer: Silver is the 68th most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Abundance is relative. It is true that in 2017 we saw a decrease in silver production for the first time since 2002, but market factors increase and decrease the price of silver. The recycling of silver affects price, and a decrease can cost price to fall. Many mines incur costs that increase as they dig deeper. Technology is using ever more quantities of silver because of its favorable properties; as devices increase, so will consumption and possibly price. Mexico and South American countries produce a lot with rich fields. 2017 saw the price hit $17.00 an ounce. But remember, when a recession or depression hits, people stop buying as much, companies go out of business, folks lose their jobs and panic ensues. That is when a somewhat rare metal can become more valuable for many reasons. But if your point is that it will always be less expensive than gold - I think you are right.

© 2010 John R Wilsdon


John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on November 14, 2019:

I can tell you have thought about this quite a bit. Gold and silver alloy coins is certainly an interesting option for the mint to produce. Thanks for the comment.

Brad on November 14, 2019:

I think most people in the stacking community have long been aware that its important to have a wide variety of precious metals. In all shapes and sizes. Silvee,gold,palladium,platinum,rhodium and some copper,brass. Along with water purifers, and other things preppers typically have. As somebody mentioned earlier. I really like the idea of gold alloyed to silver to make the coin bigger and more pratical. Someday in the future 200 years from now . Our great great great grankids will all sit and wonder why we didnt load up on 17$ a ounce silver. When its so obvious that it is vital to the way we live now. Someday silver 1000$ a Oz. Hell a loaf of bread in venezuala is a million bolivars. Bottomline dont trust the banks cause when the shtf . The banks wont be open.

Barry on January 01, 2019:

Great article! Fitting for the relevant times!

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on November 04, 2018:

Thanks for the enlightened comment.

Leo on March 12, 2018:

The Gold Bullion Act of 1985 will protect the American Gold Eagle from FDR gold confiscation as the AGE is classified as numismatic thus exempt.

Also I would not be so quick as to rule out fractional gold coins during hyper inflation as price for everyday items will be through the roof and that 1/10 ounce gold coin may not go as far as you originally thought. You also don't want to have a lot of extra money left over from cashing out your gold coins as it depreciate in value the next day, thus the value of fractional gold coins. I'm skeptical whether silver will be able to keep up it's purchasing power in a hyper inflation scenario. However, i still think owning silver bullion coin such as the american silver eagle to be worthwhile but in moderation.

I don't see any of the precious metals being an "investment" but more as a wealth preserver and hedge against inflation.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on August 23, 2015:


These times are interesting. With markets so nervous, it will be interesting to see how it all turns out. Your views on the use and care of silver coinage, and precious metal in general, in an increasingly volatile market, may be prescient. Thanks for the comment.

kc on August 21, 2015:

I find smaller frational silver for day to day liveing a better way to think. A stash of gold to hold for wealth to nrrak down as needed. I meam fractional 1gram by gram to 1 oz wouldnt go much higher than that with silver as to make it easier on you and business to barder with. Good info..2015 and see it comeing and have already started pulling out of the banking system. Vary dangerous at this time. Get a safe keep ur wealth in hands reach.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on July 25, 2012:


Thanks for the comment. I agree with your assertion that silver may be the wiser choice. For one, at it's current price it stands more chance of hyperbolic appreciation (in other words, big time). I would choose it simply because I am not rich enough to buy an ounce of gold at current prices! As people have said for eons, silver is the poor man's gold. That describes me in a nutshell! :)

monicamelendez from Salt Lake City on July 24, 2012:

Silver is definitely the way to go. The gold seizure act keeps me away from the yellow.

Gold Silver Tips on October 22, 2011:

I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I?ll love to read your next post too.


Gold Silver Tips

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on October 14, 2011:


There are 1/20 oz Gold Maple Leafs from Canada, 1/20 Oz gold Pandas from China, and 1/20 oz gold Kangaroos from Australia. Don't know how easy they would be to trade. I didn't know this.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on October 14, 2011:


I see your point. As the value of gold continues to spike, the fractional weight will have to be pretty small. 1/10 oz right now is about $168.18 as of 14 Oct 2011. But I have overlooked one thing- which means you are absolutely right- gold could be alloyed with another metal so that the coin could be of a practical size. I have a suspicion that may very well happen i.e, 1/40 of an oz. Thanks for the comment. I better address this somehow. Good thoughts!

Silver17 on October 13, 2011:

Yes, good article. The only thing I disagree with is that accumulating gold in smaller fractions would still be used and get a few hundred of dollars of cash, say if gold was $5000 ounce. just one tenth will buy groceries. Now when you have 1 ounce gold coins, I can't see your grocery store accepting it, not even Walmart. One would have to take that to a coin shop, send it to a mint company, or at jewelry store. 1 oz gold coins is for large payments such as a mortgage if one lost his/her job.

I still hope vast majority of the US population will know the value of pre-65 coins, right now not many do.

One should be able to sell it at coin shops or jeweler.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on January 04, 2011:

Great hub about investing in silver coins. I found it interesting to read your point of view on hyper-inflation and how it makes sense to look at history, etc. Thank you for sharing this great information!

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