Economics & Investing For Preppers

Here are the latest items and commentary on current economics news, market trends, stocks, investing opportunities, and the precious metals markets. We also cover hedges, derivatives, and obscura. And it bears mention that most of these items are from the “tangibles heavy” contrarian perspective of JWR. (SurvivalBlog’s Founder and Senior Editor.) Today’s focus is on the differences between numismatic and bullion coins. See the Precious Metals section and well as the Tangibles Investing section.

Precious Metals (Numismatic and Bullion Coins):

Anyone new to precious metals must learn the differences between numismatic and bullion coins. Both have their purposes, for investors and for preppers. The values of bullion coins are based almost entirely on their precious metals content. Their melt value is tracked in real time in the global markets, all in terms of troy ounces. In contrast, numismatic coins have both melt value and collector’s value. Judging the market value of bullion coins is simple arithmetic. But the prices numismatics are far more difficult to gauge. This takes study of rarity and relative values, study of the science of coin grading, study of standard annual references, and consultation of current rare coin market prices in detailed publications such as the Grey Sheet and Blue Sheet. There are many complexities that I won’t delve into here in this brief essay. Just suffice it to say, the word complex is an understatement. My general advice is that unless you are willing to do considerable study, then skip rare coins altogether, and only buy bullion coins or pre-1965 non-numismatic “junk” U.S. circulated silver coins.

I’m a believer bullion silver, in part because of its utility for barter. Secondarily, I’m a proponent of silver because it is presently undervalued versus gold. In the long term I am confident that silver will outperform gold. Its only drawback is its relatively high weight and bulk, per Dollar invested.

I also generally shy away from mint state (MS) numismatic coins, but I do own a few. And nearly all of those are graded only MS60 and MS61–which do not sell at large premiums above their melt value.  I’ll leave the higher grades (MS-65 and above) to the advanced collectors.  There, they might indeed find great gain, but such investments also carry substantial risk, since the rare coin market is notoriously fickle.

One parenthetical note, in closing: There are some who claim there could be a repeat of the Federal Gold Confiscation of 1933, which exempted numismatic coins. I would say the chances of that happening again are quite low for gold and almost nil for silver. But  just in case, you should buy any bullion gold coins only with cash, to avoid leaving a paper trail.



Ex-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan: ‘We are in a bond market bubble’ that’s beginning to unwind



How lithium and cobalt are getting a boost from Tesla, Apple batteries

Economy & Finance:

From Peter Roff at USN&WR: A Storm on the Horizon: Everything’s coming up roses for the GOP – but that doesn’t mean they’re safe in the 2018 midterms.


Tangibles Investing (Numismatic and Bullion Coins):

One key factor in investing in tangibles is assuring their authenticity. Nobody wants to take the risk of buying a fake coin.  When it come to precious metals coins, the two approaches are: encapsulated and unencapsulated. Coins that are encapsulated (or “slabbed”) by the major coin grading firms such as NGC and PCGS are generally recognized as both authentic and of a guaranteed numeric grade. (From 1 to 70, on the Sheldon Scale.) This makes them popular with buyers who are looking for an investment, rather than as a personal collection.

Note that raw (unencapsulated) coins are preferred by some collectors. Some of these collectors hate slabs and pride themselves on cracking coins out of their sealed plastic encapsulation, especially if they believe that they’ve been under-graded.

In recent years, some clever fake bullion coins from China have hit the market. The best way to weed out these fakes is with a combination coin caliper/scale, called a Fisch. These are made in South Africa. In the past, Fisch Instruments has been a SurvivalBlog advertiser, and I highly recommend them. If you plan to stockpile just one type of unslabbed bullion coin, then you only need one variety of Fisch caliper. But most folks will want to have a full set, so that they can also check coins from other mints, and those of fractional weights. The Fisch calipers are less expensive to buy as sets. And they  are inexpensive insurance. Even if your set of Fisch calipers protects you from buying just one fake 1/4 -ounce gold coin, it will more than pay for itself.



SurvivalBlog and its Editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. So please see our Provisos page for our detailed disclaimers.

News Tips:

Please send your economics and investing news tips to JWR. (Either via e-mail of via our Contact form.) These are often especially relevant, because they come from folks who particularly watch individual markets. And due to their diligence and focus, we benefit from fresh “on target” investing news. We often “get the scoop” on economic and investing news that is probably ignored (or reported late) by mainstream American news outlets. Thanks!


  1. 1) If a person reloads, they can also check coins with an actual caliper and with a scale that measures gunpowder. My experience is that junk silver coins have some variation in weight and size. There is also the test where a coin is weighed while suspended in water and then weighed on the scale ( in air alone) — silver and gold have specific ratios
    between the two weights.

    2) Tungsten has almost the same density (weight per volume) as gold and the gold-plated tungsten fakes from China could probably pass a test done with the Fisch caliper (or gunpowder scale) alone.

    However, Fisch also has a device (The RInger) that strikes the coin — supposedly real gold gives a clear prolonged ring whereas tungsten just has an abrupt click. Fisch’s site ( has a recording to show the difference.

  2. Note that people may eventually go back to owning nuggets of precious metals instead of coins. Coins have several disadvantages.

    Nuggets can be tested by melting them –which quickly exposes tungsten.

    If recast with a hole in the middle –a la Chinese coins — then nuggets can be more easily tested with the water specific gravity test (it is awkward to rig a sling with thread that holds a US coin in water without the thread throwing off the test.)

    Plus flattened nuggets with a hole in the middle can be threaded on a cord for easy concealment on the body:

    Plus nuggets don’t have the premium added by the mint and the authenticity suggested by the mint coining is being lost due to fakes. Even the plastic sealing containers with the holograms have been faked.

  3. Don – I see a problem with nuggets: purity. Natural gold nuggets are never .999 pure gold. Depending on their place of origin, they are alloyed with silver or copper and other impurities. Even if you had each one assayed, you would still have to convince the buyer of the correctness of the assay.

  4. @elgin
    I envision the nugget being melted down to demonstrate purity when it is exchanged. That melt should expose any impurities and allow them to be removed before the gold is weighed. After the first exchange, the gold should be relatively pure. Maybe not .999 but then coins are not pure either — they are alloyed with copper,etc.

    “Slugs” might be a better term but it already has a connotation of falseness that is opposite to what I’m thinking of.

  5. People (those you WANT to deal with!) KNOW what a Mercury dime or Barber quarter are. The odds that the Chinese are going to the trouble to FAKE a worn, 1934 Washington quarter, are long indeed. If I have extra of what you need, I’ll take worn silver dimes & quarters all day. If you bring me a gold nugget, I’ll stare at you… and tell you to bring it back, when you’ve beaten it into the correct shape (and purity & weight) of a $5 gold Liberty piece…

    1. Really?

      1) From

      “Counterfeit coins are “flooding the market at an astonishing rate,” and compromising the investments of collectors, according to the American Numismatic Association (ANA).

      “It’s a very serious problem and it’s really scary,” said Rod Gillis, ANA’s education director. “With improved technology, the fakes are getting better. It’s gotten to the point where even people who deal with coins all the time may not be able to recognize a counterfeit coin right away.”

      2) Re silver coins:
      “Superfake” 1884-S Morgan Dollar”

      3) Also:
      “Thousands of fake 1893-S Morgan dollars have found their way into the U.S. rare coin marketplace over the last few years. I would rate this piece as moderately well made, but with enough defects that the average collector should be able to verify that it is not genuine.”

      4) The reliable test for silver is melting it down and then testing it with acid on a touchstone plus the specific gravity water test.

      The sinister thing about faking coins is that the buyer is deterred from doing those tests because he doesn’t want to erase the coin markings. But acid/Touchstone is reliable only if the coin is first melted down — since a fake may be plated on the surface with enough silver to pass.

      5) Last time I checked, there was a market for gold rounds/nuggets/bars etc.

      1. “The odds that the Chinese are going to the trouble to FAKE a worn, 1934 Washington QUARTER… are long indeed. If I have extra of what you need, I’ll take worn silver DIMES & QUARTERS… all day.”

        Did I say anything about Morgan dollars?

        Nuggets are fine… today… if someone wants them. I’m talking about “spending money,” for AFTER the world ends.

        I don’t doubt folks will still pan for gold, and still find nuggets after the world ends. I ALSO don’t doubt, those nuggets will get melted down in short order, to remove impurities, and establish a set value. But coins will still be king, and small coins will rule, because the work to counterfeit a dime or quarter, is still too much work, vis-a-vis the return on the effort.

        1. 1) I have nothing against junk silver –but a bag with $1000 face value only holds $12,571 value and has
          715 oz of silver — weighing about 50 lbs counting the 10% copper alloy.

          Good luck fleeing the country with $125,000 (500 lbs of dimes) to set up a new life elsewhere with that approach.

          2) At today’s spot price of $16.79, that 715 oz of silver has a value of $12,004. The additional $567 is the premium
          charged by the seller — 4.72% over spot. Try selling it and see what you get.

          3) $1000 face value in silver dimes means 10,000 dimes. Are you going to examine all
          of them with a magnifying glass to ensure the bag wasn’t salted with post-1964 dimes —
          the ones with the heavy copper content?

  6. Note also that for the coin market to survive, the VAST MAJORITY of buyers must have confidence they can identify fakes.

    A few dealers having — or claiming to have — esoteric knowledge that lets them spot fakes is not enough. And all those online tutorials to give buyers false confidence is whistling past the graveyard. Because the fakers are getting better and better.

    If enough people get burned , I think the market’s faith in bullion coins will evaporate and they will become difficult to sell.

  7. The last ten years we have seen a rise in gold-clad tungsten in coins, jewelry, bars and ingots. Electronic testers do not catch some of them because the gold is fairly thick around a 1/2 mm or so. You must file any thing you suspect deeply before you acid test or use your electronic tester. Mistakes on these can be very costly.

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