The Queen of England gifted an unusual item to the President of Mexico at the G20 summit in London … more fascinating even than President Obama's gift to her of an iPod loaded with Broadway show tunes. The monarch gave President Calderon a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Silver, while abundant in Calderon's homeland, remains precious in a world flooded with paper assets. Still, with headlines heaping greater attention upon gold as a safe haven, silver is like the downtrodden prole eking out a meager existence under the shadow of its gilded big brother. In truth, silver has every bit the precious pedigree of gold, with its monetary use dating back to ancient Sumeria. The countless industrial applications for silver further enhance the metal's allure.
The Earth's crust contains about 15 ounces of silver for every one ounce of gold, and the long-term relationship between the values of the two metals echoed that geological truism for many centuries. Today, however, one can obtain 70 ounces of silver for the price of an ounce of gold. This huge disconnect from the historical ratio forms an important foundation for this Fool's contention that silver could deliver greater upside than gold as the mother of all currency crises plays out on the world stage.
The slingshot effect
I find it helpful for investors looking at silver for the first time to visualize the slingshot effect. Picture gold and silver tethered together by a long rubber band. When gold moves in either direction, silver often lags gold's movements while potential energy is stored, but ultimately makes larger-percentage moves. Given this phenomenon, Fools seeking a safe haven from mounting stagflationary inputs could find refuge in gold's little brother.
Please note: Understanding the silver market, and especially the mining sector, requires substantial research and diligence, and the correlative danger of the slingshot effect is that it applies to downward movements in gold as well. Nonetheless, I believe that long-term upward pressures upon the gold price are mounting considerably. When gold makes its next big move, silver may enjoy a most precious bounce.
Selecting silver bullets
Physical bullion is the most straightforward vehicle for silver exposure, but most investors opt for some form of bullion proxy. While the iShares Silver Trust
My top pick among silver miners conducts no mining at all. Instead, Silver Wheaton
This has been quite a week for silver miners. Just weeks after commissioning the new Manantial Espejo mine in Argentina, Pan American Silver
Coeur d'Alene Mines
Silver, in fact, is not for the faint of heart. With that slingshot effect, it is capable of gut-wrenching movements that will test the will of investors. Without staking any claims regarding short-term movements, I stand by my long-held assertion that the multi-year secular bull market for silver remains fully intact.
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Fool contributor Christopher Barker carries a silver coin which reads: "Honest value never fails." He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Coeur d'Alene Mines, Central Fund of Canada, Hecla Mining, Pan American Silver, and Silver Wheaton. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is .999 pure.