What is the best way to invest in gold or silver? I have a definite view on gold vs. silver and how to invest.  I do not think you will like it, but read on. Before buying gold or silver first ask yourself why do you want to invest. If this is a small part of a diversified portfolio or for the novelty of owning coins, this is OK. But if you are looking to get a good ROI with precious metals, know that you are competing against the rest of the world and it is at best a zero sum game, unless you use my alternative idea. Yes that is right, your probability of making a profit is like flipping a coin.

Your choices of investment vehicles are:

  • Gold and silver physical assets
  • Precious metal stocks
  • Futures

Precious metals are not investments but speculation

You would thing there is almost nothing safer than gold or silver right? Think again, if the price is $1,500 dollars an oz and it goes down to $500, and it could, you lost most of your money. I do not invest in metals. Why? They are not productive assets. Let me explain, if you buy a share of stock you are participating in a dynamic company’s growth. This company can expand and create. If you buy gold or silver you own a non productive asset.

If you could invest in a farm that is producing something or raw land in a forest in upstate New York what would you invest in? The only way you can make money on a non producing asset is if demand increases and the price go up. This to be is price speculation not an investment of capital with expected return.

It is zero sum investing because for every winner there is a loser. Actually worse because of transaction costs. Precious metals have no dividends or growth. It is simply supply and demand and price, a mathematical equation, a coin toss.

My alternative to buying bars of gold or silver coins

gold silver stock

This is an example of a gold stock. It is something that is rich in valuation data and I might not have a problem investing in. I prefer shares of stocks to raw physical commodities, or futures.

In the stock market in the long-run there are always more winners than losers. I prefer that game to zero sum investing. If you want to buy silver or gold it is better to buy shares in a mining and mineral company. Natural resource companies are often somewhere in politically stable Canada are better than South Africa. If the demand for precious metals increase, the stock price will increase in tandem. Mining companies actively manage risk and hedge price changes. It is a more conservative way to apply your equity capital. They take the nuggets out of the ground, but also explore new sources.

With a gold and silver mining company you can use traditional valuation methods, like any stock. I wrote an article on how to invest in the stocks.  I owned  Canadian resource companies in the past and made a profit, with low stress.

Gold vs. silver – a comparison of natural value and price

Both metals have ornamental or jewelry value, this is their real worth. I buy gold and silver for my wife in small quantities in the form of earnings for example. So they both have subjective value, but for whatever reason I think people put too big of a premium in their minds. It is not necessary for survival. Here is a basic review:

  • The demand for gold is based on the amount of uncertainty in the market and gold has some prestige value.
  • The demand for silver is not only based on uncertainty and prestige but it has intrinsic value because it has industrial applications. You can use it for medical, water purification, mirrors and coatings and solar panels etc.
  • Gold silver ratio – That is, the spot price of gold vs the price of silver per oz. The price per oz is historically 16 to 1. That means the price of gold is 16 times the price of silver. The ratio is a natural value argument for investing. Silver is mined seven times more than gold. If you are trying to make sense out of this golden mean, don’t. Better spend your time with quantitative valuations of stocks.
  • Silver appreciates more than gold in times of uncertainty – Historically when there has been times of inflation or uncertainty actually silver and not gold appreciates more in value. So if you’re buying it on the rational that these are the times that try men’s souls, silver is your answer.
  • Silver is lower priced and more volatile – Although an asset that is low-priced does not necessarily have greater volatility, it seems to be the case with silver. Greater risk, but also return.

The conclusion is if the price has not already been run up, buy silver and not gold.

Trading precious metals futures

If you still want to invest in just gold or silver and not some company that mines these metals, another alternative to holding coins or physical assets is trading futures. That is paper asset that derive price from the underlying real asset value, factoring in time decay and exceptions. Companies buy these en masse to hedge risks, speculators try to beat the system.

Trading commodities needs trend analysis not natural value

Pick up a book on trend analysis. People try to trade commodities and precious metals on some abstract valuation. This will not work, except in the long run, but ‘in the long-run we are all dead’ (John Maynard Keynes). Better is find a moving average trend and trade futures with exits and spots, even if hey are just mental stops. Stan Weinstein‘s stage analysis is a good investment book on this.

I do not speculate in this way as it is a different type of investing than equities. I am not saying that you cannot make money trading gold and silver, but you need a different system. It is also zero sum.

If you still want to hold physical silver or gold bullion for other reason, such as if you believe that is a good hedge against inflation as you feel the currency is not stable and you need a store of value, then the question is which is better. Some people believe it will be a medium of exchange if the US collapses and the dollar is not longer accepted as legal tender. Under this doomsday scenario gold bullion will be valued many fold what it is today. I am do not believed America is doomed. But I have no problem with having a few gold or better silver coins under my mattress, but to not expect this story to have a silver lining. Better is to buy a good mining and mineral stock that supply us with these precious metals.