Kerry Kraker has worked in kitchens all his life. Since March he's spent around $100 a week – half his spare cash – on silver coins.
He's part of a growing social media movement who say they are buying bars and coins for protection from a coming age of inflation.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) SILVER STACKER AND MEMBER OF WALL STREET SILVER REDDIT GROUP, KERRY KRAKER SAYING: "There's a little anarchy in it. It's like, OK, we're done with you telling us what we can do and what our money is and what our money isn't. We've decided that this is actual money."
The core of the movement is a 122,000-person strong Reddit community called Wall Street Silver, formed in January at the time WallStreetBets was marshaling an uprising of ordinary investors against the financial elites – creating a trading frenzy around companies like GameStop and causing pain to big investors who dared to cross them.
Investors like Kerry Kraker want to do the same thing with silver. Market professionals, however, say they’re unlikely to succeed - there is plenty of silver, and central bankers in the United States and Europe expect inflation to stay relatively low.
But bankers aren't getting through to this group.
KRAKER: "I'm pretty sure that the uppity ups in the banks and the COMEX and the LBMA [London Bullion Market Association] just think we're just a bunch of, you know, street trash and that we're just going to quit… but I don't think that's going to happen.”
Reuters spoke to more than 20 members, who call themselves “silverbacks” and “apes.”
Their home page features an image of an army of primates from “Planet of the Apes.” They say things like “Ape like shiny,” they organize “raids” – days on which everyone buys together.
The group’s founder is Ivan Bayoukhi – a 24-year-old Canadian.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) WALL STREET SILVER FOUNDER, IVAN BAYOUKHI, SAYING: "Wall Street's Silver isn't just a get-rich-quick scheme. It's really, you really need to prepare and educate yourself and start preparing yourself for the future. So, we're not trying to emulate Wall Street Bets where we just pick a couple of stocks in the market and then just pump and dump them. Nobody is selling silver."
Silver costs around $26 an ounce. Stackers think the price will rise as inflation erodes the value of currencies, demand for silver rises, and supplies run short.
Some say that by buying up bars and coins, they can jack up prices by 100% or even 1,000%, to the point where they can call the shots against the so-called bullion banks, the large financial institutions which lead trade in precious metals.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) WALL STREET SILVER FOUNDER, IVAN BAYOUKHI, SAYING: "If it's such a small market and the masses start waking up to physical gold and silver, that market will be depleted instantly and that spring will explode."
Of the 39 analysts and traders polled by Reuters in April, only seven thought silver prices would average $30 or more in 2022. The highest average that they forecast was $44.
Yet, Redditors are unmoved.
Wall Street Silver issues a deluge of tips, analysis, memes, photos and encouragement. It is far from one of Reddit's biggest communities, but it is frequently in the top 20 for volume of posts per day.
For people like Kerry Kraker, the movement represents a much-needed disruption in a system marked by disparity.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) SILVER STACKER AND MEMBER OF WALL STREET SILVER REDDIT GROUP, KERRY KRAKER SAYING: “It's like we're just getting poorer and they're just getting richer and they are not explaining why. And so, yeah, there are some pretty pissed off people. I'm not super pissed off. I'm just, like, fascinated and I want to play."