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Will gold or silver win?

I had a hard-copy letter in the mail that asked me how much gold or silver remains to be discovered.

The letter said, “Some say that there’s far more gold to be discovered than there is silver to be mined.”

So, my opinion is to be compared to the universal “some.”

I expect that this question is derived from recent comments made by investment advisory letter writers who also happen to be sellers of silver bullion coins.

In all recorded history silver has been more common than gold. It has been vastly more common since the wealth of the Comstock Lode in Nevada destroyed the old 16-1 ratio between silver in gold in the late 19th century.

It is plausible to argue that the present ratio is too much in gold’s favor at roughly 60 to 1, but whether that translates into more gold to be mined than silver in future years is a connection that I as a coin collector cannot make.

Perhaps a mining geologist would be more useful.

I am reminded of my high school days by this question.

I wrote a paper about a future shortage of oil about a year before the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

For virtually all of my adult life we have been treated to stories about not having enough oil and that we would soon run out.

Certainly today’s high price shows we are in shorter supply than we were when gasoline was 30 cents a gallon, but over 40 years after I first wrote about oil running out, we still have not done so, nor is in prospect any time soon.

Will we run out of oil?

Will silver become less plentiful?

These make great questions.

Unfortunately, I am not the best source for an answer, especially if the question in the back of the letter writer’s mind is to buy silver as an investment.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."