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Crash and stash?

How low can they go?

That is the question on the minds of many owners and followers of precious metals this morning.

When I checked the Kitco website I found that an ounce of gold was trading for $1,422.90 a troy ounce, though it had been below $1,400 apparently earlier this morning.

Silver was at $24.41 a troy ounce, down.

On dramatic down days like today and Friday, the reflex, of course, is to reach back to 1980 and wonder if it still offers any lessons.

The first lesson is that as large as the present drops might seem, they are smaller than the initial declines from the 1980 peak.

Back in January 1980, gold had a one-day tumble of 18.8 percent and silver plunged 22.72 percent.

Gold is down roughly 3.7 percent so far today and silver has declined 5.6 percent.

Back in 1980, both metals stabilized for a while and it took two months to work their way down to levels that became not the ultimate bottom, but fairly long-term bottoms.

When all was said and done in that two-month period, gold was down 46 percent and silver 78 percent.

The drops were strong and fast blows to owners.

The current market has been far different in that the decline from the peaks has been much slower, taking nearly two years from silver’s near $50 price in late April 2011  and gold’s near $1,900 price in late August 2011.

Even as late as the end of 2012, it could still be argued that the metals were in an uptrend.

The one correlation that seems to hold is that whatever decline gold records in percentage terms, silver exceeds it. From the peak, gold has fallen by roughly 25 percent and silver by roughly 50 percent.

For coin collectors, now is probably the time to begin to compile lists of coins that would make desirable purchases should they touch certain lower levels.

Down markets can present opportunities.

However, these opportunities must be searched out and then acted upon when others become afraid declines will never end.

That is a skill few of us possess.

Most coin owners simply ride out these swings and continue their long-term numismatic habits.

What will you be doing?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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