Guide to Buying Silver Online: Why, How, What

If you want to buy silver as security for financial collapse, or as bartering items for down the line, you need to know what kind of silver to buy, how to tell if it’s pure, and where to buy it from. We’ll go over all that and more in this article.

Why Buy Silver?

Not everyone will agree that a prepper should be buying precious metals, never mind silver specifically, as part of their preps. Critics think that precious metal stacker would be better off spending their money elsewhere, or that the kind of SHTF event a stacker is envisioning just won’t happen.

But even for non-preppers, buying precious metals in general is seen as protection against inflation. Those who are wealthy enough to employ a wealth management firm will have some portion of their assets in precious metals as security. But no one will have all of their assets in precious metals, because you should never put all of your eggs in one basket.

bullion silver bar

Buying physical precious metals is seen as protection from hyperinflation, market and currency crashes, and government asset seizure. The idea is that precious metals never lose their value over the long term, don’t expire or degrade (if stored well), and represent a lot of wealth in a small package.

If you can secure your precious metals outside of a bank, then you avoid being unable to access your wealth when the bank collapses. And in some circumstances, ie Venezuela, the government may try to seize your assets during a crisis. They won’t find what’s buried in your yard.

There is another school of thought in the precious metal world, that society will collapse completely, and revert to using gold and silver as currency. Even in large scale collapses where the fiat currency is all but useless, like in Venezuela, people do not revert to using silver and gold currency.

It would take a very wide-scale collapse, and then a very long recovery period, before it would make sense to use silver or gold as a medium of exchange again. The odds of this are extremely unlikely. In the meantime, you’d be better off if you put money into other preps. But, if you really want to prep for this scenario who am I to stop you?

So, we’ll move into discussing how to get your hands on silver with those two scenarios in mind.

What Exactly am I Buying?

In either of our scenarios you want to own physical silver. Owning shares, stock in mining companies, or anything other than the physical metal in your hand does not protect you from currency crashes and other economic crises. Just because you own something, doesn’t mean the bank/company/government will give it to you.

silver paper

There are many types of physical silver. Government issued bullion coins, like the American Silver Eagle, is the simplest silver to access. That being said, you can buy silver in other denominations, including anything from large bars, to spoon collections, to tiny scraps of silver. If you intend to barter with the silver one day, buy some in small amounts as change. 

These denominations will be measured in troy ounces, or “ozt”. Precious metals have been measured in troy ounces since the 15th century and its helpful to maintain the same standard so older coins and bars can be understood, but it’s confusing to precious metal newcomers. A troy ounce is 31.21 grams.

Unless you’re a collector, you want this silver to be “junk” or bullion silver. “Junk” silver is silver coins made pre-1965. Both junk and bullion silver is only as valuable as the actual amount of metal it is (what it would cost if you melt it down). Don’t pay extra for collector coins, special edition bars, or anything else that has extra expense attached to it.

Where Should I Buy Silver From?

The more trustworthy your source of silver, the more that source is going to charge you. At first, you’ll want to get your feet wet by buying small amounts of silver from your government, a bank, or an official mint dealer. If you are in the United States, you can find an official Mint bullion coin seller here.

For reliable British sources look at this Telegraph article. Canadians can try the Royal Canadian Mint. Usually, you can avoid some of the premium costs on silver from these sources by ordering in larger quantities.

buying-credit-card-online

As a second source of relatively secure silver you can try various online sources like GoldenEagleAPMEX, JM Bullion, Provident Metals, Scottsdale Silver, or GoldSilver. Usually, they’ll charge less than a mint or bank. You should avoid shipping internationally, seeing as metal is heavy and taxes on silver can be large, so find an online source that operates in your country.

When deciding on a company:

  • check their Better Business Bureau rating
  • ask anyone you know who buys silver what they’ve heard about the company
  • look at online reviews
  • search online with the company’s name and “scam” and “bankruptcy” in the search box
  • start small

After one smaller purchase from the company you’ll see if you had the kind of experience you expect.

When making your purchase, you should always check the “spot price” for yourself and ensure the company lists that price accurately.

Official Sources of Silver and the Law

The problem with buying from official and online sources is they charge you a significant amount above spot price. They have to make money, of course. They especially make money on silver dollars, which go for a few dollars above spot price.

background-british-budget-business-silver-coins

That’s part of why buying physical silver is a poor short-term investment, you lose more in fees and taxes than you would ever gain in a short-term market shift. You buy physical silver only as long-term security, and there is a cost to it.

Speaking of taxes, depending on your country and/or state, you may have to tell the government about your silver purchase and pay taxes on it. Some people try to avoid this, but I really wouldn’t recommend that. Pay your taxes on your silver. If a tyrant or thief comes knocking for it, you can always say that you lost or sold most of it, or that someone else already stole it.

Buying Silver from Individuals

It is generally cheaper to buy silver from an individual, but there is a lot more risk. You can find people looking to sell on eBay, Kijiji, and Reddit’s Silverbugs community. Or you can look for people at your local flea market, pawn shop, or antiques shop.

When you’re buying from an individual it’s best to have the advice of someone who is experienced with silver on your side. If not, it’s best to refuse to purchase anything that you haven’t researched before hand. This is especially true about collector items. In fact, if you say you want junk silver and the person keeps offering you collector items, don’t buy from them.

kitco silver bar
Image Source

Also don’t buy from them if they lie to you about spot price, try to swindle you by referring to ounces instead of troy ounces, are trying to sell you a piece of paper instead of the physical silver, or are dishonest in some other way.

If it’s too good to be true, it isn’t true. Trust your instincts.

Don’t forget that you can also check through your change for junk silver. It’s rare you’ll find something, but it happens. There’s always metal detecting too, so long as you have permission to do it. If you find an interesting coin and you’re not sure what it is, don’t clean it before you find out, you could reduce it’s value.

Is it Real Silver?

When buying silver you’re going to want to verify that it is, indeed, silver. Anything you buy directly from your mint or bank is real, of course, and starting there can help you understand what silver sounds like when struck with other metal (be gentle), how fast silver melts ice (faster than all other metals), and what it feels like next to a strong magnet (it doesn’t stick).

If you’re buying an American Silver Eagle or something with known details, like lettering, images, etc., you can check to see if the details are correct. If you can, have a real American Silver Eagle with you for comparison.

You can also use acid tests on silver. These tests are cheap to purchase online, but there are some drawbacks. First, whatever bullion you tested may reduce slightly in value. If it was a collector item it will reduce more. Also, this test doesn’t tell you if the object is pure silver, or just silver plated (sometimes called silver clad).

The best way for you to test silver at home is by combining tests for sound, magnetism and visual details with a weight test. Silver.com describes a pretty straightforward testing method. First, see if the weight of the item matches the weight printed on it. Any significant difference from that weight is counterfeit.

The same goes for dimensions (you need a caliper to measure dimensions). Any mint will keep their coin or bullion strictly within margins of error. You’ll need to find out what those margins are for every different kind of bullion though. A quick google search should tell you.

For the second weight test you need a container or water that will allow your silver item to be submerged without touching the bottom or sides. Place the container on the scale, zero it out, and then suspend the item in the container by a string. The Silver Slacker demonstrates the technique in the video below.

As the Silver Slacker demonstrates, you have to divide the weight by the submerged weight. In the case of pure silver this should result in 10.49. The Silver Stacker is a little bit more lenient with his final weights than I would be, but it sounds like he’s working with a less than precise scale.

And, this test alone isn’t sufficient. You can get the right weight from mixing other metals, but these mixes will fail the magnet and/or sound tests.

Storing Your Silver

Silver will tarnish and scratch, so it need to be protected. Keep it in a water tight container. Vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers will help protect the silver from wear. Don’t store it directly in PVC plastics or rough materials like paper. Plastic cases should be hard, not soft. Once you have it in a good container, where do you put it? Here are some ideas.

silver coins

In Your House

  • a hidden safe (some people have decoy safes with fake valuables to outsmart thieves)
  • a safe that is bolted down
  • a locked ammo box
  • a locked gun safe
  • inside of a wall
  • beneath a false floor or ceiling

Outside

  • beneath a shed
  • in a plant pot
  • in the roots of a specific plant
  • under patio stones/deck
  • not too far from your home (you want it to be easy to access)

To Avoid Metal Detectors

  • within metal pipes in your walls
  • bury boring metal items a few feet above the silver
  • inside of other metal things, like unused washing machines

Don’t tell people that you have silver, never mind where you hid it. Except, do immediately tell someone you trust who is younger than you where you buried or hid your silver (like an adult child, a friend you really trust who is a few decades younger, or a trusted adult niece/nephew). That way if you develop memory issues (even before you grow old) the younger person will be able to help you find your silver.

Do you buy silver or gold? Why and from where?


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  1. Fake junk silver is a real problem. Ditto gold coins. They have ALL been faked, and it is possible for even a coin dealer to get fooled by some of them, especially if they are careless.

    A long-time coin dealer I know, and have bought from, told me recently he had bought a couple $20 gold pieces from another dealer. He didn’t look at them too closely because ‘I assumed he had checked them out.’ When he got home tho he did look closely and realized both were good fakes. The seller admitted he hadn’t checked them out carefully and refunded the money, but he wouldn’t have if the buyer hadn’t checked them out. Nor, of course, if a total amateur who trusted the seller had bought them and put them away for ten years, secure in knowing he had bought from a good dealer. That is one reason to buy from dealers who are big enough to buy direct from the mints.

    Another possibility is buying used sterling silver tableware at household good auctions. Unpopular patterns frequently are wanted only by bullion dealers, so you may get quite good deals if you are persistent in looking, and disciplined in bidding ie setting a limit before you start bidding, and sticking to that limit.

  2. You can buy junk silver coins in bulk on ebay from “jessicascoins” on Ebay. You can put in counter offers on the lots of coins. The vendor’s mark up is reasonable.
    I think junk silver coins would be ideal for bartering in a SHTF situation.

  3. I have no argument about anything in this article, but I would add three things.

    1. Everyone should ask themselves, where is your money? Where is your wealth? The answer is, it is on the internet. We get cash from the ATM, we have our retirement savings at places where we see it on the internet. If the internet goes down, due to an EMP or cyber attack, and down for a year or more, or forever, then banks, Fidelity, Vanguard, all will close and you LOSE ALL THAT. GONE. What do you use to buy anything? Cash, silver, gold, or things you can barter with. Only the things you have on you or nearby. Period. That’s it.

    2. Besides a silver bar, a silver round is the cheapest way to buy small, barter-able, units of silver. One ounce, half-ounce, etc. Even junk silver has quite a premium on it these days. U.S. Silver Eagles, etc., are out of the question–far too expensive. Sunshine Mint makes a sliver round with a micro-engraved circle on it, that cannot be forged. It ensures the round is not a fake. Research Sunshine Mint or some such, and you’ll see this.

    3. The most expensive places to buy silver and gold is from places that advertise heavily, on the radio, etc. The best place I’ve found is in Spokane, Washington, called American Coin & Vault. Check them out, check their premium-over-spot and compare. They are very well equipped to ship everywhere in the U.S. I have traveled to their store, bought rounds from them, and they have been in business forever and are very accommodating. Buy silver the cheapest way, and those folks are among the least expensive I’ve found, even with shipping charges.

  4. I just can’t imagine a situation in which thieves would not find a way to follow me home, after my first two or three precious metal payments, to claim the rest of the hoard. Even if I was truthful when I told them that the hoard had already been stolen, I doubt that they’d believe me, and the ensuing conversation could get ugly! If the time should ever come when we had to conduct trade without electronic funds, I’d prefer to have a big bag of nickels (which are, actually, mostly copper-alloy). Each would be an official “token” of value, but too heavy and bulky to be worth stealing or counterfeiting. As for the vanished electronic wealth… easy come, easy go.

  5. one good reason to have some silver on hand is that it can be used for purifying water (or other liquids). many emergency water filters use it, the pioneers in conestoga wagons kept their milk and water in silver-lined containers to stop microbes from growing in them, and you can use it for this purpose indefinitely. a liquid suspension (colloidal silver) also kills microbes, but doing it that way can get pricey. unfortunately, i haven’t been able to learn how pure the silver has to be (would silver coins work?) or how much it takes to purify a certain amount of water. i read that some of the soldiers in vietnam or korea would throw a silver dollar in a bucket of water at bedtime and by dawn the water would be safe to drink. it would be a great survival item for anyone and everyone to have, but it would also reduce the profits of the corporations that manufacture filters, which may be why it’s so hard to find info on the subject.

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