by Israel Freidman
Many years ago, when the price of silver was $4 to $5, Mr. Ted Butler and I wrote many articles in which we predicted that silver would be a great investment for the long term. Now that prices are 7 to 8 times higher, we can say that we were right. More importantly, the reason we were so bullish on silver had to do with supply and demand and nothing to do with inflation or the value of the dollar. I still feel that way. The only thing that has changed is the price and not the reality of supply and demand. Silver demand still is on a course to overwhelm silver supply and when that occurs in any commodity, look for higher prices.
We must first consider the state of the world today and into the future. The world population has just hit the 7 billion person mark, up from 6 billion twelve years ago. The world adds 75 million new souls each year. In addition to the greater numbers of new potential consumers, there is also a move to increased standards of living in places like India and China. Overall improvements in longevity mean that we have more people living and consuming longer than ever before. At the same time, the raw materials necessary for everyone to live better are getting harder and more expensive to produce. Will we have enough raw materials to sustain the march towards higher living standards? I say yes, but at what cost? Those necessary raw materials will not come to us cheaply. Therefore, it would seem wise to set aside and hold those raw materials which are destined to climb sharply in price.
The best raw material to hold in my opinion is silver. That’s what I felt 30 years ago and is what I feel today. Silver one of the very few commodities that the average person is capable of holding in his own possession. In particular, the US Mint makes the most beautiful and popular coin in the world in the form of the US Silver Eagle. So popular is this coin that I am still convinced that someday the US Mint will not be able to keep up with demand and the premiums on these coins will explode when the US Mint stops producing them. The way the world is going it appears that all the trends point towards greater silver demand. It looks to me that everything in the future will run on electricity, of which silver is the best conductor. Throw in the tremendous appeal and growth of solar panels and it’s hard to foresee how silver won’t be a raw material superstar. Because it is so easy for the average person to hold and so cheap compared to gold, one of the biggest demands for silver will be from investors. These investors will compete long term with the silver users who must have silver as a raw material. This is a potential buying combination that is not present in any other commodity. That’s what makes silver so special.
Naturally, if silver looks set to move sharply higher in price over the long run, it is normal to try to guess when and how high? I didn’t know the timing 30 or 10 years ago and still don’t know today, so the easiest thing to do is not to focus on the timing. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking the high price of silver will come when you want it to, as that is not how things usually work in life. The best thing to do is to only buy and hold silver with spare money and not to borrow money to buy it. This way you don’t create unnecessary pressures to sell along the way. It’s easier not to worry about an investment when you don’t owe money on it. This is especially important because it is clear that there are some big shorts that do nothing but try to knock the price down. Try to be prepared for sharp sell offs and use them to add positions at times when the price is down.
How high can the price of silver climb? Based upon its importance as a raw material, I still believe that silver will pass the price of gold which is not needed as an industrial material. Besides, I still believe that silver is much rarer than gold in above ground inventories and even my grandchildren know that the rarer item should be more valuable. While Mr. Butler is not quite this bullish, I remind him that if the shorts he always talks about are forced to buy back in a physical shortage that will add a lift to silver prices almost beyond our comprehension. I also remind him that because there are no big government stockpiles in silver (as there are in gold), no government can come to the aid of the shorts when the moment of truth arrives and there is not enough silver to go around. Since the world has never seen a real silver shortage, it hard to pick a precise price to reflect something that has never happened.
What I can tell you from my experience is that the most insane prices occur when there is a shortage. From the beginning 35 years ago, I have always expected a silver shortage to occur. That was the main reasoning behind my attraction to silver. I think the big increase of 7 to 8 times in price was due to the market sensing that a big silver shortage is developing, but there have been no signs of a big silver shortage that is clear to everyone. When the big silver shortage comes and everyone can see it in widespread delivery delays and force majeure, only then should the price be measured. A price can sound crazy-high in conditions we are familiar with, but not high at all in a true shortage where the only other choice is to do without and send factory workers home. Maybe you and I won’t buy at the high prices in a shortage, but an industrial user doesn’t have much choice to buy if he needs silver, the raw material. My goal is to sell when the shortage is at fever pitch. That’s why I don’t look at inflation or the dollar – I’m more interested in considering the silver shortage.
As time has passed, I am happy to have written about silver and how it has gone up and rewarded so many. I think the future will look the same way.
This is the first article I have written since my beloved wife passed away and this is for her memory.