Economics & Investing For Preppers

Today, on Christmas Day, in place of my normal Friday news column, I have this special bit of investing commentary for my readers:

Investing In Your Children’s Future

Today, December 25th, for most Americans, is a holiday of generous excess. We live in a still relatively prosperous nation, and we are a people known for our generosity. One end of your house is most likely strewn with bits of wrapping paper and ribbons. Your children or grandchildren are surely playing with their new toys, dolls, and games. A few of them are probably pouting, because they didn’t receive a Playstation 5 or an iPhone 12 — or whatever gadget it is that they had been hoping for.  And I suspect that many of those who received both gadgets and books are now busy playing with the gadgets, but they have piled up their new books “to look at later.”

Take this essay as my personal challenge to you… Ask yourself:  What can and should I do differently in the coming year when looking for birthday, graduation, charitable gifts, housewarming gifts, and Hannukah/Christmas gifts that will make a real difference in the life of the recipient?

I have a few suggestions, that come from my own “Tangibles Heavy” perspective as a 60-year-old Curmudgeon-In-Training who lives 25 miles from the nearest sidewalk or any cellphone reception. I’m also a Christian, a conservative, a libertarian, and a traditionalist. So your circumstances may vary.

My Suggestions

The following are my suggestions. These are general guidelines and principles, rather than brand names and model numbers:

Things that truly last. Gadgets don’t last. In today’s Bluetooth-enabled world, most of them are essentially obsolete in less than three or four years. But, in contrast, some gifts are truly timeless. I have some items in my home that belonged to my grandfather, and a few that belonged to my great-grandfather.  And you can probably guess what most of those items are:  Books, tools, knives, and guns.  A few of these items I use almost daily.  A good example is a horsehair push broom that belonged to my paternal grandfather.  It was very well made, so if I continue to treat it well, then it might still be intact to pass along to one of my grandsons. Another one of my prized possessions is a Winchester brand screwdriver that also belonged to my grandfather. You may not have heard, but Winchester launched a hardware store chain, just a few years before the Great Depression began.  Sadly, the store chain didn’t last. But there are still a surprising number of collectible Winchester-marked tools that are still quite useful. You can find them on eBay, if you are patient.

Gifts that require an investment of your time.  Obviously, something that you made with your own hands are at the top of this list. But also consider investing your time in genealogy research for your family. That takes a lot of time, but it can result in something tangible that will be treasured for many generations to come. And if copies (both electronic and hard copy) are put in the hands of many members of your extended family, then it will be almost impossible for it to be destroyed by natural or man-made disasters.

Things that hold or gain value. Consider: Items that depreciate are gifts that will probably end up in a landfill within a few years. But silver dollars won’t!

Truly useful tools.  A legal maxim that I’ve often mentioned in my writings is: “The value of a thing is what that thing will bring.” Tools are a prime example. And needless to say, I’m a big believer in buying tools made by small companies in the United States and Canada. Oh, and Swiss-made pocketknives. I also own a large bench vise marked “ENGLAND” that will probably last for several generations.

If you see friends or neighbors in need who are unemployed or underemployed, then consider giving them tools that will aid them in becoming self-employed and self-sufficient.

A good gift to consider for someone that just bought a home on anything over a quarter acre would be fruit and nut tree saplings. That is a multi-generational gift!

A good book or two. Namely:

  • Books that are edifying, wholesome, and give glory to God.
  • Books that open doors to opportunities and creativity.
  • Books that are truly valuable references that can be used for many years.

I should mention that it is important to concentrate on buying books with sturdy bindings, so that they will last for several generations of readers.

Well-made musical instruments. Shop for instruments that match the recipient’s interests in the long term. Don’t buy an instrument that you think that they’d enjoy playing but rather one that matches their interests. Buy quality. But be sure to consider the portability of that instrument. A piano might be good gift for someone who recently bought a capacious house, but not for someone 18 years old who will probably be moving five times in the next 10 years.

Also, for anyone who is already on their way to mastering an instrument, think in terms of how they might branch out. If they already play the guitar and own a nice one, then consider getting them a mandolin. Or, say that if they already play the trumpet. Try to find them either a pocket trumpet or perhaps a scarce valve trombone.

Items that reinforce rather than tear apart personal relationships. The gift of World of Warcraft or Minecraft software doesn’t count, since those aren’t a face-to-face relationships!

And, last but not least…

Investment grade guns. As a survivalist, I consider guns the perfect gift to pass along to your successor generations. If you look back through this essay, then you will see that guns meet the requirements of the majority of the points that I’ve just laid out. Don’t buy inexpensive “junk” guns for gifts. Buy heirloom quality guns that will last.

I may be biased, but I recommend that you invest in both modern guns and antique guns for gifts. Pre-1899 antique guns have several advantages. Most notably they are already rare, and they are bound to become rarer (and valuable) with every passing year. And, since they are Federally exempt, they will be the last guns that draw the attention of gun-grabbing politicians. Consider that the December 31, 1898 legal threshold was established back in 1968, and it is unlikely to change. In 1968 the term “antique” meant a 70-year-old gun. But as of January 1st, legally, “antique” means a 123-year-old gun. Thus, they are gradually become less and less of an issue, in the eyes of anti-gun politicians. So it will be Pre-1899 guns that people can still use for hunting, target practice, and self-defense, even if they have to make their other guns “disappear”, for a time. With politicians like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Gun Czar Francis “Beto” O-Rourke waiting in the wings. That may be coming sooner than you think.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that whenever you present a gun to a family member as a gift that you also look them in the eye and deliver these three strong admonitions:

1.) Treat this gun well, keep it safe from rust and politicians — the two natural enemies of guns — and it will still be in the family and fully serviceable for centuries.

2.) Think twice about ever selling it. If you are ever pressed to raise cash, then sell any other possessions, first.

3.) Don’t ever, ever consider registering it or surrendering it to some petty bureaucrat. You’d be handing them your heritage and your birthright. I’ll roll in my grave if you do!

In closing, buy your gifts wisely, with considerable thought about the future generations who carry your family name. – JWR


  1. When each of my children left their childhood home to become home owners themselves, I gave each of them a tool kit containing a hammer, a drill, an assortment of screw drivers, a level, wrenches, and whatever else I found at the hardware store that would help them set up housekeeping and ownership. Thankfully their father taught them how to use all of these tools and anything else he thought they needed to know, ie changing a tire or installing electrical stuff. I would get things like a sturdy laundry basket with soap, softener, and stain removal. I bought them an excellent set of pots and pans, good kitchen tools, and good cotton napkins. All of these were bought on sale, and as I had saved for them it wasn’t a hardship. After 20 years these products are still being used and cherished by my kids. Indeed when the first grandchild left, he received similar things by his dad.

    We taught them money management from an early age and lawn/cooking/home skills.
    But the most important gift ever was a good ESV study bible and a strong belief in the Lord.

  2. Great post. I’m remembering how many of my childhood gifts were junk from day one. My grandparents did buy us savings bonds (the rate was worthwhile back in the day, and the national debt wasn’t as bad) and they’re still helping us well after grandma and grandpa passed away. Invest in the future in 2021, for sure.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  3. When I look around at the gifts I’ve received from people over the course of my life, the ones which remain are the hand made, the heirlooms, and from my Grandpa, all the “used” ones he gave me over the course of my life. People thought it strange that he never gave new gifts, only used ones or ones he hand made. The irony is that I still have most of the used gifts, very few store-bought ones from others. I still have the used copies Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe which he gave me in my single-digit years and started me on a lifelong quest of learning self-reliance. I have his grandpa’s gold pocket watch he used on the railroad, as well as the 1891 gold pocket watch my dad gave me when I graduated high school, and his own used gold pocket watch that has a very interesting story behind it. I have the used copy of the 1923 16-page genealogy booklet which my grandpa gave me which started me on a lifelong quest to find all my ancestors and learn about their lives and inspired me to write my own books about ancestors, as well as publish biographies about my dad, grandpa, and others which I hope will inspire future generations and help them to learn and love their ancestors. I still have the three little flint-and-steel kits my grandpa made from recycled shoe leather formed into a pouch just big enough for a piece of flint rock, with a steel striking plate riveted to the bottom. I’ve been collection my own pile of leather and steel to make some for my own grandkids. My grandpa was busting with pride when I told him about my college survival class outing when the two ex-military guys couldn’t get a fire going so I whipped out my flint and steel, the shoe-polish tin of charred cloth, and had one going in less than three minutes. I still have the very first ounce of silver I ever owned, a gift from my grandpa with some words about investing, surviving hard times, and the value of physical investments over paper ones. I still have the hand-carved chicken my Swedish grandpa made and gave me, and his father’s straight razor which he bought in the old country and brought with him when he came to America in 1896. And I mustn’t forget my Wyoming grandpa’s Winchester Model 1886 .45-70 made in 1894, which of course, he bought used. I have a long list of such items.

    All the store-bought gifts received over the years? I can’t recall many of them and only have the most recent ones. I’ve given my own children and grandchildren “used” and handmade gifts over the years and need to get going on some more ideas I have in mind for my grandchildren which I hope will be family heirlooms a few generations from now. Other used/hand-made gifts like animal skulls, pocket knives, rocks, guns, fossils, and similar things I hope they’ll still have when I’m long gone. My kids still have the 18″ x 10″ x 10″ “treasure chests” I made for them with their names hand carved on the top and fancy scroll work, just large enough to hold all those special treasures you have when you’re a kid. I screwed up a lot of things as a dad but hope my kids will look at those when I’m gone and remember all the good things and good times we had.

    Now that my oldest son’s oldest son is old enough to shoot, I’ll give my old Mossberg .22 to him next time I’m out that way so he can learn to shoot on it just like I learned and my own boys, and girls, learned on. It was given to my dad, purchased in used condition, by his own dad.

    JWR, thanks for the stroll down memory lane this morning. I was crying and laughing in equal portions. 🙂

    1. Antifa claimed credit. There was a loudspeaker announcement first: “If you can hear this, evacutate now.” It didn’t give a whole lot of time to get out.

      If you hear something like that, run fast.

      1. This is disinformation at this time. No one has claimed credit, and the warning looks have given approximately 15 to 30 minutes of warning for people the leave the area. Not to mention the time of the morning, on Christmas, very low population in that area. This would suggest there is much more to this situation than a typical terror attack.

        What is of interest at this time is that AT&T cell phones, land-lines and internet are down. The FAA has suspended air travel, gas stations are only taking cash.

  4. Saling on Saturdays…

    At yard-sales, we look for cast-iron cookery, pans and skillets and Dutch ovens… the grungier, the better.

    At home on the anvil outside the shop, we heat them to a nice glow with a rosebud on the oxy-acetylene torch welding-set.
    After the crud evaporates, we have a perfect foundation for coconut oil ‘seasoning’.

    This’s a team effort.
    The cookery goes to the kid doing the finding with me, then doing the cleaning with me, then doing the ‘seasoning’ with me.

    And then, we head to the kitchen for a test-drive.

    I believe this teaches:
    * new is not necessarily better
    * old can be made new
    * hands-on skills can be learned… then taught
    * heirlooms can be discovered anyplace

    and probably the most valuable lesson
    * the art of negotiating!

    1. Cast iron… being a young’n and not knowing any better I was always trying to find the best pans, Teflon (eww!), green pans (lasted a year) stainless steel (still have but heat distribution sucks), etc. finally ran across cast iron a few years back in my researches, and also was gifted some more by a friend. Been beating the crap (tender lovingly) out of them since and I won’t ever look back. My wife uses our cast iron Dutch oven for sourdough loaf.. can’t buy that type of goodness in a store these days. To anyone who cooks, get some quality cast iron, chuck the ‘as seen on TV’ junk, and learn how to give it good TLC. It too will last generations.

  5. My young adult son’s gifts this Christmas included a small toolkit and some “PMs” that I was hard pressed to find. One of the gifts I received from my children was a book called THE ULTIMATE PREPPER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE by some guy named James something or other. Looks interesting.

  6. My Mother passed away this year at the age of 93 years old. I was the fortunate one to come into possession of almost all of the tools that belonged to her Father when she grew up on the farm. I have been cleaning the rust off some of them as they have been in a nasty shed for decades, but I treasure them very much.

  7. We’re having a great Christmas. I ordered Hubby a $20 book from England that he’d been drooling over. He got me seasons 1 and 2 of “Leave It To Beaver”. No junk, no paper strewn over the living room, no Christmas tree or outside decorations. A leg lamp would be great, but I’m putting every cent I get into more canned goods. Merry Christmas to all!

  8. Merry Christmas to all of you!
    We had Christmas Eve church outside with a huge bonfire, we treasure our small, mountain church family.
    We will have a quiet day. Our gifts were simple and useful, a new three gallon crock, well made games of checkers and Chinese checkers, clothing, and a casserole dish. We are so blessed! Praise the Lord!

  9. When one of my grandfather’s passed no one wanted His tool collection. Even though I was still renting I knew someday I would have a homestead of my own. So I took his yard tools and his modest collection of hand tools and the standard mason jar full of nuts, bolts, nails and screws. A few years later moved to a house on a half acre and put those tools to work improving the property and building gardens and planting fruit trees. After getting sick of the city life we moved out to the country. Those tools came with us and helped built the next homestead. 20 years later I still use those tools and used countless fasteners to get me out of a pinch. Every winter they get put away with a quick sanding of the handle with a coat of linseed oil a sharping of the edges and light coat of balistal, hope they last another 20 years.

    With my young kids I pick them up a couple tools at garage sales throughout the year and give them as Christmas presents. When they leave the nest they will have a set to help from having to call the “guy” to fix something at home. Save some money and impress the misses. When you can fix a broken washing machine with a wrench and multimeter probably gonna get a couple kisses…

    1. “ Save some money and impress the misses. When you can fix a broken washing machine with a wrench and multimeter probably gonna get a couple kisses…“
      For sure Billy. Nothing better than not having to call “the guy” to fix something.

  10. All of my grandparents except for my maternal grandmother had died before I was born. She had remarried a man we called Uncle George who was exactly what I would have wanted in a grandfather. He was a Singer sewing machine repairman and could fix anything. When he died my dad got me a couple of his hand tools; a hammer, a couple screwdrivers and a hand drill. I really enjoy using them and when I’m having difficulty with a project I pull one of them out and ask for him to inspire me to get it done.

  11. I would suggest gifts that teach skills. If it’s your own children you can help them with it. If grandkids then i would suggest kits and if you can, work with them. Get beginning cookbooks, or sewing or anything else that has a practical application. Then as they learn to enjoy it get the quality tools, parts, ect. that will enable them to continue to develop their skills. The list if ideas is endless but carpentry, leather working, small mechanical kits that creat things that run, sewing, crocheting, knitting, and more. If grandkids, make yourself available to help and encourage. If not in person then online. Children are the future. Help them gain experience and knowledge so they will survive and thrive in the coming days. There is great satisfaction in creating something yourself instead of just buying it premade.

  12. I own two Ford brand wrenches that belonged to my paternal grandfather. I like to think he used the on an old Model A, but I really don’t know the story behind them. I also still have the silver dollars I was given on birthdays as a child.

    My children’s favorite gifts were a week or two with Grandma over the summer. Since there were three kids and she took one at a time, that was a serious commitment on her part but resulted very strong relationship and memories. Our first grandaughter is due in early January, and I expect to continue the tradition.

    These days, we try to give each other expereinces as gifts. Before COVID this was a trip, a concert, a cooking class, or something else that would create a special memory. Memories can last forever and take up no room in your closet or on a shelf.

  13. My grandfather returned from France after WWI and became a St. Louis police officer in the mid 1920s. He was issued a Colt Army Special revolver in .38 Special caliber. It came with walnut stocks, not the ugly plastic ones. It is embossed with a St. Louis PD serial number on the butt in addition to the Colt serial number.
    He passed it to my father, who had it for many years, and now I have it. The blueing on it is 95% and is in good condition…other than the fact that in the 1970s, I fired some Super Vel high velocity factory ammo through it and split the forcing cone in the barrel. A gunsmith fitted it with a Colt Official Police barrel, which is what the Army Special morphed into sometime in the 1940s. It shoots just fine, despite being manufactured in 1922. The newer barrel has a beefier forcing cone and probably stronger steel. It will be handed down to my progeny when I leave the building.
    Quality firearms do indeed last a long, long time.

  14. Great advice here! So often older items definitely mean much higher quality.

    When our littles have the hand-eye coordination to use real tools without injury, then they’ll definitely receive some. In the meantime, some of them have plastic or lightweight wooden toy ones so they can still get used to the idea. Some of them have their own (actual) kitchen tools that they keep in their own cabinet in the kitchen, and they take turns helping with recipes. Admittedly my mother is much braver and more patient about this than I am!

    At their ages, our go-to gifts are books, magazines, or board games (not electronic!!) with educational or spiritual or character-building themes……or art supplies (I swear this lot would go through a ream of paper a week if I let them, and let’s don’t list all of the places that I continually find stickers**)…..or clothing as needed…..or expansion packs for their magnetic erector set (yay geometry and physics).

    **Some in our community have wished aloud that it could be possible to have a SB reunion one day. That daydream makes me smile, and also chuckle as I imagine the happy confusion we would have putting names with faces. I briefly imagined wearing a button or lapel pin of a bear, but realized that would be wholly unnecessary. I’d be the one wearing:
    *the PJ pants that I totally forgot to change out of (because I was busy tying three other people’s shoes), tucked into my scuffed boots, probably with at least one sticker on them somewhere
    *mismatched socks (hey if they fit and they’re clean, that’s a pair!)
    *messy hair hastily put up, probably with at least one sticker in it
    *glasses askew, that I was constantly trying to wipe the fingerprints off of
    *a kitchen towel or burp cloth that I forgot was on my shoulder
    *a baby (at the sight of whom, no one would notice any of the rest of that! 😀 )

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