I don’t spend a lot of time writing about the possibility of societal collapse. I leave that mostly to my brother, Dave, who writes an excellent, though rarely-updated blog on TEOTWAWKI (The End of theWorld As We Know It). Even so, I make small preparations, mostly as they entertain me. I do enjoy “silver hunting”.
When most people think of life after our current economy or custom, they think of stockpiling gold. Some who have thought things through more carefully point out that silver would a far more practical precious metal to collect against this eventuality. Because its value is lower than gold’s, the tradable units would be easier to handle. A piece of silver the size of a dime isn’t hard to manage. A piece of gold with corresponding value might be too small to exchange or store easily.
The generally accepted scenario in such a future would be a drastic devaluing of “marker” currency—paper notes and coins made from non-precious metal—so that in exchanges where paper notes are accepted at all, one might pay for goods or services with a very large stack of notes, or a silver dime or two.
I agree with Dave, that while precious metals may become a more or less standard of exchange in a less-than-ideal future, tools would prove a better investment toward maintaining one’s standard of living and for trade goods. He expands on the difference between the two, but it basically breaks down to whether a collapse proves to be a “soft” or “hard” landing, referring to the severity of the disruption. A soft collapse would allow us to consider precious metals to be intrinsically valuable. In a hard collapse, only tools, goods, or services would hold value for whatever society remains.
Dave favors collecting metal files, which would be useful to shape necessaries from the massive amounts of otherwise useless sheet metal that would become available after a collapse (all those cars—what else would they be good for?). Currently, these can easily be found secondhand for very little cost. We have accumulated, and use a lifetime’s worth of files at this point.
I like cast iron implements. Our love for cast iron cooking is well documented elsewhere on this blog (for example, see Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware). They’ll virtually never wear out, and, like files, are useful on a daily basis right now. No need to hoard for a future that may never come.
Even so, I like to keep an eye out for silver. Doing so requires a bit more than some might think.
I keep a “cheat sheet” on silver in the reference section of my Franklin planner (see The Franklin Planner: An Unlikely Homesteading Tool). Most of that information will appear in a forthcoming series of essays on this subject, of which this is the first. Subsequent posts will discuss collecting secondhand silver in several forms: jewelry and keepsakes, coin or “junk” silver, and silverware.