physical silver bullion

What are the pros and cons of investing in silver bullion? Read on to learn why now may be the time for investors to enter the market.

Investing in silver bullion has pros and cons, and what’s right for one investor may not work for another.

Interest in the silver market tends to flourish whenever the silver price increases, with investors beginning to wonder if it is the right time to add physical silver to their investment portfolios.

While silver can be volatile, the precious metal is also seen as a safe-haven asset, similar to its sister metal gold. Safe-haven assets can protect investors in times of uncertainty, and with tensions running high, they could be a good choice for those looking to preserve their wealth in difficult times.

With those factors in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of buying silver in the form of physical bullion.

What are the pros of investing in silver bullion?

1. Silver can offer protection — As mentioned, investors often flock to buy precious metals during times of turmoil. When political and economic uncertainty are rife, legal tender generally takes a backseat to assets like gold and silver. While both gold and silver bullion can be appealing to investors, the white metal tends to get overlooked in favor of individuals investing in gold, even though it plays the same role.

2. It’s a tangible asset — While cash, mining stocks, bonds and other financial products are accepted forms of wealth, they are essentially still digital promissory notes. For that reason, they are all vulnerable to depreciation due to actions like printing money. A troy ounce of silver bullion, on the other hand, is a finite tangible asset. That means that, although it is vulnerable to market fluctuations like other commodities, physical silver isn’t likely to completely crash because of its inherent and real value. Market participants can buy bullion in different forms, such as silver coins or silver jewelry, or they can buy silver bullion bars.

3. It’s cheaper than gold — Compared to gold bullion, the white metal is not only less expensive and therefore more accessible to buy, but it’s also more versatile to spend. That means if you are looking to buy silver in the form of a coin to use as currency, it will be easier to break than a gold coin because it is lower in value. Just as a US$100 bill can be a challenge to break at the store, divvying up an ounce of gold bullion can be a challenge. As a result, silver bullion is more practical and versatile, making this type of silver investment more appealing.

4. Silver offers higher returns than gold — Silver tends to move in tandem with gold: when the price of gold rises, so too does the price of silver. Because the white metal is currently worth around 1/79th the price of gold, buying silver bullion is affordable and stands to see a much bigger percentage gain if the silver price goes up. In fact, silver has outperformed the gold price in bull markets. It’s possible for an investor to hedge their bets with silver bullion in their investment portfolio.

5. History is on silver’s side — Silver and gold have been used as legal tender for thousands of years, and that lineage lends them a sense of stability. Many find comfort in knowing that silver has been recognized for its value throughout a great deal of mankind’s history, and so there’s an expectation that it will endure while a fiat currency may fall to the wayside. When individuals invest in physical silver, whether that be through buying a silver bar, pure silver, a coin or other items, there is a reassurance that its value has and will continue to persist.

What are the cons of investing in silver bullion?

1. Lack of liquidity — There is a chance that if you hold physical silver, it may not be immediately liquid. In order to make common purchases such as groceries, you are not able to use silver bullion bars or a silver bullion coin, so you will need to convert that to currency first, and the ability to sell silver in a hurry can be an issue. If you can't access a bullion dealer and are in a jam, pawn shops and jewelers are an option, but won't necessarily pay well.

2. Danger of theft — Unlike most other investments, such as stocks, holding silver bullion can leave investors vulnerable to theft. Securing your assets from looting by using a safety deposit box in a bank or a safe box in your home will incur additional costs. Additionally, the more physical assets, including silver jewelry, that reside within your home, the more at risk you are for burglary.

3. Weak return on investment — Although silver bullion may be a good safe haven asset, it may not perform as well as other investments, such as real estate or even other metals.

Mining stocks, especially silver stocks that pay dividends, may also be a better option than silver bullion for some investors. As Randy Smallwood, president and CEO of streaming company Wheaton Precious Metals (TSX:WPM,NYSE:WPM), has said, “Streaming companies will always outperform bullion by itself.” He attributes this to organic growth and dividend payouts that bullion doesn’t provide. Other options for investors interested in silver include investing in an exchange-traded fund such as the iShares Silver Trust (ARCA:SLV), or silver futures.

4. High silver demand leads to higher premiums — When investors try to buy any bullion product, such as an American silver ounce coin known as a silver eagle, they quickly find out that the physical silver price is generally higher than the silver spot price due to premiums used by sellers. What’s more, if demand is high, premiums can go up fast, making the purchase of physical silver bullion more expensive and a less attractive investment.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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