When would you ever want to buy this instead of just buying a Silver for the same price?
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I see two benefits to this:
First, it's helping you cycle through your deck quickly, which is almost always a good thing. Theoretically, your discard pile should contain new cards that make your deck stronger, so you want to get to shuffling them in as soon as possible.
Second, though you don't mention it, Loan gives you the option of trashing the revealed treasure instead of just discarding it. If the treasure is a Copper (especially likely early in the game), you will probably want to trash it instead of discarding it, since this can hone down your deck. But since Loan itself is worth a coin, it always has some value, so it won't be clogging your deck with a useless card late in the game.
Whether this is worth more than a Silver probably depends on your strategy and the other cards available. If this were the only trashing card available, I would be tempted to buy it.
Read this blog post (and the comments) for a discussion of the statistics concerning Loan. The short version is this: If the Loan does not pull a Treasure you want to trash, it statistically does no harm to your deck, unless your deck is very small.
Beginners in Dominion suffer from the same cognitive problem that beginners in Magic the Gathering do: they only see how much a card costs in terms of what they spent on it. They don't notice another cost, that it takes up space in their deck.
When people start playing Magic they think "Wow! An Ornithopters costs 0 mana to cast? I'll put 4 in my deck!". And then keep drawing 0/2 flyers instead of something that actually does anything. Likewise, those starting out in Dominion tend to always use a spare Buy to obtain more Copper coins. Stuff is good, they think - not realizing that mediocre stuff can actually be worse than no stuff at all.
I don't own Prosperity yet but: it looks to me as if Loan would be a great way of removing Coppers from your deck, until all you have are Silvers and Golds, which are what you really want to be drawing every turn! I think the key to thinking about this card is understanding that it doesn't do anything bad to your game even if you hit treasure cards you don't want to discard - it's cycled through your deck for you, which is a good thing. At worst it's an expensive Copper that gets you to the good stuff in your deck faster. At best, it efficiently kills off the Copper cards that are clogging up your deck, once you reach the stage where you have better treasure cards that you want to draw.
If one player just buys Loans and another just buys Silvers, obviously Loans start to look hugely inferior. But if one player buys only Silvers and the other buys Silvers but also 1 or 2 Loans... pretty soon the second player's Copper-light draws will start to be more efficient!
Although I have not played prosperity yet, I am not entirely sold on this card. You have to go through your deck twice and play it hitting Copper before it increases your deck's efficiency at all. If you hit anything else with it early that can be very disadvantageous. Just think if you went Loan/Silver then on turn three played the Loan and hit the Silver. Obviously opening Loan/Silver is not good at all, but then you have just lowered your buying power to the point that you cannot get a 6cost on turn 3/4 unless you get a +2$ action. Early it actually hurts you if it hits anything other than Copper. Also at some point you might want a Platinum, and it is entirely possible, especially after removing a few Coppers with Loan earlier, that you might hit the Platinum with it.
I would say the optimal scenario to buy Loan is if there are some good action cards that give +$, allowing you to forgo buying treasures, at least for the early part of the game, there is no quick way to trash cards (Chapel), and there are cards that allow you to get rid of it (Remodel) or cycle it(Vault/Cellar) once it has served its purpose. That isn't to say that is the only time to get it, but I would say that is the best case scenario.
One scenario where I would consider getting it would be to go something like Loan/Monument for the first two turns, then collect a few Festivals while your Loan trashes some Coppers, then later buy a Remodel and turn it into a Festival.
I think if you open with loan + a non +$action , then your buying power just isn't increased enough and your deck starts to lag behind from the very beginning.
-EDIT-1/22/11 The reasons not to get Loan/Silver are A) It decreases your chance of removing a copper. This is especially painful given that Loan removes them so slow to begin with. B) If it does not remove a copper, it will reduce your maximum hand value back to $5/$3 or $4/$4 for turns 3/4. You lost the most valuable card in your deck for that shuffle. C) You waste $1 by purchasing 2 $3 costs rather than a $3 and a $4. This of course only means anything if you assume that $4 cards are better than $3 cards which I believe is a reasonable assumption in the majority of cases.
The conclusion of my post is that the best thing to pair with a Loan at the beginning is a +$action, so if none are available that you want in your deck, you may want to forgo getting Loan.
I will usually buy one or two Loans in my first three turns to help thin out the coppers. If my opponents are using something that can make me gain treasure cards I might not want (Mountebank or Jester come to mind.) then I might buy more to head off those effects. In both cases, if there are other options for trashing, I will probably go with those instead.