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Does Warren Buffett own silver?

Warren Buffett is one of the most famous and successful investors in the world. As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, he has built a massive conglomerate with holdings in a wide range of industries. Many investors look to Buffett’s portfolio and investment style for insights into how to manage their own money. This leads to a common question – does Warren Buffett own silver?

The short answer is no, Warren Buffett does not directly own silver. He does not invest heavily in precious metals like silver, gold, or platinum. However, he does own shares of companies that produce and sell silver. So while Buffett does not directly buy bullion or coins, he is exposed to silver prices through his equity investments.

Why Buffett Doesn’t Own Silver

Warren Buffett’s investment strategy is focused on buying stock in strong companies at good prices. He looks for companies with durable competitive advantages, shareholder-friendly management, and good growth prospects. Directly owning precious metals like silver does not fit into this strategy.

Buffett’s preferred holding period is forever, but silver and gold generate no cash flows. Precious metals investments rely solely on speculation about future price appreciation. Buffett prefers revenue- and profit-generating assets.

Additionally, Buffett views gold and silver as unproductive assets. The precious metals do not provide goods, services, employment, tax revenue, or other societal benefits. They simply sit there as a sterile investment. Buffett favors putting his capital to work in more constructive ways.

Buy What You Understand

One of Buffett’s famous investing maxims is to only invest within your “circle of competence.” In other words, only buy stocks in businesses and industries that you thoroughly understand. Buffett stays away from high-tech companies and biotech firms because he does not have the experience to properly evaluate them.

The dynamics that drive precious metals prices are outside of Buffett’s core areas of expertise. Gold and silver prices fluctuate based on factors like jewelry demand, industrial use, inflation expectations, US dollar moves, interest rates, coin collecting, and speculative manias. Most of those factors are hard for Buffett or any investor to predict. So he avoids direct silver ownership from a “know what you own” standpoint.

Prefer Productive Assets

In Berkshire Hathaway’s 2011 annual shareholder letter, Buffett summarized why he does not like gold, and by extension silver:

“Gold, however, has two significant shortcomings, being neither of much use nor procreative. True, gold has some industrial and decorative utility, but the demand for these purposes is both limited and incapable of soaking up new production. Meanwhile, if you own one ounce of gold for an eternity, you will still own one ounce at its end.”

This quote summarizes Buffett’s aversion to precious metals. He prefers assets that actually produce value and cash flows. Gold and silver are effectively sterile. They do not grow or generate economic benefits. Buffett has a strong preference for farmland, real estate, operating companies, and other productive assets over precious metals.

Buffett’s Silver Investments

While Warren Buffett does not directly own silver bullion or coins, Berkshire Hathaway does have significant exposure to silver prices through common stock investments. Buffett owns large stakes in several companies that produce silver as a byproduct of other mining activities. For example:

Company Berkshire Stake Silver Production
Barrick Gold Corporation 20.2 million shares 55.8 million ounces in 2020
Newmont Corporation 23.7 million shares 26.7 million ounces in 2020

In aggregate, the silver output attributable to Berkshire’s ownership stakes totaled around 35 million ounces in 2020. That comes to over $700 million worth of silver produced by Buffett’s investments.

So while Warren Buffett does not directly buy silver bars or coins, his equity portfolio provides substantial exposure to silver production and silver prices. He gets the benefits of silver exposure without owning it directly.

Silver Stocks vs. Direct Silver Ownership

Owning shares in silver mining companies rather than physical silver itself has some notable differences for investors:

– With mining stocks, there is an additional layer of company financials to evaluate before investing. The company’s management, balance sheet, costs, mining efficiency, reserves base, and other factors will impact the stock’s performance over time. With direct silver ownership, an investor just has to analyze silver supply and demand itself.

– Silver stocks provide exposure to rising silver prices. But they also expose the investor to risks unique to that company, like poor management, geopolitical issues where mines are located, production difficulties, debt loads, mine reserve depletion, and more.

– Silver stocks pay dividends to owners. Physical silver bars and coins do not.

– Silver stocks can be easily bought and sold on liquid stock exchanges. Physical silver must be stored and selling involves transaction fees.

– Silver mining stocks allow fractional ownership of the silver reserves. With direct silver ownership, full ounces must be purchased.

So while not a pure play on silver prices, Buffett’s silver stock investments allow broad exposure to the metal without the storage and transaction costs of physical ownership.

Why Buffett Does Not Invest More in Precious Metals

Berkshire Hathaway has owned equity stakes in silver mining companies for decades. And Buffett has access to billions in capital he could deploy into silver producers if he wanted greater exposure. This raises the question of why Buffett does not allocate more money to precious metals. Some reasons why include:

Not a Great Long-Term Track Record

Although silver has had some great short-term speculative rallies, it has not performed particularly well over long stretches. For example, silver peaked at $50 per ounce in 1980. It took until 2006, 26 years later, before silver exceeded that old high. And silver peaked again in 2011 at around $50 before crashing over 70% by 2015. Silver has often underperformed stocks and bonds over extended periods.

Too Difficult to Value

With most companies, investors can analyze financial metrics like sales, margins, earnings, dividends, assets, debts, and capital spending. These provide tangible indicators of value and future returns. But silver does not produce cash flows, margins, earnings, or anything quantifiable. Valuing silver requires speculating on global supply and industrial/monetary demand many years into the future – a difficult task.

Too Volatile

Precious metals like silver are notorious for their price volatility. Silver can easily gain or lose 10% or more in a month based on speculative sentiment alone. This kind of volatility does not fit with Buffett’s preferred investment horizon of forever. Berkshire Hathaway’s risk tolerance is low and sudden price crashes could pressure it to sell at the worst times.

No Clear Competitive Advantage

Buffett likes to identify companies with clear competitive advantages over peers before investing in them. However, silver does not have durable competitive advantages like a brand, proprietary technology, scale, or distribution network. Silver is a homogeneous commodity and lacks a moat. Any perceived supply/demand imbalance could turn out to be false if new silver deposits are discovered.

Does Silver Have a Place in a Diversified Portfolio?

While Warren Buffett avoids direct silver ownership, many financial advisors do recommend keeping a small portion of a diversified investment portfolio in precious metals including silver. Here are some potential benefits of owning some silver:

Inflation Hedge

Silver has historically tended to provide protection against price inflation, especially extreme inflation where fiat currencies rapidly lose purchasing power. This inflation hedge makes silver a potential insurance policy in a portfolio.

Portfolio Diversification

Silver’s price movements often have low or negative correlations with stocks, bonds, and real estate. Adding precious metals exposure can help smooth out portfolio volatility over long periods of time.

Store of Value

Silver has served as a reliable store of value for thousands of years across many civilizations. It is globally liquid and occupies a small physical footprint for storing wealth. Silver may hold its purchasing power better than cash or even stocks during periods of financial turmoil.

Supply Constraints

Unlike fiat currencies which governments can print indefinitely, the worldwide supply of mined silver is fundamentally constrained. Silver production cannot ramp up arbitrarily in response to rising demand. And most silver is consumed rather than recycled. This supports long-term price appreciation.

Crisis Protection

Physical silver owned personally provides insurance against financial system disruptions. If a crisis shuts down ATMs and online banking, precious metals still retain value. Silver coins and bullion can function as crisis currency.

So while silver should comprise only a small portion of most portfolios, it does provide some unique protections that stocks, bonds, and cash alone cannot deliver. This helps explain silver’s enduring appeal as an alternative asset.


In summary, Warren Buffett does not directly own silver bars, coins, or bullion. But he does hold substantial equity exposure to silver mining companies like Barrick Gold and Newmont. This provides Berkshire Hathaway with sizable, albeit indirect, exposure to silver prices. Direct silver ownership does not fit Buffett’s preferred investment style focused on cash flow generating assets.

However, many other investors do choose to own some physical silver as part of a diversified portfolio. Silver can provide inflation protection, volatility reduction, crisis insurance, and an alternative store of value. While silver investing remains controversial, it can make sense for investors who adhere to proper portfolio allocation and risk management.