Like Gold, most people dismiss silver mostly because their is a stigma among the mainstream that label those who embrace this metal as having some type of fetish. This comes out of sheer ignorance - as silver is the metal of the future. Silver plays two roles, of which both are of great importance. To avoid the much talked about inflationary hedge aspect, I will write just a few sentences for those unaware of this characteristic.
Silver as a store of value - Like Gold, Silver is seen to be a store of value and for good reason. It too has been used as a worldwide currency for well over 5,000 years. This is because it has always been chosen by the people as an ideal medium of exchange. (Gold for larger purchases and Silver for smaller denomination transactions). This was due the physical characteristics of these metals i.e. durability, inability to replicate, an adequate level of scarcity, etc. So as we embark into the era of unprecedented inflation, silver will be right next to gold as the ideal protectors of REAL WEALTH. But being the contrarian that I am, I also wish to point out another case for silver, which delves into a territory almost entirely overlooked.
Silver For Industrial Use- Now and In the Future - what most people don't realize is that silver has become an essential metal in our everyday lives. This trend will continue but at an accelerating rate, which we are just starting to see. Most people think of the common industrial uses, photographic uses, silverware, jewelry and coinage as capturing all that is silver and these uses will see little to no impact in the demand for them. On the Contrary, as silver has recently caught the attention of the medical community for its ability to fight off bacteria growth and promote healing. Without getting into in depth terminology, silver interrupts bacteria's to form chemical bonds, without which the bacteria has no choice but to die. To avoid going off on a whole discussion about the numerous other applications that are being looked into amongst the medical community, I will leave it at that.
Before I get to the important development and the biggest catalysts for silver going forward, it is also worth mentioning silver lenses have proved superior in fighting off harmful rays in addition to conducting light transmission in such a way that people don't need to change glasses when moving from outdoors to indoors or vice versa. This is a rather new trend but is being used more and more, currently less than 15% of total production. One last note before i get into the really exciting applications, is silvers use as a component in solar panels (which I believe is bogus, but the green movement will have solar at the forefront).
THE BIG CATALYSTS
Silver is starting to become a necessity in water purification, much for the same reason mentioned above (the ability to fight off bacteria). Silver is replacing harsh chemicals i.e. Bromine, Chlorine which are inferior for obvious reasons. Although the previously mentioned chemicals will continue to be used, the shift has slowly begun favoring silver, especially in building new water supply systems. Silver destroys legionnaire’s disease, which is cause via a buildup of bacteria in the piping of these systems. Not to mention the superiority it will have in personal water filters which currently use charcoal among other things. This may not seem all that important when first reading the previous sentences. But the implications for water purification systems in all the emerging countries are very substantial, not to mention replacing the currently used piping that will wear out. Now for what I believe will be the second enormous catalyst for Silver. I am referring to the new Silver-Oxide batteries (which have been developed and tested already) and will soon hit the market, most likely in Q4 09'. The following was taken from an article I read and is very informative:
"Everyone who uses laptops or cell-phones these days is at least partially aware of the battery technology everybody uses in those devices. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries have literally changed the world of portable devices, making them lighter, while also extending useful battery life. They have become the most common type of battery used in consumer rechargeable devices. The alternative comes in the form of silver-oxide or silver-zinc technology. Silver-zinc batteries can run up to 40% longer than the equivalent lithium-ion battery. Over 95% of the primary elements in the battery can be recycled. There are no heavy metals or toxic chemicals in modern silver-zinc batteries. Plus, their water-based chemistry make them free from the risk of thermal runaway, fire, and explosion.
There is little doubt that these batteries are a safer, greener, longer-running choice for laptops and cell-phones. With a little more development, their future looks very bright. The technology has the backing of some heavy hitters, as well. For example, Intel Capital has invested in a silver-zinc battery manufacturer named Zinc Matrix Power (ZMP) or Silver Matrix Power (SMP).
Laptop manufacturers are in the process of examining silver-zinc batteries for use. ZMP claims at least one laptop maker already has designs in the queue with an eye toward introduction in their high-end laptops in mid 2009. Eventually, we may even see after-market, drop-in replacement batteries engineered to retrofit older laptops with this safer technology. Expect advertising to tout extended run times and the "green" aspects as major selling points."
Imagine the implications of this fact, as they are incredibly telling for the future prices (more on the supply later). One just needs to imagine the widespread use it will have, especially as those society's in emerging countries begin to use battery intensive electronics such as laptops or just your everyday cheap and simple electronics.
The Supply Side: Instead of going into an in depth analysis, I will instead just briefly summarize the results of a U.S geological survey concerning silver. Well first off, no one knows how much silver is below ground! But there is a huge deficit when they measured the amount that would be feasible to sell at $15/oz. When I say huge, I mean a quantity that will prove unsustainable for the immediate future. Of course this does not take into account the stockpiles above ground, but that has been dwindling as silver mining has been negligible the last 1.5 years. Now don't get confused with me saying we are running out of silver or something absurd like that. The previously mentioned survey determined there were ample amounts of silver but one big problem. This silver lie so far down in the earth, that even conservative estimates are projecting a selling price of $30/oz for this to be feasible. (This is not a well hidden fact, as it is very too easy to find numerous surveys like this from a number of credible sources). I have also seen estimates nearly double that of the conservative projections.
Conclusion: Silver should not only be looked as an inflationary hedge rather through fundamental supply and demand measures. The non-inflationist can merely look at this as a bonus and focus on the fundamentals, which is something you can't do with gold. As for The Silver Miners, I think they are possible the best way to play this, should you believe in the silver story (barring futures).