Recommendations of small size coins

jasonw
By jasonw on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 - 2:57pm

Any recommendations or lines of thought on what type of small sized silver coins one should have on hand?  1/4 and 1/2 oz silver rounds or 90% old US coins?  Looking for the best value for silver in easily usable and divisible means for alternative exchanges of value.  Switching up the monthly PM allocation to smaller sized denominations. 

21 Comments

Grover's picture
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Silver Dimes

Jason,

Imagine going into a market place (after paper money is worthless) to try to get some food. You need to have a bartering item that is of small enough value to be usable without needing change, that is recognizable by your trading partner, and has a very low probability of being counterfeited. Can you imagine such a situation where junk silver coins wouldn't be the first choice? A junk silver dime has about 1/14 of an ounce of silver. In the 1960s, it would buy more than half a gallon of gasoline or a loaf of bread. Today, it will buy more than half a gallon of gasoline or a loaf of bread. It will likely retain the same purchasing power in the future.

If you have a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce silver round: Can you get change? Will it be recognizable? Will the merchant trust it enough to give you full face value for it? If you're desperate enough, you'll be overcharged for the goods. If not, you won't have anything to bring home.

I wouldn't have all my PMs in silver dimes (large surface area per volume means they wear quickly,) but I think it would be foolish not to have (at least) a few percent stored and available for small transactions.

Grover

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jasonw

Looking for the best value for silver in easily usable and divisible means for alternative exchanges of value.

 

90% US coins. Any mix of them. If they are used as a means of exchange, change will be available.

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Well, one comment here

I think that if we ever do return to silver as currency - and I can still remember when it was - chances are it will rise in value greatly.  In other words the lack of availability relative to productivity (or however you want to think of it), will make those dimes and quarters buy a lot more than we imagine at this time.  They probably will be in very high demand if they ever come to common use as currency. The question may become: "with what do you make change for that dime".  They had plastic and, I think, paper "mills" during the deflationary days of the depression. I wouldn't discount copper in that regard.  People, forget that it too, has functioned at the lowest level of coinage. (ditto for those old nickels too).

Just a side comment here: I'm always amazed when I see and handle  the various coins this country previously produced and used (pre 65).  By contrast, the current coinage literally looks and feels like kid's junk, tokens, or something like that.  Those old coins feel like you have something real in your hand - either gold or silver.  And the workmanship and art of that coinage - the Mercury dime, for instance - reflected the dignity and stability of the country at the time.  Now we really are going to hell, and we've got some really crappy coins that seem to reflect it too.

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Kids' junk, tokens

Rob P, reading your comment made me think of when I saw the "shield" design on the reverse of new pennies for the first time.  Gosh!  It seemed like a crude, simple, triumphalist design that made me wonder if all the superhero movies lately might have influenced the American psyche a little too much.  (The 2009 Lincoln commemoratives are kind of cool though.)  Yeah coins like the Mercury Dime, Peace Dollar, and Standing Liberty Quarter (all right it has a shield too) are beautiful - and though this might be frivolous topic compared to others on this site, I do think it reflects a quality and dignity of the culture and may have a self-fulfilling aspect. 

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Shield coinage..

As a proud teacher of the Boy Scouts coin collecting merit badge, I can tell you that the shield design dates back to the ealiest US coinage... as in the 1786 NJ Colonial.  They did have superheros then.. but with names like George Washington   : )

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Rob

The purchasing power of PMs has remained relatively constant throughout much of history. Nominally the exchange rate might grow to huge proportions but that loaf of bread will have also. 

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I've never quite bought that view

Tycer, I've never quite bought into that view.  I've watched value and buying power fluctuate dramatically in the last 10 years.  In 2000 (whenever) 1 troy once of gold had the purchasing power of $250 (nominal), currently it has the nominal purchasing power of $1600 - which even accounting for price inflation is way more than  it was in 2000.  in other words, an ounce of gold today buys a whole lot more loaves of bread than it did in 2000. 

I think the Gold-holds-constant-value perspective is something like a religious belief held by true gold bugs. I don't believe it. I think value, purchasing power, fluctuates a great deal over short periods of time and over long periods of time according to various market and psychological factors.

Really, you can't watch the current fluctuations in gold price (the real, physical - at the coin dealer, price) which are well in excess of price inflation, and still hold to the constant value theory.

Consider also, for instance, the possibility of a true social melt down, in which food and basic needs become very scarce.  I can imagine that gold might become, more or less negligible in value - compared to a cabbage which you can, after all, eat.   Did it take an ounce of gold to buy a cabbage in Rome?  It might here at that sort of point.

Also, if in, say the 15th, century, all the countries in Europe (wherever), suddenly discovered massive, easily accessible gold mines, the supply would have risen exponentially and the value of the queen of Spain's gold would have gone down - perhaps way down - because everybody suddenly had more than enough of the stuff.  Well, then you know, maybe the "new world" wouldn't have been discovered - Ha, Ha. 

What I think is true is this: PMs have been used as a store of value and medium of exchange  for a really long time and that the idea of them as a store of value is deeply ingrained in human beings. But the value is variable. Their inherent scarcity (supply) is also a major factor their status as a store of value.

Should silver return to use as currency, I think the value would be determined, in large part, by a supply and demand equation (and other factors).   There wouldn't be much supply and there could well be a lot of demand for PMs - If they are collectively viewed as a real store of value and the current standard, exchange medium.

Then also, PMs may truly become the standard by which everything is measured (key, I think).  Currently the measure is still pretty much the dollar.  But if PM became in some way or another commonly used as currency/traded  then all would change.

So, no, I don't share the Gold as a constant store of value belief.

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Recommendations of small size coins

Silver Eagles are beautiful, but remember they are "Legal Tender" valued at $1.00.  Imagine the economy crashes and you go into a corner grocery store to buy bread which is selling for $10 and you give the grocer a Silver Eagle.  He is going to ask for nine additonal dollars.  You tell him that it is a one ounce Silver Eagle, the value of which is $90 an ounce.  He tells you the coin value is $1.00 which is stamped on the coin.  He has no clue.

If you go into the store with a one ounce silver round (not legal tender), you would have a better chance of getting the true value of the silver, just as the old-timers did when they brought raw silver and gold to a saloon and the barkeeper weight the old-timers poke and took out just enough to pay for a shot of rye.

enlightened Legal Tender status worries me.

 

 

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Pre 1964 Silver Coins

The people of Argentina, Russia and Zimbabwe all had a black market which operated using US dollars. We will not have the advantage of a black market currency. For that reason it is imperative to have some form of coins or other medium of exchange for small purchases.

In his book 'Surviving the Economic Collapse' Ferfal writes about Argentinians using gold chain - cutting off enough links to pay for whatever was needed. This is fine, but involves weighing the gold and exchanging it for fiat currency in order to go shopping.

It seems obvious (to me at least) that pre-1964 90% silver coins will be, by far, the best post-SHTF coinage. They are universally identifiable and readily available in $500 face value bags each containing 357.5 oz of silver in nickels, dimes or quarters. A dime is presently worth $2.00 so two of them should always buy at least six eggs no matter what the price of eggs in Federal Reserve paper.

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A fool and his money
TFR wrote:

Silver Eagles are beautiful, but remember they are "Legal Tender" valued at $1.00.  Imagine the economy crashes and you go into a corner grocery store to buy bread which is selling for $10 and you give the grocer a Silver Eagle.  He is going to ask for nine additonal dollars.  You tell him that it is a one ounce Silver Eagle, the value of which is $90 an ounce.  He tells you the coin value is $1.00 which is stamped on the coin.  He has no clue.

If you go into the store with a one ounce silver round (not legal tender), you would have a better chance of getting the true value of the silver, just as the old-timers did when they brought raw silver and gold to a saloon and the barkeeper weight the old-timers poke and took out just enough to pay for a shot of rye.

enlightened Legal Tender status worries me.

TFR,

You are correct that the coins are stamped with monetary units, but they aren't legal tender. If your negotiating skills are so nonexistent that you'd be willing to trade 10 ounces of silver for a loaf of bread, you deserve to be taken to the cleaners.

Perhaps I can interest you in purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge. I had it for sale for 100,000 ounces of silver. Today only, I'll let it go for whatever you have on hand. If that isn't a steal of a deal, I don't know what is.

Grover

PS - I'm not really selling the Brooklyn Bridge. It isn't mine to sell. I'm just trying to make a point that you need to keep your wits about you ... or you'll be separated from your money.

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Nickels?
Boomer41 wrote:

The people of Argentina, Russia and Zimbabwe all had a black market which operated using US dollars. We will not have the advantage of a black market currency. For that reason it is imperative to have some form of coins or other medium of exchange for small purchases.

In his book 'Surviving the Economic Collapse' Ferfal writes about Argentinians using gold chain - cutting off enough links to pay for whatever was needed. This is fine, but involves weighing the gold and exchanging it for fiat currency in order to go shopping.

It seems obvious (to me at least) that pre-1964 90% silver coins will be, by far, the best post-SHTF coinage. They are universally identifiable and readily available in $500 face value bags each containing 357.5 oz of silver in nickels, dimes or quarters. A dime is presently worth $2.00 so two of them should always buy at least six eggs no matter what the price of eggs in Federal Reserve paper.

Boomer41,

Be careful about accepting nickels as 90% silver. They aren't. There were some war time nickels http://www.coinflation.com/coins/1942-1945-Silver-War-Nickel-Value.html (1942-1945) that were 35% silver, but otherwise their silver content was and is 0%. Perhaps you meant halves and dollars. They both contain 90% silver.

Two dimes should buy a dozen eggs or a gallon of gas. Depending on your negotiating skills, your mileage may vary. In my opinion, having a small proportion of PMs in junk silver is a no brainer for the very reasons that you pointed out.

Grover

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Do you deal with a particular

Do you deal with a particular place to get this?  My dealer only deals in bullion.

 

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@JasonW re "Looking for the

@JasonW re "Looking for the best value for silver in easily usable and divisible means for alternative exchanges of value."

While I suppose it's possible that silver could again be used as currency, I tend to think that will be a short-lived scenario if it happens.  More likely IMO is currency turmoil which will be eventually be rectified, possibly by issuing a new currency.  During the period of turmoil, which could involve disastrous inflation, I think it likely that PMs will be converted back into currency which is then spent immediately on essential purchases.  This guides my thinking on PMs.

Assuming the above scenario is most likely, I look for two things: low premium to acquire and high convertability back into cash.  In this regard, I tend to favor bullion over coins whose cost includes a numismatic premium.  I also favor well-recognized and widely known and respected items, such as Silver Eagles, Silver Maple Leafs, and bars from well-known mints such as Sunshine, NTR, etc.  For gold, I think in terms of Gold Eagles, Maple Leafs (handle with extreme care), Pesos, Krugerrands for coins, and once again well-known mints for bars: PAMP, Royal Canadian Mint, Perth Mint, Sunshine, NTR, etc.  With gold, you should also be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages to pure gold (e.g., Maple Leafs, bars) vis-a-vis 22k gold (e.g., Eagles, Pesos, Krugerrands), such as taxes on gains in value and portability across national borders. 

Regarding 90% silver coins, you have to accept that there's a substantial mark-up on older coins such as Peace dollars, Morgan dollars, Mercury dimes, Standing Liberty quarters, Walking Liberty halves, etc.  On the other hand, they are indeed beautiful coins.  People like them, and therefore I think they'll always fetch some kind of premium.  Therefore, I tend to prefer them to newer coins such as Roosevelt dimes, Washington quarters, and Franklin halves, which I think lack the appeal of the older coins.  OTOH, if it should come to pass that silver coins once are used as currency, the newer silver coins might be a better buy, so you might acuire some to hedge your bets.  Once again, though, I think the primary use will be to redeem them in the currency of the day in order to cover living expenses.

In short, buy 90% silver coins because you like them.  Always get the best grade you can reasonably afford: AU or better for Silver dollars, XF or better for coins such as older dimes, quarters, and half dollars that saw heavy circulation.  Maybe a small quantity of newer silver coins to hedge against the possibility that they could once again be used as money.  Another poster recommended $500 face-value bags, which might be a good bet to cover this base.  But the bulk of your purchases should be bullion -- either coins or bars -- whose value is primarly in the metal itself.  For silver, larger bars have a much lower premium: 10 oz is a good, affordable size with a relatively modest premium. 

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Boomer41 wrote: The people of
Boomer41 wrote:

The people of Argentina, Russia and Zimbabwe all had a black market which operated using US dollars. We will not have the advantage of a black market currency. For that reason it is imperative to have some form of coins or other medium of exchange for small purchases.

In his book 'Surviving the Economic Collapse' Ferfal writes about Argentinians using gold chain - cutting off enough links to pay for whatever was needed. This is fine, but involves weighing the gold and exchanging it for fiat currency in order to go shopping.

It seems obvious (to me at least) that pre-1964 90% silver coins will be, by far, the best post-SHTF coinage. They are universally identifiable and readily available in $500 face value bags each containing 357.5 oz of silver in nickels, dimes or quarters. A dime is presently worth $2.00 so two of them should always buy at least six eggs no matter what the price of eggs in Federal Reserve paper.

Where the hell are you buying your eggs?  That equates to $8 per dozen!  I don't even pay that much for a dozen Duck eggs, let alone a dozen Chicken eggs!  Fresh Chicken eggs at Whole Foods costs $4.  I can buy a dozen at the local farmers market for the same.  And my own chickens are even cheaper:-)

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I thought of this a while ago

I thought of this a while ago and got some silver Libertads from my dealer. They come in 1/10 and 1/20 oz currently valued at around € 3,4 for 1/20 oz. He also has 1/50 oz gold, but thats still more than 1 oz of silver today. They must be tiny! I can imagen them getting lost :(

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Most Useful Coins

If buying groceries is the objective, then the most important criterion will be that the coins are readily acceptable to the seller. I don't think condition will matter much. I would worry more about having an adequate supply.

The coins in pre-1964, 90% silver, $500 face value  bags often date back to the 19th century and might be quite severely worn, but they are all instantly recognizable for what they are. It is actually interesting and fun to sort through them.

Grover is right. I misspoke about the nickels. Only dimes, quarters and half dollars. The bags are readily available in $100 and $500 sizes from APMEX.com and other bullion dealers.

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Is all physical equal?

Boomer41,

Your post got me thinking about silver premia. I've purchased from APMEX before and have never had any issues. If I were to buy again, I'd consider them. Back to the premia: They offer American Silver Eagles (ASE) at $3.49 over spot (if you purchase 500 ounces or more.) A bag of $500 of pre-1965 silver coins contains 357.5 ounces of silver and has a premia of $3.50 per ounce over spot ask. If you want to part with some of your coins, they'll buy $500 bags for $1.90 per ounce over spot bid. They offer the same per ounce for quantities of ASEs.

I've never seen it where junk was on par with ASEs. Used to be that junk could be purchased at spot or slightly below and sold back at a significant discount. As of today, physical is physical at APMEX. It can't be too different at other internet retailers.

As Chris has said repeatedly, problems become evident at the periphery first. I consider junk silver to be more at the periphery and ASEs at the center. Why are the premia the same? Are we in the opening innings of the separation of paper PMs from physical PMs?

Grover

PS. Years ago, I was looking through a bag of silver dimes and found one that was so worn that I could hardly distinguish the features. Looking under a microscope, I saw 1898 as the date. If it could only talk ... I ended up placing that dime in a crevice of an historic building so it could be "discovered" in the future.

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Paper PM vs Physical PM

I didn't give premia much thought when I was buying my junk silver bags. They are in my inventory specifically because they will be useful at the post-SHTF food market as well as preserving the purchasing power of my savings. The idea of selling them back to APMEX never crossed my mind.

However, I did think about paper PM and actually owned SLV at one time. When I learned about how little physical PM actually backs ETFs and how there is no guarantee that an ETF can be converted into physical metal, I quickly bailed. Frankly, after educating myself about ETFs I consider them to be nothing more than another financial sector scam - to be avoided at all cost.

Handling the real stuff, especially the ancient worn coins with their aura of history, gives me a sense of security and stability which no intangible line item on a brokerage statement can ever equal.

 

 

 

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Physical Premia as an Indicator of Future Trends

I'm buying for much the same reason. I see ETFs as being a means to suppress prices. Anybody who owns these will only be able to get physical under extremely limited conditions (and then, it is unlikely.) Meanwhile, the banks that own the vaults that store the metal can rehypothecate the actual metal and sell it several times ... increasing the apparent quantity and reducing the price. It will work until it doesn't.

I'm trying to remember if premia did the same thing when silver tumbled from ~$21 to under $9. I do remember that none could be purchased for less than ~$13, but I don't remember if the big retailers offered a premium above spot to buy back. If so, we've seen this before. When the price goes high enough, people will sell, and the premia balance should restore itself. That would imply that ASEs are a better speculation now, given that their buyback premium hasn't been as volatile. High junk premia say that retail physical is in short supply. At some point, price will have to adjust upwards to restore the balance. (It could take more time than you can remain solvent if you bet on this happening soon.)

The price suppressors want to keep spot prices low to mask fiat weaknesses. I suspect that volatility accomplishes their goals as well - how can you trust silver as a store of value when its price bounces so much? If premia continues to rise (proportionally,) it will indicate the (final?) separation of paper prices from physical prices. I expect stories of backwardation to become more common (future prices lower than current prices.) It won't be backwardation when looking at the physical prices (spot + premium,) just the paper PMs.

Grover 

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A FOOL AND HIS MONEY

Perhaps you should do more research, my friend.  Silver and gold American Eagles are indeed "Legal Tender": Authorized by the Bullion Coin Act of 1985, American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins quickly became one of the world's leading gold bullion investment coins.  Produced from gold mined in the United States, American Eagles are imprinted with their gold content and legal tender "face" value. The Eagles can be used to pay any and all debts, public and private at their "face" value.  One, of course, would be a fool to pay or buy anything with these coins at their face value since the precious metal content has a higher intrinsic value.

Regarding the buying of bread and the Brooklyn Bridge, you missed the point.  One must remember that during the massive inflation that occurred in Germany in the 1920s, people went to the store with wheel barrows full of paper money to buy a loaf of bread and when they arrived at the store, the prices had risen even higher necessitating an additional load of paper money. 

So what does one do when inflation eventually hits the United States as it will eventually do based on our use of "fiat" paper money and the price of a loaf of bread rises to $100?  Will you give the grocer 100 Silver Eagles because he will not accept nor understand that the value of the silver in the Eagle is $100 because the Eagle is stamped with the value of $1.00 by the United States government. I never stated that I would trade 10 ounces of silver for a loaf of bread.  I said that the grocer probably would not understand the precious metal value of the Eagle because it is Legal Tender with an assigned value of $1.00.

According to research done by Numismatic News*, even though the face value is well below the market price of US eagle coins, these coins are ‘legal tender’ for all debts public and private.  The legal tender value is the amount printed on the coin (not the metallic value). *- Reference: Numismatic News – coin magazine – September 30, 2008 issue.

Since a "silver round" is not Legal Tender, the grocer might be more willing to accept it as payment because the silver round is stamped with its weight in troy ounces, e.g., one ounce silver .999 fine, instead of $1.00

Grover's picture
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Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale ... HURRY!
TFR wrote:

Perhaps you should do more research, my friend.  Silver and gold American Eagles are indeed "Legal Tender": Authorized by the Bullion Coin Act of 1985, American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins quickly became one of the world's leading gold bullion investment coins.  Produced from gold mined in the United States, American Eagles are imprinted with their gold content and legal tender "face" value. The Eagles can be used to pay any and all debts, public and private at their "face" value.  One, of course, would be a fool to pay or buy anything with these coins at their face value since the precious metal content has a higher intrinsic value.

TFR,

I hate wasting my time to prove a point, but I did it anyway. I followed your advice and did a bit of research. Here is the key takeaway from the Act you reference:

http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/legislation/Public_Law_99-185.pdf

"(3) For purposes of section 5132(a)(1) of this title, all coins minted under this subsection shall be considered to be numismatic items"

You should ask yourself a simple question: If these coins are legal tender, how is it possible for the government to sell them for more than face value? Labeling the excess value as numismatic is disingenuous at best. It isn't the uniqueness of the coin itself that contains the value, it is the bullion that contains the value.

TFR wrote:

Regarding the buying of bread and the Brooklyn Bridge, you missed the point.  One must remember that during the massive inflation that occurred in Germany in the 1920s, people went to the store with wheel barrows full of paper money to buy a loaf of bread and when they arrived at the store, the prices had risen even higher necessitating an additional load of paper money. 

So what does one do when inflation eventually hits the United States as it will eventually do based on our use of "fiat" paper money and the price of a loaf of bread rises to $100?  Will you give the grocer 100 Silver Eagles because he will not accept nor understand that the value of the silver in the Eagle is $100 because the Eagle is stamped with the value of $1.00 by the United States government. I never stated that I would trade 10 ounces of silver for a loaf of bread.  I said that the grocer probably would not understand the precious metal value of the Eagle because it is Legal Tender with an assigned value of $1.00.

According to research done by Numismatic News*, even though the face value is well below the market price of US eagle coins, these coins are ‘legal tender’ for all debts public and private.  The legal tender value is the amount printed on the coin (not the metallic value). *- Reference: Numismatic News – coin magazine – September 30, 2008 issue.

Since a "silver round" is not Legal Tender, the grocer might be more willing to accept it as payment because the silver round is stamped with its weight in troy ounces, e.g., one ounce silver .999 fine, instead of $1.00

<sarc>As soon as you are willing to pay 100 American Silver Eagles for a loaf of bread, let me know and I'll open a bakery to cater to your needs.</sarc> Merchants are a lot more savvy than the credit you're giving them. Have you ever negotiated a lower unit price when purchasing cases, or do you blindly pay the grocer's marked price on all units? If you're willing to pay the price, why should they negotiate? As with your example of Weimar hyperinflation, wheel barrows of paper marks were needed to buy a loaf of bread. Do you really think a grocer would have demanded the same face value in bullion coins to buy the same loaf of bread? That grocer would be happy to exchange his bread for something tangible of equal perceived value.

The question then revolves around determining the value of the bullion. Given the choice of accepting a coin that appears to be minted by the US Government (back when that meant something) or a silver round from an obscure mint, which one is more trustable? Remember that the grocer may not have your level of knowledge concerning this silverish round. For all they know, it could be a worthless slug. If the internet isn't operating, how would they be able to easily check? What discount would you have to offer to offset the lack of trust?

A coin dealer will know and understand the value of the silver rounds. Have you noticed that these rounds currently command a lower price than more recognizable coins containing the same bullion? If you plan to exchange these rounds for fiat at a coin dealer, consider your time and effort (how are you going to get across town? What if the dealer isn't open?) Then, you're stuck dealing with fiat that has a rapidly decreasing value-half-life. Tick tock, tick tock.

My point is that people will quickly learn the intrinsic value of silver and gold. There will also be rumors of scams running rampant. You may be able to buy more silver rounds at this time for your money, but you'll get more value from pre-1965 silver coins when you need it most.

Grover

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