What is a noob? It means you are new to the game, but buying precious metals is not just a game, though it can be fun.
You may be new to getting into the ownership of precious metals. Well, you're not alone. Don't despair... read on! By all means, I might be considered a "newbie", though I do have the benefit of having pre-knowledge concerning the difference between money and currency. Maybe you are thinking "what should I get?". Gold, silver, platinum, other? That's a good question, but first you have to answer... WHY are you getting anything?
Why do I want gold, silver, platinum, etc? Do I want to protect my wealth? Am I obsessed with collecting? (my wife surely thinks so), or am I like my cat who enjoys shiny things for a short time before I want to get rid of it? This will determine whether you are a stacker/prepper, collector, or short-term profit seeker. Maybe you will be a little of each. Answering the why will determine what you should acquire. The next question after "what" is when to buy, and that's an easier question to answer. Where I should buy is relatively simple, and I will address that near the end..
Stacker/Prepper: 1) Are you concerned about the economy and the devaluation of your country's currency? I can write a book on just this alone, but you don't have the time for that. You and I both know that something is not right. It is a fact that every world fiat currency is losing value every second. Actually, the only thing that gives any fiat currency value is your faith in it. Once enough people lose faith in a currency, it literally becomes what it is... worthless. What is never worthless? Precious metals! Even copper has value. Are you a stacker or prepper? As a noob, this is the type of buyer you should consider. Precious metals will hold value no matter what we believe. They are objectively intrinsic.
1a) If you find yourself having some extra debt notes (fiat currency like Federal Reserve Notes), you will want to do the opposite of the Monopoly game. Instead of getting as much of that phony "money" as you can, the reality is that you want to end up with the least amount of those when the hyper-inflation hits. Trading those debt notes/fiat currency for precious metals is a good trade on your behalf unless you acquired "fake" metals. Think about it... something with little to no real value for something with little to a lot of true value is always a win! Don't forget to get enough food as well because gold doesn't digest well, but there may be a time when you will be buying food with gold.
1b) Since your concern is about retaining wealth, precious metals are not literally merely an "investment" but more of an insurance, yet one that will always have some value. Buying as much metal for the least amount of fiat currency is ideal. Therefore, buying what is known as "generic rounds or bars" is your best bet. Stay away from silver weights less than 1 ounce and gold weights less than 1/4 ounce because you will lose the fiat currency to ounce ratio, since dealers place higher premiums on smaller denominations. Common silver weights are 1, 2, 5, and 10 ounce. 100 ounce is typically too much for the new buyer. Some examples of generic metals are Sunshine Mint, SilverTowne, Scottsdale Mint, Golden State Mint, etc. Personally, I would not buy gold less than 1 ounce because of the higher premium, but you might not have enough time to save up $1800+, which is why I mentioned 1/4 ounce. The 1/10 and 1/20 ounce or smaller gram weights cost more than 1, 1/2 or 1/4 oz overall so I avoid them. Still, if there is a special deal, I would buy the smaller weights. For example, sometimes the 1/2 oz silver is cheaper than a 1 oz silver coin. Good math pays off!
1c) As a stacker/prepper, you are looking to get as many ounces for the best price. Obviously, you will have the same thing in common with the profit seeker because your tendency is to buy when the prices are at their lowest point. Even the best of us don't know when or where that lowest point is until after it is there. Therefore, a simple rule to consider is that the generic silver round ought to be $1-3 (US dollars) over the current "spot" price. Don't get too overwhelmed over what a "spot price" is. That is basically the paper trading value of a metal, but that does not typically correlate the true value of the physical metal. It has been said, "if you don't hold it, you don't own it". It's easy to imagine a price for anything if you are not physically acquiring it. Still, dealers do utilize the "spot" and then add more, which is called a "premium". As of today, a generic silver round/bar should typically be $16-19 (US dollars), seeing as the spot is around $15.50-65 depending where you check. You should pass on any silver generic over $20 especially if you are buying in bulk. It is common that you will get a better price per ounce the more (in bulk) of a certain type you buy. One common non-generic coin that people stack is the ASE (American Silver Eagle). That coin and others like Canadian Maple Leaf or Great Britain Britannia fall in all categories... stacking, collecting, profiting. As a stacker/prepper, stay clear of rated coins or proofs because they will be a lot more expensive. I have heard that it is not the $ (fiat currency value) of your precious metals you own that is important, but rather to measure your wealth by the amount of ounces that you own. If you are just starting, I recommend to acquire some silver first because it is extremely affordable. Although, if you have a lot of fiat currency to burn, definitely acquire some gold as well. Everyone has their own opinion, but I think a 50/40/10% (gold/silver/platinum) ratio in fiat currency would be solid and diverse.
The Collector: 2) Are you a completist or someone who just thinks that some of these coins or bars look great? There is good and not so good about this type of buyer. I don't recommend starting off as this type because it will necessitate a lot more knowledge of precious metals. Still, if you are a quick learner, continue to read on or skip to "3" or beyond. I won't get too much into this type because of the depth of it, and my admittance to not being an expert. Truth be told, my specialty is a bargain hunter, yet that is limited to my knowledge to which I am merely a beginner regarding collector pieces. 2a) I started as a mini-stacker (bought some rounds here and there) and morphed into a pro-fit seeking collector. The not so good part of being a collector, especially if you are a completist, is that it can be an addiction. You could lose if you seriously overpaid for a metal just because you "had to have it". Anyone who has been doing this for a while will have at least one story to share. You know... that "regret purchase". Sometimes we keep it around just as a reminder. Typically, the collector isn't stacking (buying in bulk) because the coins often carry a medium to high premium price. There are exceptions... for instance, the ASE (American Silver Eagle), though many experienced stackers are not happy with the current premiums on them. That is probably the most popular coin in the world. The collector will have more interest in the rarity and/or condition of the coin. A simple penny, nickel, or dime could be worth hundreds if not thousands if it's that unique rare coin out there. If you are a beginner/amateur collector, you need to do your homework before diving into that market unless you want to get beat over the head with a rolling pin by your wife.
2b) I have observed that there seems to be more series of coins minted in silver compared to gold or platinum. This is probably because silver is much less expensive than gold or platinum so it's easier for the majority of people to acquire. Naturally, common coins like American Eagle, Buffalo, or Canadian Maple Leaf will be found in silver, platinum, or gold. The serious collector may just have all three metals of a particular coin. There are also sets like nickels, quarters, dimes, etc. There is the basic mint strike as well as the proof. And if you want to get more specific, a coin can be graded by a 3rd party. Again, if you are a beginner, don't start here until you learn the grading system. Even some experienced collectors sometimes feel that "grading" is relative, though something graded MS70, for instance, ought to be objectively perfect. As a newbie, just stick to the basics until you get your feet wet a little. The serious collector may not care for what the price is because of the "have to have it" influence. You don't want to get sucked into a panic or impulse buy as a new precious metal buyer, though an experienced buyer ought to know better as well.
The Short-term Profit Seeker: 3) Do you have what it takes to be a short-term profit seeker? This type of buyer is looking at precious metals because they feel that they can make a profit. Basically, this is someone who either is or just thinks like a dealer. The intent isn't to hold onto the metal for long term like a stacker/prepper, but to acquire it for a low price then sell it for more in the near future. The "when" to buy is easy... when the price is lower then sell when it is higher. Silver is typically more volatile than gold. Platinum almost seems to be a mixture of both... steady yet some volatility. Gold has been given the title as the stable metal or "go to" metal in times of uncertainty. Because this short term selling is not ideal for the beginner, I won't spend a lot of time on this. Remember, time is money, friend. 3a) Unless you are someone who has a lot of currency to buy in bulk, you will probably want to stay away from being a short term profit seeker as a beginner. Just like the collector, you would need a vast amount of knowledge about what the value of certain metals are. Some series are more popular so you don't want to go bonkers buying stuff that just won't make you any profit especially if you sell on formats like FeeBay (Ebay).
3b) This type of buyer spends more time because you have to keep track of current prices as well as obtaining knowledge of different coins/bars. Since your goal is to make a profit, you don't have the luxury to break even or lose "currency" on a deal. Yet if you are a quick learner, maybe you can have fun as collector, be serious as a stacker/prepper, and profit a little as a seller. If you are the typical man/woman, you might only have a certain amount to allocate to metals. This is why time is vital. You give time in exchange for fiat currency. You can never buy back time, but you can either lose time or use time to build up value. This is why exchanging fiat currency, which loses value, for precious metals, which maintains value, is typically a win even for a collector piece. The Where?:
As you may have noticed, the why, what, and when you buy or sell metals changes over time. How about the where? Just about every experienced metals buyer will tell you that your safest obtain is to buy from a reputable online dealer or lcs (local coin shop). It's a good idea to establish a good relationship with one or two local shops just in case the internet fails for some reason. Still, having a good relationship with online dealers is good too because of the need to shop around. Not all dealers have the thing you want in stock.
I mentioned before that my specialty is bargain shopping. With that being the case, I have established a record of buying from at least 10 different online dealers. Due to this so-called covid pandemic, my lcs is closed. Here are some online dealers in no particular order. APMEX, SD Bullion, SilverGoldBull, Bold Precious Metals, Provident/JM Bullion. Limited Mintage, which is the store for Intaglio Mint was super fast with it's shipment, but their stock can sell out fast. Monarch Precious Metals gets an honorable mention if you like specialty silver. I have interest with buying from Monument Metals, Golden State Mint, and Scottsdale mint, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. Unfortunately, with all the information that Kitco gives, I found them to be unacceptable because of their $1000 minimum to order, low stock, and no free shipping until you blow a $5000 hole out of your pocket. For Pete's sake, whoever Pete is, even APMEX only went up to $299 minimum during the "pandemic" month. Sorry for the mini-rant. I won't mention some other dealers, though they do have a decent "starter" bargain price, but the want to basically con you into paying too much for something else. I loathe pressure selling. No matter what type of buyer you are, you must know your prices. At the very least, know how much you are willing to spend.
I have become a hybrid. I am not a huge stacker... no monster boxes for me. It is not because I don't want to be, but rather because I don't have enough fiat currency. Okay, I am somewhat poor. I might buy... lets say 20 Canadian 1 oz Maple coins, but I research the best price. Sometimes a dealer might have a "flash sale" and that's a good time to grab up some metals. This means checking for shipping, taxes, etc of all dealers who have that coin/bar because it all adds up. Real quick, I personally believe that precious metals ought NOT to be taxed! That's another book for another time. I also find myself buying some particular series pieces because I might like it, or the short term seller in me thinks that someone else might like it. In the latter case, I will buy just 2 of that coin. One to keep and one to sell at some point. In that way, I become a hybrid collector seller. I have not sold any metals yet, but if you are in the market for statues especially Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, then I have some to sell. I prefer silver now because I believe it to be undervalued compared to gold, which is also undervalued compared to US fiat currency. I like platinum, and I wish I would have gotten at least one ounce when it fell below $600/oz, but it's hard to find and has a very high premium now. I also feel that it is more difficult to sell as a profit compared to gold.
Don't ignore gold. Although I would like to see it come down a little, gold still has room to go up (in fiat currency). Even if you can only afford a 1/4 ounce, it is better than nothing. If possible, a decent ratio to own physical is 1 ounce of gold per 100 ounces of silver. I prefer physical over paper (ETF) because you have it in your possession. There is no guarantee that you will have metals, which are "secured" via paper transaction, delivered to you when requested.
Maybe you have heard about the silver to gold ratio? What is that? Simply, how many ounces of silver per one ounce of gold. The ratio is gotten rather large lately. Some people believe that it should be 20 to 1. Some think 50 or 60 to 1. While others believe 100 to 1 is an accurate ratio. This ratio ignites a debate among gold and silver lovers. What do I think? Who cares... though maybe it matters? I think that all precious metals are undervalued compared to any global fiat currency as mentioned above. Meaning, precious metals are artificially being kept low (in fiat currency) in order to deceive people into thinking that fiat currency still has value. Remember, fiat currency only has any value because we, in general, have faith in it. Obviously, some, if not all, of us here have little to no faith in fiat currency and are just waiting. Some "stack cash/fiat currency" to buy more silver or gold in hopes that there will be an upcoming dip in spot prices... and/or a lowering of dealer premiums.
Whatever the case, you and only you can determine what kind of buyer you are by answering why you want precious metals, what you will buy (silver, platinum, or gold) by what you can afford because you still have to eat and pay your bills, when you will buy because prices will change and timing can be crucial especially with dealer's stock, and where you will buy because not all dealers have the same price. Buying from FeeBay (Ebay) should be done with caution. You might find a good deal, but you might end up buying a fake coin/bar. Serious precious metals buyers/sellers typically get a precious metals verifier like Sigma Metalytics, though that's another $500-1000. Buying from someone with great feedback or reputation can ease the stress of acquiring authentic precious metals.
In conclusion, first create a budget and don't forget to eat. Buy only what you can afford from a reputable dealer/person. Store your metals in a safe place protected from greedy eyes and natural elements like moisture. And find some relief in securing your wealth because this isn't an investment in fiat, but rather an insurance against the fiat currencies. Don't forget to have fun, though don't tell the whole world what you have because there is one thing that is undeniable, that there is always someone who will covet what you have. Be safe. Speaking of which, I am sorry I didn't talk about "safes". Sometimes the "safest" thing is to remain silent and know how to hide things of value in plain sight.