Partners

Archive for May, 2013

GOLD SOVEREIGN: THE WORLD’S MOST SOUGHT AFTER GOLD COIN

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

The Gold Sovereign is a highly collectable investment coin and the oldest coin struck by the Royal Mint. It is perhaps the World’s most famous gold coin and is the most widely traded semi–numismatic gold coin. The Sovereign is 22 Carat and is a highly collectable investment coin.

It was first minted at the order of King Henry VII in 1489; the modern version first appeared in 1817 with the now famous image of St George slaying the dragon engraved on the reverse. Today’s sovereign contains 0.235421 ounces (7.315 grams) of gold and is highly sought after throughout the world.

Henry VII

On October 28th 1489, Henry VII issued instructions to the Royal Mint to strike “a new money of gold”. Gold coins had been in circulation for the previous 150 years, this was the largest yet both in size and volume. It had yet two other intriguing features: while being large, it was also very thin, with a diameter of one and a half inches.

“The king is seated on a throne of elaborate design which fills the field of the obverse; the reverse type is the same which he adopted for the ryal, but usually the work is more crowded, a fleured tressure being added around the rose, and lions and fleurs inserted in the small intervening spaces. The coin, in spite of the somewhat restless effect produced by the massing of detailed ornamentation on the reverse, is a wonderful creation of Tudor art; the compositions of the throned figure, adapted most skillfully to the circular field, and the powerful handling of perspective to defeat the limitations of the shallow relief which was necessary in the engraving of the dies for striking so thin a flan, show a complete mastery of technique combined with the highest artistic inspiration.” (Coinage, by R.H. Dolley, Assistant Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum, in Lane Poole, Austin: Medieval England, Volume I, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1958).

The coin weighed 240 grains and had a current value of twenty shillings. The king is in full coronation regalia on the obverse, and the reverse shows the royal arms against a double rose symbolizing the union under Henry VII of the Yorkists and the Lancastrians after the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses.

It was named a Sovereign and it is interesting to speculate why, the Wars of the Roses being an indication. England had been long troubled by the conflicts between the nobles and their contending champions for the crown. A weak Henry VI who could not rule France and barely controlled England was usurped by Richard III, who in turn was beaten at Bosworth Field by Henry VII, who was duly crowned king as victor in battle. However, Henry did have legitimate claim: he was Earl of Richmond in his own right, and claimed descent from the Lancastrian side, while politically he was a Yorkist. He was a powerful ruler, aided in this by his subjects who craved a quiet life and the dissipation of the nobility, many of whose lines died out on the battlefield as male heirs perished, often enough upon capture and execution.

While it is true that plots and subterfuges continued behind the scenes of Henry’s rule, the country at large was at peace and united for the first time under his reign. This imposing gold coin, emblazoned with the image of the victorious sovereign was perhaps intended as a symbol of how he had and was to continue to rule, hence the name. It set a seal on this the reign of the first Tudor, which was to be consolidated in the reign of his son, Henry VIII.

“Large and handsome, it was clearly intended to augment the dignity of the king and to propagate a political message of stability and prestige rather than to fulfill any commercial or domestic need. As such, it was struck in turn by each of the Tudor monarchs, its issue coming to an end early in the reign of James I. A Sovereign was not to appear again for 200 years.” (The Royal Mint) (Clicking on this link will not only give readers the Royal Mint’s perspective on its oldest and most famous coin, but a view of the obverse and the reverse of Henry’s Sovereign: a coin that richly merits the fulsome description given above by Assistant Keeper Dolley.)

The first modern Sovereign

Gold sovereigns were re-introduced as legal tender in 1817 as part of a major coin reform conducted by the Master of the Royal Mint, William Wellesley Pole.  A young Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci, was appointed to create the reverse design of the new sovereign; he realized the beautiful image of St George slaying the dragon.  This design has been varied over the years but is essentially the same.  As a testament to its greatness, it still appears on sovereigns today.  Other designs for the reverse designs have appeared at times, during the reigns of William IV, Victoria, George IV and Elizabeth II.  A royal shield, as used on the 1489 sovereign, has often been used in various different formats.  The obverse of the sovereign followed the trend established for the original sovereigns and portrayed an image of the reigning monarch which remains the case up until today.

Gold sovereigns were withdrawn from circulation at the start of World War I in 1914, although production continued at the Royal Mint until 1917.  They continued to be struck in other mints of the British Empire but in lower quantities than before.  Sovereigns not produced at the Royal Mint in London carry a mintmark to show which mint produced them.  Production of sovereigns at other mints stopped in 1932.

In 1957 the Royal Mint began producing gold sovereigns once more, in part to meet world demand and  in part to prevent counterfeit production – which became rife after the Royal Mint stopped production in 1917.  They were not however reintroduced into everyday circulation.  Prior to 1979 only gold bullion coins had been issued and it was in this year that the first gold proof sovereigns were issued.  Between the years 1983 and 1999 the Royal mint ceased producing gold bullion sovereigns and only minted gold proof sovereigns.  Gold bullion sovereigns were re-introduced in 2000.

1989

To celebrate the 500th anniversary  a special 500 commemorative design was produced, showing Queen Elizabeth II seated facing on a throne. This was only issued as a proof and demand  has grown steadily over the past few years, because as a single-date type coin, it is in demand by both date collectors and type collectors.

2005 – New Modernistic design

In 2005, the Royal Mint issued another new sovereign designed by Timothy Noad a herald painter at the Royal College of Arms actually a modernistic version of Saint George slaying the dragon with the shield as a focal point. This coin was issued in both normal circulation (bullion) and proof versions for 2005 only

2007 – 2010

The Royal Mint have used re-cut dies to take the design  back almost two centuries to portray Pistrucci’s St. George and the dragon in its neo-Classical glory

Types of Sovereign

Aside from the full sovereign, the Royal Mint today produces the following sovereigns in gold proof and gold bullion versions for general sale: quintuple (£5) sovereign, double (£2) sovereign, half sovereign and for the first time ever, 2009 saw the general release of a quarter sovereign.

Sovereign designs and dates

Monarch Obverse design Reverse design Dates
George III Laureate head St George and the dragon 1817-1820
George IV Laureate head St George and the dragon 1821-1825
George IV Bare head Shield 1825-1830
William IV Bare head Shield 1831-1833, 1835-1837
Victoria Young Head Shield 1838-1839, 1841-1866, 1868-1887
Victoria Young Head St George and the dragon 1871-1887
Victoria Jubilee Head St George and the dragon 1887-1893
Victoria Old Head St George and the dragon 1893-1901
Edward VII Bare head St George and the dragon 1902-1910
George V First Type (large head) St George and the dragon 1911-1928
George V Second Type (small head) St George and the dragon 1929-1932
George VI Bare head St George and the dragon 1937 coronation proof set only
Elizabeth II First portrait St George and the dragon 1957-1959, 1962-1968
Elizabeth II Second portrait St George and the dragon 1974, 1976, 1978-1984
Elizabeth II Third portrait St George and the dragon 1985-1988, 1990-1997
Elizabeth II Sovereign portrait Shield and Tudor rose 1989
Elizabeth II Fourth portrait St George and the dragon 1998-2001, 2003, 2004, 2006-2009
Elizabeth II Fourth portrait Shield 2002 Jubilee
Elizabeth II Fourth portrait Modern St George and the dragon 2005

Technical specifications of modern sovereigns (post 1817)

  Quintuple sovereign Double sovereign Sovereign Half Sovereign Quarter sovereign
Purity 22 carat gold 22 carat gold 22 carat gold 22 carat gold 22 carat gold
Weight (grams) 39.94 15.98 7.99 3.99 1.997
Diameter (mm) 36.02 28.40 22.05 19.30 13.50
Actual gold content (troy ounces) 1.1771 0.4708 0.2354 0.1177 0.0588

Gold sovereigns: to invest or not to invest?

As one of the oldest coins in the world the British gold sovereign is highly sought after by both investors and numismatists alike.  As with all gold coins, the price of sovereigns fluctuates with the price of gold because of the gold content of the coin.  However the price of sovereigns is not entirely based on its gold content.  Gold sovereigns generally fetch a higher premium than the price of gold for the same gold content.  For example the 2009 gold proof sovereign retails at about £299 for 0.23 ounces of gold.  The current price of an ounce of gold is around £680 therefore the price for 0.235 ounces is around the £160 mark.  Therefore the 2009 sovereign is worth almost twice as much as the price of gold.

The premium of a sovereign obviously depends on its quality and whether it is easily available or not.  Some sovereigns fetch a much higher premium than others.

While there is no official grading system in existence, sovereigns are generally graded in the following manner in the UK:

FDC/proof  – perfect quality

UNC – uncirculated

EF – extra fine

VF – very fine

F – fine

(see article on quality of gold coins)

Whilst older sovereigns were produced in much larger quantities than those produced today it is much more difficult to source a good quality sovereign from these times.  Sovereigns from the reigns of George III, George IV and William IV are extremely rare in good quality.  EF quality coins can be found but are quite rare and as such would fetch a high premium.  FDC and UNC coins are extremely rare for these periods and when sold fetch very high premiums.  A George IV sovereign from 1825 made £14950 in a sale in March 2004.  Early Victorian shield sovereigns are also highly sought after and therefore an EF quality coin would fetch a high premium whilst extremely rare FDC and UNC coins would fetch incredibly high premiums.  Later Victorian sovereigns are less rare than the earlier coins in good condition, however they are again fairly rare in top condition therefore sovereigns of UNC and FDC grade would fetch a high premium.

Edward VII and George V sovereigns are also fairly easy to obtain in EF condition and were produced in very large numbers so do not fetch such a high premium.  As with later Victorian sovereigns, it is more difficult to find UNC and FDC grade coins and these would therefore fetch a higher premium.  No sovereigns were issued for Edward VIII, however a few official pattern coins were produced.  If any of these were ever to be sold they would fetch an incredibly high price due to their extreme rarity.  During the reign of George VI no sovereigns were issued apart from a very limited amount of collectors sets to commemorate his coronation.  This was a gold proof set and as such can be found today in FDC condition.  This set would today fetch around double the price of a 2009 4 piece gold proof set.  When gold sovereigns were reintroduced during the reign of Elizabeth II they were produced at much lower quantities than for other monarchs as they were no longer in everyday circulation.  However despite the fact that much fewer coins were produced they were all of FDC or UNC quality.

The majority of coins were released during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and are not difficult to find in prime condition.  For this reason they fetch a lower premium than UNC or FDC coins from earlier periods, although they are still worth investing in as they do fetch a higher premium than the price of gold and are likely to become more sought after in the future.

Certain sovereigns are much rarer than others; some that are worth looking out for include:  1817 sovereign – the first modern sovereign and any other UNC or FDC coins from the reigns of George II, George IV and William IV (or even EF graded sovereigns from these periods), 1838 the first Queen Victoria sovereign, 1841 the rarest Queen Victoria sovereign, 1917 London minted sovereign (very few in existence as it was the year London stopped producing sovereigns) and out of Elizabeth II sovereigns the 1989 special commemorative 500th anniversary sovereign.   British sovereigns are an excellent investment choice and will continue to be so. For as long as Britain keeps its currency, it seems inevitable that the Royal Mint will continue issuing sovereigns every year for collectors, investors and enthusiasts.  However, if the UK joined the Euro would this signal the end for this iconic coin? If that were the case gold sovereigns would surely become more sought after than ever and consequently represent an even greater investment opportunity.

How to spot a fake

Many fake sovereigns have been produced over the years.  To avoid buying a fake you should always buy from a reputable source such as LinGold.com.  We have however, created a list of key things to look out for to avoid buying a sovereign forgery:

  • The feel of the coin: fakes are often very smooth or can have sharp edges
  • Be wary of coins that are too shiny with blurred details. It’s a sign that they have been cleaned and, therefore, some gold has been worn away
  • Dates: check for missing dates or check that sovereigns were actually produced in the year stated in the design shown
  • Mintmarks: if there is no mintmark check that the London mint produced sovereigns in that year, if there is a mintmark check that the mint in question produced sovereigns in that year
  • Weight, size and depth: check these correspond with official figure

GOLD STANDARDS

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

The proposition was examined in the last posting, Gold is Money, that gold is not a commodity or at least not in the sense that other commodities are (a distinction that will be looked at in a later posting). This proposition leads to an important observation, that gold is a unit of measurement, but an even more momentous observation arises from this: that whether there exists a gold standard of the classic kind (England from the end of the Seventeenth Century up to 1914, for the world at large 1870 to 1914) or the more controversial gold exchange standard of the interwar years, or the patched up standard of Bretton Woods, as a unit of measurement gold always provides a standard.

As long as gold remains largely in private hands and circulates, its exchange value determined by the markets, with banks holding a modicum of gold reserves, then gold will act as the benchmark against which currencies are measured, its prime function in a world of debased paper currencies to tell us what those currencies are actually worth, a bellwether that provides the information we need about how we manage our assets and how we exchange them for the safe haven.

There is another aspect of this, therefore, that throws up an interesting answer to the question that Turk and Rubino ask in their book discussed in “Gold is Money”. They point out that all paper currencies have collapsed and the reaction of governments has been, perhaps to confiscate wealth, perhaps to tighten currency controls, to generally adopt measures limiting the freedom of action of their subjects.

But this time round, it may not be governments who will take the initiative. The likelihood that the US government will confiscate gold as it did in 1933 must be set against the far less trusting, more cynical attitude of the general public towards government.

Gold has been remonetized in Utah, the Swiss People’s Party recently won the right to a referendum on the Swiss National Bank’s ability to sell off gold reserves, and the same party is arguing for a Swiss gold franc as circulating currency.

More and more people are realising how gold may be managed in such a way that investors are, in effect, re-inventing a free gold standard for the conduct of their monetary and financial affairs. Another example of a spontaneous order emerging? Let us hope so.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD IS MONEY: DOES IT HAVE A PRICE?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

I recently looked at the question of why there has been no price rise in gold commensurate with Central Banks’ buying? This was raised at this year’s Money Week conference and caused some puzzlement. But perhaps there is another way of looking at the issue, one found in James Turk’s and John Rubino’s The Coming Collapse of the Dollar (see an earlier mention Gold and Permanent Value).

At the very beginning of their book, they insist that gold is money. “Generally, when gold is mentioned in the financial media, people refer to its ‘price’. This is incorrect, because gold is not a commodity like oil or eggs. […] And since we don’t talk about the ‘price’ of euros or yen, but instead discuss their exchange rate, in this book we treat gold in the same way, as in ‘gold’s exchange rate was $410 per ounce on December 31.’”

Gold is not a commodity?

It is often assumed that money has three basic functions: it serves as a store of value, a means of exchange and can itself be exchanged. If this latter function is a true function of money, then this means that money is a commodity along with its other two functions.

Now, it is not true, as Messrs Turk and Rubino claim, that “we don’t talk about the ‘price’ of euros or yen”, because we do. The Money Changers not far from me advertise their wares on electronic price boards, and against the currencies on offer are ranged two columns: “We Buy” and “We Sell”. It is very common to talk of the prices of currencies and to treat them as commodities: it is possible to make money by watching the exchange rates and converting into favorable currencies and back again, making a profit on the way. (It is probably safest to do this in a Swiss bank, as a friend of mine used to do.)

We also speak of cheap money and dear money: what do we mean? Cheap money is when monetary policy is loose, people are exhorted to borrow and encouraged to do so by low interest rates; dear money is when policy is tight and lenders aren’t lending or only cautiously, and interest rates are concomitantly high. Is interest not, therefore, the “price” we pay for the money we have borrowed? While Turk and Rubino assert that we talk of exchange rates rather than prices, it would seem odd, would it not, if we were to talk of the exchange rate of pounds for pounds that we pay for bank loans? And if “the price of money” in terms of interest makes better sense when dealing in and with a domestic currency, and “exchange rate” makes better sense when we are swapping unlike for unlike, even if it is still currency rather than oil or eggs, then where does that leave gold: as a commodity or as not a commodity?

Assets and Exchange

However, this is not to be pedantic; sometimes it pays to split a hair, and in the case of the puzzle referred to in the first paragraph, it may be highly instructive to do so.

For Turk and Rubino point out two other incontestable matters, which throw a lot of light on this vexed problem of what money actually is and therefore how it behaves and we must speak of it. In the first place, if money is not to be considered a commodity, it is indubitably a standard of value – “a generally agreed-upon measurement used to express the price of goods and services.” And this measurement is of the same order as other standard units of measurement: feet and inches, pints and gallons, ells and yards, perches, furlongs and chains. Some of these units have been abolished or fallen into disuse, but as standard units of measurement – and here is the rub – they do not change over time. An ell has ever been an ell, even if no longer used; nor do we change our feet daily.

Now it follows from this that, when it comes to a unit of measurement that is a medium of exchange, that is money, “only money can extinguish an exchange for some good and service. That is, an exchange is extinguished when assets are exchanged for assets. If you accept a money substitute (for instance dollars) when you sell a product, the exchange is not extinguished until you use those money substitutes (those dollars) to purchase some other good or service.”

We begin to get to the heart of the matter: money substitutes. These are what cause the confusion, because by definition they are not money itself only its token or emblem. We take for granted that money takes the form of currency, and are liable in our paper age to therefore confuse “money as currency” with money itself. But currency as such is merely the instrument of exchange unless it also happens to be specie: that is, if gold (and/or silver) is the standard unit of value and gold passes in the form of gold coins, then there is no distinction between the standard of value (gold) and how it is represented (gold coins): the currency IS the money.

Furthermore, if the most important function of money is as a standard of value then it is possible to say that money is not a commodity, though it is still a store of value and a medium of exchange. To illustrate the point about units of measurement (standard of value) Turk and Rubino point out the unchanging nature of gold: “A gram of gold has bought roughly the same amount of wheat since the Middle Ages.” (A similar point is made about ounces of gold, Pharaonic oxen and contemporary oxen in “Gold, A Different Point of View”.)

Gold Is Money

We can begin to see how the question that puzzled the Money Week conference might be viewed, and in particular what gave rise to it, the observation that since the “price” collapse, central banks had been buying gold hand over fist and yet the price hadn’t moved. If gold is not a commodity, but is rather money, is the unit of measurement for value, then to look at gold as having an exchange rate is very fruitful: what it now tells us is just how bad the dollar is. If the unit of measurement doesn’t change, and the number of dollars or pounds that are measured against it is greater or smaller than it was, say, yesterday, or an hour ago, we are being told something about the currency, in this case a money substitute, and not the gold.

It is easy to grasp what is going on when gold goes through the roof, but we need to change our metaphor: gold has stayed where it was, it just takes more dollars or pounds (which, remember, today are money substitutes) to exchange for an ounce. Now, adopting Turk’s and Rubino’s vocabulary, the exchange rate of the dollar against gold fell in April, though it was still high compared to four or eight years ago. In the following weeks, notwithstanding the boom in the purchase of gold coins (away from ETFs) and the purchases of central banks, that exchange rate remained stable: commodities don’t behave like that, especially not scarce ones. So we were instead being told something about the dollar. The unit of measurement wasn’t behaving obdurately. Therefore, was what happened in April, not a calamity for gold, but a respite for the dollar?

Prices versus Exchange Rates

In considering how we speak about value and prices and fiat money and borrowing and cheap and dear money, it might concentrate the mind if we did indeed speak of the “cost” of a loan, the “price” the bank charges us for lending, or perhaps selling, to us. My bank lends me (sells me) £5,000 pounds over three years, with total interest of £760, and everybody commends me on my bank – what a reasonable rate of interest! But if instead I was to boast that I had bought £5,000 for £5,760, well, that wouldn’t seem such a good deal. It is because it is repayable over a term (over which of course, thanks to inflation, the inevitable accompaniment of money substitutes, it will in fact be costing more) that one doesn’t quite realize what has been “exchanged” or “bought”.

This of course raises the intriguing possibility that in getting our nomenclature as much as our metaphors backwards in speaking of money, we are indulging in loose talk, and that this in turn may be a result and feature of fiat money systems.

In What is Money? I raised the issue of the relation between money, value and property:

“The idea that money is a realisation of value inherent in property means currency is the result of a property holding system which, to be realisable, must have clear title. Then, on the basis of that title, the value of the asset can be ascertained and then realised as capital which then has a representational form as currency. That is, money as a representation of value, as a means of realising that value and being a store of that value is the result of a legal system that can render property fungible – that is, that the asset can be more than one thing.

“This, of course, means that property is a form of savings, and that savings are therefore at the root of money. […] The failure to realise the necessity of savings and their wider functions in a workable economy is at the root of the financial crisis.”

And the hostility to savings translates into hostility to gold and the failure to understand it as a unit of measurement. Turk and Rubino are right: gold is not a commodity and in realising this we may start to understand the dense fogs of the currency wars.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD TO RETURN AS A PURE GOLD STANDARD IN SWITZERLAND?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Mark Rogers

Some interesting news from Switzerland: the Swiss People’s Party’s campaign to compel the holding of a referendum on the sale of the nation’s gold by the Swiss National Bank has successfully gathered the required 100,000 signatures; last Thursday, May 16, 2013, the Federal Chancellery announced that the referendum would be held. The Financial Times, however, points out that “it is not uncommon for the period between an initiative being accepted for referendum and a vote being held to extend to several years.” No doubt the Swiss National Bank welcomes such a delay.

At present the SNB holdings of gold form 10% of its reserves, and not all of it is in the bank’s own vaults; the bulk at 70% is in Switzerland; 20% is at the Bank of England, with the rest stored at the Bank of Canada..

The Swiss People’s Party wants that externally held 30% to be returned to Switzerland, and wants the bank to increase its holdings to 20%. Until the constitution was revised in 2000, the SNB had been obliged to keep 40% of its reserves in gold.

But the interesting thing about this initiative is that it is part of a much larger campaign by the Swiss People’s Party to return to a pure gold standard by reintroducing the Swiss gold franc as money. Confidence in the Swiss franc and monetary policy has been shaken by the attempts of the SNB to devalue the franc which have resulted in big losses; this combined with the sell-offs at low prices (shades of Gordon Brown’s tampering with the U.K.’s gold) 2001-2006 have accumulated losses of billions of Swiss francs.

Given that Switzerland was the last country to stop backing its currency with gold, only coming off its domestic gold standard in 2000 under the revised constitution, it is noteworthy that the dumping of gold and the devaluing of the franc followed promptly in 2001.

The latest initiatives, for a referendum and for a gold franc, have not unnaturally caused consternation at the SNB; it is concerned at “the monetary policy implications of the demands in the initiative.”

Well, indeed.

For further stories on this issue, see “Swiss Parliament to discuss gold franc”; “Swiss Intiative reveals push for gold-backed currency”; and “Swiss To Vote On Gold Repatriation – “Gold Is The Only Valuable Asset On The SNB’s Balance Sheet

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

The Half-Vera Valor, an accessible gold coin investment

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Half-Vera Valor - Obverse

Have you heard about a Half- Sovereign? …. or a Half-Napoleon? …. maybe even a US $10 gold coin? Here we would like to present you a completely new gold product for investment.: the Half-Vera Valor. An investment quality, pure gold coin made from Clean Extraction source that is adapted to suit all budgets.

“Clean Extraction” gold

The gold used to mint the half Vera Valor conforms with the criteria of the Clean Extraction charter because it is pure gold  (999 ‰) that has been recycled from excess components of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Unlike silver which is complicated and onerous to recycle, gold can be recycled an infinite number of times.

The recycling of the Half Vera Valor gold complies with the Clean Extraction charter in that it actively and strongly encourages the reduction of emissions that are harmful to the planet. Recycled gold helps preserve the environment because it reduces the need to rely on methods of mining and extraction that are often carried out in the most difficult conditions and give rise to toxic pollutants.

No heavy machinery or pollutants are used and there are no extraction processes required with recycled gold and any harmful products associated are strictly limited. Recycled gold has considerably less impact (if any) on the environment compared to the normal mining operations required for extraction.

Recycling of gold is like having an above ground deposit that today provides more than half of the gold required by industry in order to manufacture jewellery and investment gold products such as bars and coins.

As a reminder, in order to extract 1 ounce of pure gold from the ground normally; takes 75000 litres of water, emits 600 Kilos of CO2, 25 Kilos of Sulphur Dioxide, consumes 220 litres of fuel and produces 30 tonnes of mining waste.

Recycling gold is one way to combat the problem of ever-rarer and diminishing sources of gold. Mining production is stagnating and yet year on year demand for gold never ceases to increase.

Recycling gold is the only real solution to keeping gold prices reasonable and thus avoiding the need to use more and more invasive, difficult and destructive mining practices which would have detrimental effect on the environment.

Gold is THE clean precious metal of the future as it can be recycled at infinitum!

Quality partners and LBMA recognition

Partners chosen to participate in the conception and production of the Half Vera Valor:

Allgemeine (part of the German group Umicore), therefore the hallmark is recognised by the LBMA, they produce the “blanks” for the Half-Vera Valor (round blank discs of pure gold that are future Half Vera Valor and are ready for minting).

Huguenin is the Swiss private mint responsible for the minting of the coins.

More than just a smaller version

Careful, the Half-Vera Valor is more than just a half of a Vera Valor; it’s the “half sister” with its own unique identity. It is not merely a sub-division of the one ounce Vera Valor.

The fact that it is made from recycled gold is one point but also the method and technique of manufacture by striking only is different, even if the same DNA runs through its veins!

Still produced exclusively by AuCOFFRE.com and LinGOLD.com, the Half-Vera Valor is smaller and more intricate to mint. The complexity of its manufacture arising from its smaller size, follows in the footsteps of similar illustrious coins such as: Half Sovereign, Half Napoleon and $10 US… which all have an elevated premium compared to their larger format.

Because they are smaller and less expensive, they are in effect the type of coins that are always in demand during periods of crisis and therefore their premium can rise significantly. This makes them excellent products for investment with an incomparable leverage effect.

Taxation

Based on its characteristics and specification, the Half Vera Valor qualifies as investment quality gold which is exempt from VAT throughout the European Union.

The Half Vera Valor is considered as bullion bar-coin because it bears the required markings of a piece of Good Delivery bullion and is struck as “money”* into a coin.

The Half Vera Valor is therefore an ideal coin to save as protection against crisis, a coin that can be easily resold whenever you need, without VAT and the integrity of being an ethical gold product.

*refers to the orientation of the strike and between the faces of the coin.

Half Vera Valor - Reverse

Description

The Half Vera Valor possesses some seductive qualities and apart from being beautiful, it is a dense coin with a very pure fineness.

Weight: ½ ounce or 15.55175g

Diameter: 26mm

Thickness: 1.6mm

Fineness: 999‰ pure gold

Hallmark : Allgemeine

Striking tool orientation : 6 o’clock, struck as money

Edge: reeded

Mint quality: High proof

Taxation type: investment quality bullion, VAT exempt

Strengths

–          A beautiful product that has every chance to follow its predecessor the Vera Valor which has become the most sold 1 Oz gold coin in France since Dec 2011.

–          Unforgeable – the QR code struck into the reverse of the coin plus the laser engraved serial number on the obverse make this product  extra secure and even more attractive to investors seeking certainty of product quality.

–          An ethical gold investment that avoids any negative effects on people or environmental

–          VAT exemption is an attribute

–          A format easy to hold in the hand, a value readily accessible to all and easily imaginable in daily use day should it become necessary.

Website: VeraValor.com

THE GOLD SPOT: FDR’S BOILED EGG

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extract from THE FORGOTTEN MAN: A NEW HISTORY OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION by Amity Shlaes, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007

October 1933

They met in his bedroom at breakfast. Roosevelt sat up in his mahogany bed. He was usually finishing his soft-boiled egg. There was a plate of fruit at the bedside. There were cigarettes. Henry Morganthau from the Farm Board entered the room. Professor George Warren of Cornell came; he had lately been advising Roosevelt. So did Jesse Jones of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Together the men would talk about wheat prices, about what was going on in London, about, perhaps, what the farmers were doing.

Then, still from his bed, FDR would set the target price for gold for the United States – or even for the world. It didn’t matter what Montagu Norman at the Bank of England might say. FDR and Morganthau had nicknamed him “Old Pink Whiskers”. It did not matter what the Federal Reserve said. Over the course of the autumn, at the breakfast meetings, Roosevelt and his new advisers experimented alone. One day he would move the price up several cents; another, a few more.

One morning, FDR told his group he was thinking of raising the gold price by twenty-one cents. Why that figure? his entourage asked. “It’s a lucky number,” Roosevelt said, “because it’s three times seven.” As Morganthau later wrote, “If anybody knew how we really set the gold price through a combination of lucky numbers, etc., I think they would be frightened.”

By the time of his inauguration back on March 4, everyone knew that Roosevelt would experiment with the economy. But no one knew to what extent. Now, in his first year in office, Roosevelt was showing them.

Comment: In the Spring of 1922 a conference was convened at Genoa, Italy to find out ways of returning to the gold standard; this was the first attempt to do so since the Great War of 1914-1918. This conference gave birth to the “gold exchange standard”, which in truth was not really a gold standard because as James Rickards explains: “Participating countries agreed that central bank reserves could be held not only in gold but in the currencies of other nations; the word ‘exchange’ in ‘gold exchange standard’ simply meant that certain foreign exchange balances would be treated like gold for reserve purposes.” The consequence of this was that the burden of gold standard would be put upon the shoulders of those nations with the largest gold reserves, which in practice, of course, meant overwhelmingly the United States. The gold price was to be maintained at US$20.67 per ounce, and other nations held dollars as proxies for gold.

One problem with this attempt to establish the gold standard was the desire to return it to pre-War prices, which of course had been entirely set by the markets and, without government intervention or multilateral international committees, or central bank involvement, had been remarkably stable in the period of the classical standard 1870-1914.

Gold (and silver) coins and bullion had ceased to circulate with their accustomed frequency since the beginning of the war, and exchanges of paper for gold were subject to hefty minimum quantities, with the consequence that only the central banks and the commercial banks, with a few of the ultra-wealthy would be using gold bullion. Other notes would be used by everybody else, redeemable through government promises to maintain parity with gold. While this in theory meant that paper was de facto a promissory note with redeemable properties, effectively the gold itself vanished into the vaults of central banks.

And of course, central banks were now involved in gold in ways that they neither had been, nor had there been any necessity that they should have been, under the classical gold standard.

The stage was set. When FDR conceived of the idea that the dollar should be devalued against gold  almost as soon as he assumed the Presidency, “hoarding” of gold was banned. The Executive Order was issued on April 5, 1933; fifteen days later the export of gold from the U.S. was forbidden; nine days thereafter American gold mines were compelled to sell their gold only to the Treasury and at prices determined by the “customer”, the Treasury, which means that American mines were nationalized in all but name.

As of October 1933, FDR began to buy gold in the open market. He had already confiscated over 500 metric tons of the stuff from private hands, at the official price, giving America the largest “hoard” of gold in the world, and FDR’s market activities were, of course, designed to push the price up as a consequence of this monopoly.

So there we have it: a strange path indeed from the attempt to re-establish the, or at least, a gold standard, to the U.S. being given the responsibility of maintaining the price, through the Depression and the decision to devalue the dollar, the theft of private citizens’ gold giving the President an edge in the market place, thus ending up with Roosevelt sitting in bed with a boiled egg, determining the price of gold on a whimsy: monetary policy had become a bull session!

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD: WHY NO PRICE RISE COMMENSURATE WITH CENTRAL BANKS’ BUYING?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

At the Money Week annual conference (held at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London, Friday, 17 May, 2013), two of the speakers, Mr Dominic Frisby and Mr Simon Popple were asked the same question: was the drop in the gold price in April manipulated, and if so by whom and why? Both speakers disdained conspiracy theories as the likely answer: nothing but fruitless speculation. Mr Frisby asserted that we deal with the cards as they are on the table. Another question was however a good and intriguing one. Why is the price still down given that central banks have been buying “hand over fist”?

ETFs

As I noted in “Gold in Flux”, the main cause of the drop in price was the sudden dumping of huge quantities of paper gold. If this was because those who held these paper stocks had suddenly come to realise that they were worthless, then this was a rational thing to do, in spite of the fact that it would drive the price of gold down. Indeed, at the conference Mr Frisby pointed out that as long as the next crisis is held at bay, or indeed that the present crisis is bottoming out (he was ruefully cautious as to whether this is indeed what is happening!), then it would be reasonable to say that the current price of gold is a fair one. After all it is still high, in comparative historical terms: in 2009 it was $950 an ounce.

This does not, however, address the possibility that the price of gold has over the last year been too low. I first discussed the possibility in “The Price of Gold”. Why might it be considered that the price has been low? Those wretched ETFs. The swelling mass of ETFs had become so much papier-mâché (literal meaning: chewed paper), clogging the market. This might have had the effect of keeping the price lower than it otherwise would have been. Equally, of course, it could have kept the price artificially high.

As previously mentioned in “The Price of Gold”, the probability that the central banks’ buying of gold has been spurred by Basel III is a reasonable inference, whatever else may have caused it, though of course it does not answer the question about why the price continues low (subject to Mr Frisby’s caveat.) In passing, it is interesting to note that unlike European central banks, China did indeed start compliance with Basel III rules on January 1, 2013, when they ostensibly came into force.

DRAG ON THE PRICE

Now it is entirely plausible that the ETFs continue their drag on the price of gold: ETFs have not been abolished or abandoned, merely that a large quantity have been dumped. And the price of gold therefore inevitably mixes (perhaps confuses is the better word) physical gold and paper gold.

Clif Droke quotes Bill O’Neill, principal with LOGIC Advisors: “The biggest negative continues to be the ETFs. We’ve had steady and constant ETF liquidation,” adding that many suspect the exodus is not over, and continuing: “Further, once major hedge funds rotate away from such an asset, they typically don’t jump right back in anytime soon. The big players are going to be slow coming back into the market.”

Mr Droke comments: “The unspoken reality for gold investors is that the increasing institutional demand for equities is taking the wind out of the sails of the gold market,” and goes on to quote Kitco News on Tuesday, 14 May, 2013: “Continued exchange-traded-fund outflows, strong equities and US dollar gains are limiting the upside for gold, while recently strong physical demand and continued central-bank accommodation are providing support.”

Mr Droke elaborates: “While there has been strong demand for physical bullion since the April lows, especially in Asia, the fact that stocks are garnering an ever-growing share of ‘hot money’ flows while gold is largely ignored by institutional and hedge fund investors isn’t helping the yellow metal’s cause.

“Moreover, as the value of S&P 500 Index increases while gold goes nowhere, it’s causing the relative strength for gold to actually decline. This gives the hedge fund and other sophisticated investors who look at technical indicators one less reason to invest in gold in the near term.

“Kitco reports, ‘A number of observers have cited the rotation into equities as one of the factors prompting an exodus out of gold exchange-traded funds so far this year….’”

This seems to be a very acute analysis of what is happening.

Another complicating factor is that while central banks are indeed buying up gold, some of the most important are continuing with, or continuing to threaten, more quantitative easing. This is another paradox waiting to be resolved, for as described in the Deutsche Bank, London Head Office analysis “Gold: Adjusting to Zero” (discussed in “Gold and the Keynesian Groupies”) QE pushes the price up, or is there some Mephistophelean spell that negates the gold price when it is central banks which buy it? (See “The Gold Standard: Further Encouragement from Wise Eminences”)

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

SIR ISAAC NEWTON AND THE END OF MUTILATED MONEY, 4TH MAY 1969

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

In the Seventeenth Century, “[t]he financial system of England had staggered through the disturbances of the Civil War and had grown worse during the inefficiency and corruption of the Stuarts … the current money had deteriorated to a state of confusion.” (Louis Trenchard More, Isaac Newton: A Biography (first published 1934), Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1962)

This state of confusion resulted from the mutilation of money, rendering its recoinage a matter of urgent necessity. In the 17th century counterfeiting and adulterating the coin of the realm was so common that a coin worth its original face value was extremely rare. Both crimes were capital offences.

Louis Trenchard More describes the debauched currency and its consequences:

“The standard currency of the country was silver; and till the reign of Charles the Second the minting of the coin had been carried on by the process introduced by Edward the First in the thirteenth century. The metal was cut with shears and then shaped and stamped by the hammer. Coins made thus by hand were not exactly round nor true in weight and, as they were neither milled nor inscribed on their rims, they were easy to clip, or file, without detection. Clipping thus became one of the most profitable kinds of fraud. The custom had become so detrimental that, in the reign of Elizabeth, it was treated as high treason [hence the death penalty M.R.]. At the time of the Restoration, a large proportion of the coins had been more or less mutilated. To remedy this condition, a mill worked by horses was set up in the Tower which stamped the coins accurately and inscribed their edges with a legend; as, however, the old money was kept in circulation, the remedy was useless. The new coins were either hoarded, or melted down and shipped abroad; the old coins persisted as the medium of business, and they continued to shrink in weight and value. In the autumn of 1695, it was found by actual and careful test that the average value of a shilling had been reduced to six pence. Every transaction was accompanied by a bitter altercation between the buyer and the seller; the former insisting on estimating the coins by tale, and the latter by weight. Every Saturday night, all over the country, was a period of riot and bad feeling between employer and employee. The labourer and the clerk might receive the stipulated number of shillings, but for their purchases they acted like sixpences or less. We have, as a startling witness of these troubles, the complaints of Dryden that his publisher, Tonson, on one occasion included forty brass shillings in a payment of clipped money, and at another time the money was so bad that all of it was returned. If the foremost writer of the day was so treated, we can easily imagine the distress of the common people. … During even a most disturbed and evil rule, the common people manage to pursue their personal affairs, but such a state of the money as then existed affected every moment and every transaction in their lives.”

The situation was worse than impossible, and in 1695 King William III, addressing Parliament, recommended that the coinage be reformed. Thus, Charles Montague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, prepared a Bill to this effect.

Charles Montague

Montague was the fourth son of a younger son of the first Earl of Manchester; he was later ennobled as Lord Halifax. Although Isaac Newton’s junior by nineteen years, Montague struck up a deep and lasting friendship with the great philosopher, then Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, when he, Montague, matriculated at Trinity College as a Fellow-Commoner.

Montague was a man of superlative ability and quickly impressed himself upon the political life of the nation. His highest achievement, the great recoining, came about after his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1694. He also instituted the Bank of England, as a private body. As a result of his friendship with Newton, he secured the latter the position of Warden of the Mint in 1696. It was this partnership that was to carry out the new minting. According to Montague, the success of this project was due to the administrative work of Newton.

The Great Recoinage

The first remarkable aspect to note of the proposed recoinage, was that this was to be done at a time of war: this was the war between France and the League of Augsburg (known as the Nine Years’ War 1688-1697, or the War of the Grand Alliance), which King William III joined soon after becoming King of England with his wife Mary as Queen, on the occasion of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The North American theatre of this war, known as King William’s War, finally settled the issue of the American colonies between France and England in the latter’s favour.

To embark on the wholesale refashioning of the national coinage, and to complete it in a short time, at a time like this was a remarkable feat and owed everything to Charles Montague’s fortitude and eloquence. Although the Jacobites tried to discredit the government and the Whigs advised half-hearted measures, Montague managed the House of Commons so adroitly that the Bill was passed into law on the King’s signature on 1st January, 1696.

It provided for the recoining to be to the old standard of weight and fineness, and for all new coins to be milled. The public exchequer was to bear the loss on the clipped coins. Most expeditiously, the time at which no mutilated money could pass ever again was set at 4th May 1696: this great task, therefore, was to be carried out in a mere four months. We must assume that such was the pressing need to address this huge task as Montague and Isaac Newton, the new Master of the Mint, understood it, that no time was to be lost.

This new coin was the cause of the window tax, which was not as unpopular as legend has suggested. It came about like this: the loss to the exchequer referred to above was not easy to estimate, but Montague obtained a loan from the Bank of England which was secured by the new tax levied on the number of windows of the houses; however, inhabitants of cottages were to be exempt from the new tax in compensation for the cruel harassment they had undergone at the hands of the assessors of the now defunct hearth tax.

A month after the bill became law, the recoining had begun. Furnaces were erected in the gardens behind the Treasury and vast quantities of mutilated money were melted in them and cast into ingots which were at once conveyed to the Tower for minting. Although there had at first been widespread panic at the thought of money, however bad, being withdrawn from circulation, its relative scarcity did not become a serious factor and the panic soon subsided.

Isaac Newton assumed responsibility for the work in March, and under his direction branches of the mint were set up in several towns, thus easing the passing of the old money in exchange for the new throughout the country.

4th May

Loius Trenchard More describes the result:

“The real agony began in May when the clipped coins were no longer received by the government in payment of taxes. There was little of the old money which would pass the test and the new money was just beginning to trickle from the Mint; but, by means of barter, of promissory notes given by merchants, and of negotiable paper issued by the Exchequer, the summer slowly wore away. It was not till August that the first faint signs of returning ease in the money situation appeared, and there is no doubt that the able administration and indefatigable industry of Newton shortened this period of distress. He wrote peremptorily to Flamsteed that he would not be teased about mathematical things nor trifle away his time while he was about the King’s business. The Wardens of the Mint had previously been fine gentlemen who drew their salaries and rarely condescended to do any work.”

But work Newton certainly did: “It had been considered a great feat to coin silver to the amount of fifteen thousand pounds weight a week; but under the energetic management of Montague and Newton, the weekly coinage soon rose to sixty thousand pounds, and finally to a hundred and twenty thousand pounds. But even this rate was inadequate, and normal conditions were not restored till the following spring.”

Thus on 4th May 1696, mutilated money was finally abandoned for true coins, which were far harder to counterfeit, and a proper system of milling and guaranteeing the standardised value of the coinage came into being, overseen by one of the greatest scientific minds of all time, Sir Isaac Newton. We shall see what he thought of debasers of currency below.

“When was the last time you read your money?”

The question is posed by the analysts Daniel Brebner and Xiao Fu in their report for Deutsche Bank, London, Gold: Adjusting for Zero (discussed here). They go on:

“It is useful to do so as it will call attention to its subtle warnings. A £20 note reads: I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds. Two immediate questions arise: 1) 20 pounds of what? 2) Who is I, and can he/she be trusted? The US dollar bill is more prosaic, its nebulous message being: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private. Our only comment would be that since fiat money is inherently a form of obligation (liability) that it is simply a tool for exchanging debts of different riskiness and thus underscores that there is an inherent risk in such an instrument.”

That risk is well brought out in a passage I have quoted in an earlier article. It is by C.H.V. Sutherland (then Keeper of Coins at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in “Gold: Its Beauty, Power and Allure”)

“Collapse of the gold standard was followed by the era of credit currency. We accept a bank-note for the payment of £1, but in accepting it we receive in fact only the bank’s promise to pay £1. We accept a cheque, similarly; but a cheque again is no more than its drawer’s promise that his bank will pay us another bank’s promises. The growth of ‘money’ in this sense – and of course it is not money at all, in any true sense, but an extension of credit – is one of the most remarkable features of economic life since 1914 [emphasis added].”

The risk is presently underscored by quantitative easing and low interest rates: capital/worth is fiercely undervalued, with millions of pounds being wiped off pensions and savings.

In other words the promise on a modern English banknote is meaningless, and as such is a breach of trust with the general public. At one time the note was no more than a convenient substitute for gold and silver coins, and the strength of the currency depended on knowing that should anyone wish to hold the “I” to account, the promise on it would be redeemed in actual gold/silver coin or bullion. Knowing this was sufficient to keep the notes rather than coins in circulation; the trust was reciprocal in that the Bank of England did not dare print more of them than could be practically redeemed, thus keeping faith with the general public that the value stated on the note was a real value.

Mutilated Money Now

While the mutilation of the imperfectly guaranteed silver coinage in the seventeenth century was obvious to all, hence the squabbles in trading and on payday that an English note is itself mutilated money is not so obvious. The comparison can be made with the PAYE system: the vast majority of people in work in this country is on PAYE and as such receives their salary/wages net of tax, it having been deducted by the business they work for before the wages are paid over. In other words, not having to write out a cheque to the Inland Revenue, most people are only aware of the taxes they pay in the abstract – it is not a painful moment of reckoning each time tax is paid as it is for those of us who are business owners or freelance.

In this sense, the promise on a bank note represents mutilated money at one remove: we take it on trust that we can proffer these notes in exchange for goods and services, so we tend to think of the notes themselves as money. But they are not: I have remarked before that QE is the state forging its own currency, but without gold backing, even before QE, the actual “currency” in circulation is fake. And of course the coins we use are made of base metals and not precious ones, and are therefore far easier to forge. Indeed it was estimated earlier this year that three in every £100 pounds worth of pound coins is counterfeit.

This is the denouement of the situation described above by Keeper Sutherland.

Hang Them

As observed in above, counterfeiting and adulterating the coin of the realm were capital offences: death by hanging in these instances. It is interesting that the public did not approve: although the debased coinage was an economic disaster which enveloped everyone, the act of skimming a few shreds of precious metal from a handful of coins seemed, in itself, too insignificant for such a draconian punishment. “The sympathy of the people extended to the malefactors: juries would not sentence except in flagrant and wholesale cases, and judges would not sentence; while the evil effect of the practice spread its poisonous influence throughout the trade and life of the nation.” (Trenchard More)

The gallows did nothing to curb the practice because it was too easy to perform, thus ensuring that many people of course went undetected. While he was Warden of the Mint, Sir Isaac Newton had the fate of a counterfeiter drawn to his attention. He was firmly on the side of upholding the existing law, and the short letter in which he does so is worth quoting in full:

Newton to Lord Townshend

My Lord,

I know nothing of Edmund Metcalf convicted at Derby assizes of counterfeiting the coin; but since he is very evidently convicted, I am humbly of the opinion that it’s better to let him suffer, than to venture his going on to counterfeit the coin and teach others to do so until he can be convicted again, for these people very seldom leave off. And it’s difficult to detect them. I say this with the most humble submission to His Majesty’s pleasure and remain,

My Lord, your Lordship’s most humble and obedient Servant,

Is. Newton, Mint Office Aug. 25, 1724

Of course, the problem is in many ways worse now because whereas the counterfeiters and adulterers of yore were common criminals and ordinary folk on the make, and the problem was the cumulative result of the individual acts of hundreds of people, the debasers of the currency today are government ministers and state officials: debasement is official policy, the inevitable consequence of fiat currencies.

Is hanging too good for our lords and masters today?

A Statue Commemorating Sir Isaac’s Service to his Country as Master of the Mint on the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square:

Among the ideas for a permanent memorial on the plinth at the North West corner of Trafalgar Square, there have been from time to time suggestions that the statue should be of a notable civilian.

In keeping with the other statues – one King, two generals and one Admiral – a life which contained some signal service to the country at large ought to be the guiding principle on which such a civilian should be chosen.

It is suggested here that an eminently suitable candidate for this honour is Sir Isaac Newton. Apart from Sir Isaac being universally known for his astonishing scientific achievements, his claim to notice in the context of a public statue in Trafalgar Square is the heroic effort he put into the Great Recoinage of the debased gold and silver currency which eradicated mutilated money and thus put an end to the argument and riot that habitually took place when pay day drew nigh or payments fell due.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

THE GOLD SPOT: GOLD THE REFERENCE POINT

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extract from CURRENCY WARS: THE MAKING OF THE NEXT GLOBAL CRISIS by James Rickards, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, 2011

The continuation of the trend toward a diminished role for the dollar in international trade and the reserve balances begs the question of what happens when the dollar is no longer dominant but is just another reserve currency among several others? What is the tipping point for the dollar? […]

Barry Eichengreen is the preeminent scholar on this topic and a leading proponent of the view that a world of multiple reserve currencies awaits […] the plausible and benign conclusion that a world of multiple reserve currencies with no single dominant currency […] this time with the dollar and the euro sharing the spotlight instead of the dollar and sterling. This view also opens the door to further changes over time, with the Chinese yuan eventually joining the dollar and the euro in a coleading role.

What is missing in Eichengreen’s optimistic interpretation is the role of a systemic anchor, such as the dollar or gold. As the dollar and sterling were trading places in the 1920s and 1930s, there was never a time when at least one was not anchored to gold. In effect, the dollar and sterling were substitutable because of their simultaneous equivalence to gold. Devaluations did occur, but after each devaluation the anchor was reset. After Bretton Woods, the anchor consisted of the dollar and gold, and since 1971 the anchor has consisted of the dollar as the leading reserve currency. Yet in the post-war world there has always been a reference point. Never before have multiple paper reserve currencies been used with no single anchor. Consequently, the world […] is a world of reserve currencies adrift. Instead of a single central bank like the Fed abusing its privileges, it will be open season with several central banks invited to do the same at once. In that scenario, there would be no safe harbour reserve currency and markets would be more volatile and unstable.

Comment: It is hard to fathom such an unrealistic expectation of lead currencies, swilling about supporting each other and every other currency, as being somehow optimistic and benign; Rickards is not saying that he thinks they would be by using these terms, he is pointing up the authors of these expectations as hailing them as benign: what could go wrong, we’re all good chaps…aren’t we?

Rickards’s view is of a piece with Gustav Cassel’s point (quoted in Gold on the Outbreak of the Great War), that “the responsibility for the value of the currency, in cases where the gold standard has been abandoned, must exclusively lie with those in whose hands rests this provision of the means of payment.” The point being that this is an astonishing level of trust to put into the institutions of government, not just moral trust, but a trust that the necessary calculations, observations and measurements can be made consistently and continuously to keep things afloat and stable. The euro is a very good object lesson that both these sorts of trust are misplaced, which is putting it mildly…

From an Austrian School point of view, the goodness of the humans in charge is irrelevant: it is the utterly impossible nature of the task that is the stumbling block. But it is just there, of course, that the immoral temptation to swing things to the state’s advantage comes to the fore – again as shown up by the euro.

Where there is no reference point, no anchor, no solution is feasible… which is why we keep getting  more of the failed nostrums. Which leads on to a very interesting observation: why taxes must go up in an economic world divorced from the gold standard.

Politicians are incapable of managing monetary affairs (see the article linked to below on The Mess We’re In: Why Politicians Can’t Fix Financial Crises). The gold standard prevented them by and large from acting on economic hubris. Unconstrained by gold, bewildered by their failures, corrupted by their power, they turn to the one nostrum that lies unfailingly to their hand: taxation. That is why it is found important at times of high and progressive taxation to denounce “avoiders” as selfish cheats who won’t do their bit for their fellow citizens (see my The Moral Dilemma at the Heart of Taxation). So the gold standard not only prevented printing money, it also held down taxation. Another reason to vote for gold!

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

THE GOLD SPOT: GOLD ON THE OUTBREAK OF THE GREAT WAR

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extract from MONEY AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE AFTER 1914 By Gustav Cassel, Constable & Co. Ltd, London 1927 (originally published Constable 1922)

ABOLITION OF THE GOLD STANDARD

The first thing that happened in the financial sphere upon the outbreak of the World War was that the existing gold standard was abandoned – not only in the belligerent countries, but also in the majority of neutral states. Upon the entrance of the United States into the War, corresponding steps were taken in that country. A realisation of this fact is of fundamental importance for a proper understanding of all the occurred later. From the moment of the outbreak of war, the various currencies had in the main to be regarded as free paper currencies, and consequently as currencies which were not limited to any metal, and therefore were not in any relation to one another. Only an economic theory which from the very outset takes cognisance of a system of free currencies can be in a position to offer a true and intuitive picture of the essential points in the development of which followed. Wherefore, it is of primary importance to realise that the value of the monetary unit in a pure paper currency can manifestly only be based upon the scarcity in the provision made by the country for means of payment, and that, therefore, the responsibility for the value of the currency, in cases where the gold standard has been abandoned, must exclusively lie with those in whose hands rests this provision of the means of payment.

When I say that the gold standard was abandoned, I refer to an actual fact. Its form one has everywhere sought as far as possible to avoid, and it may, therefore, be possible to assert, with a certain amount of plausibility, that the gold standard has not been abandoned – nay, even that it still obtains. But from an economic point of view that has no meaning. Economics have only to reckon with facts. When the essential conditions for a gold standard are removed, then the gold standard, as viewed from an economic standpoint, is abolished.

Comment: These are the first two paragraphs of Cassel’s book, and what follows is a dense and, at times, difficult to follow analysis of the convolutions that followed when the Great War was over: the institution of the gold exchange standard, free floating currencies and floating exchange rates. One of the reasons that the analysis is hard is that Cassel shows that throughout the period he deals with – 1914 to 1922 – there were great misunderstandings, misapprehensions, misassumptions and false assumptions of which few had a practical, factual grasp. The form of the abandonment allowed merchants, financiers, bankers and politicians to avoid realising its consequences, and to pretend that not only had the gold standard been maintained in its pre-War form, and but to also pretend that it was remotely possible to return to pre-War prices and values. The classical gold standard was not re-introduced, and it was, in the circumstances, impossible to return to pre-War values, indeed the attempt to do in the light of the wartime inflation, or indeed, the pretence that this had been done, was in no small measure responsible for the economic chaos that dogged Europe in the aftermath of the War and in a way continues to confuse and confound the economic managers of the global economies ever since. If one allows that the pegging of the dollar to gold at Bretton Woods was not a true gold standard, not even a gold exchange standard, but a continuation of those post Great War pretences, then it has been almost a century since the world abandoned gold and abolished the gold standard.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

THE GOLD SPOT: GOLD AND PERMANENT VALUE

Friday, May 10th, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extract from THE COMING COLLAPSE OF THE DOLLAR AND HOW TO PROFIT FROM IT by James Turk and John Rubino, Doubleday, 2004

Why does gold – or any other successful money – hold its value? Not because it has “intrinsic” worth. Given its other uses in today’s economy, mainly jewelry and a few electronic niches, gold as a purely industrial commodity would be worth far less than indispensable substances like oil or wheat. But gold isn’t an industrial commodity. It is money, which is accumulated, not consumed like other commodities. As such, its value depends on our belief in its ability to function as money. We trust sound money because it exists in limited supply and is, by definition, not subject to government manipulation. Fiat currencies, in contrast, are controlled by governments, which are … fundamentally incapable of managing their monetary affairs.

Comment: The suggestion that gold has no intrinsic worth is of course true in the strictest sense that any value is, through prices, what is agreed to be acceptable. As they emphasis, it is “our belief” that it is sound money that facilitates is function as money, which they correctly define in their book as a real asset, as opposed to a money substitute, like paper – which may be a substitute in the sense that it represents the value of the real asset to make transactions easier to carry out, i.e. that the paper is a promissory note redeemable against the hard asset; or it may be a substitute in the entire sense that it has replaced the real asset, which, after the abandonment of gold, is what our current fiat money is, a mere bookkeeping exercise.

However, given it’s unique qualities, its rarity, its durability, its malleability, gold goes a long way in claiming intrinsic worth, which it is why it has been uniquely valued for over 6,000 years!

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD MONEY: A CURRENCY OF THE PAST… AND THE FUTURE?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

When buying numismatic rare gold coins, it is well to remember that many of them were minted for use, as currency. For example, one of the perennially popular collector’s coins, the South African Krugerrand is minted in two kinds. The South African Mint strikes proof Krugers, while bullion Krugers are struck at the Rand Refinery. Proof coins are issued in smaller quantities for the collectors’ market. They are important to collectors who are interested in “a perfect uncirculated” coin; when the Krugerrand was first struck the bullion coins were intended to circulate as currency.

While currency wars and devaluations are very much a thing of today, it is worthwhile taking a look at the origins of one of the first real currencies… and who knows, one that may take its place once more as a trusted, true exchange of value.

Money, a concept born out of necessity

Before money existed, goods were traded in the form of exchange and bartering. There were obvious difficulties because in the long term it is perhaps impossible to equate the value of items in terms of each other, oxen for example in proportion to wheat or potatoes.

A popular and plausible hypothesis by H. Hauser (Gold, Vuibert & Nony, Paris, p.307) is that as gold was also being traded against various goods, its weight was ultimately agreed upon as the unit of exchange. It cannot have been longer before people realised that gold was easily divisible into a variety of weights which equated to multiples of its value and therefore the value of other commodities. This led to the concept that of weights of gold were indeed useful “units of value” and quickly prices for oxen, sacks of wheat etc became equivalent to a certain weight of gold.

Gold is ideal for this purpose because it is easily divisible and impossible to fake and is a store of real value being a precious and rare metal.

The birth of gold coins

In Egypt, gold was exchanged against goods in the form of rings which had fixed weights and therefore different multiples of value could be used for pricing goods. Elsewhere however, gold stayed in the form of ingots for a long time but their weights were often variable, that is, there was no standard size of bar, so bars would naturally be of different weights depending on how much gold was in them. Trading was difficult and tedious because of these discrepancies. Weight variations meant that trades were seldom a direct equivalent to the goods being traded and so much haggling ensued.

In search of something more convenient, reliable and safe, small gold discs of a fixed weight were made and each one had a value struck on it. They were easier to carry around and allowed trade to be more flexible, retail as well as wholesale. Thus the first gold coins were born and indeed the first recognisable currency. This took place around 700 BC according to Erik Chanel.

Whilst gold was not the only metal used for coins – silver has been widely used as well- gold, however, was the ideal metal because of its unique combination of properties such as: it is stainless, rustproof, divisible, malleable, ductile and of course rare, which made it from the outset a symbol of riches.

Is Money as good as Gold?

The Gold Specie Standard was a system that associated units of money to gold coins in circulation or when lesser metal coins drew their reference of monetary value from a circulating gold coin.

The Gold Exchange Standard was when circulating coins made of various metals such as silver and copper drew their reference monetary value from a fixed value of gold independent of their own metal value.

The Gold Bullion Standard did not involve circulating coins. This was when governments had agreed to sell gold bullion at a fixed price in exchange for a quantity of circulating currency. In other words, each unit of currency effectively had a value related to gold. This allowed the mass introduction of paper currency, which was easily transportable and practical for payments.

So far so good; but more and more governments after 1914 disassociated themselves from gold standards of any kind, seeing how easy it was, from their point of view, to inflate their “wealth” by simply printing more and more pieces of paper, which led to the credit creation system, fractional reserve banking, loans and mortgages.

Without Gold, Money is Debt

The Gold Bullion Standard ended in 1971 when Nixon decided to deal with the economic strain of expenditure on the Vietnam War and so untied the value of the dollar from gold. This therefore effectively untied all the other currencies which had been part of the Bretton Woods Agreement to form the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in 1944.

Thereafter currencies were and are not covered by a relationship to gold or any other fixed unit of reference so they can become extremely volatile, easily devalued and printed at infinitum. The problem is that today’s money is based on pieces of paper that are printed with a nominal value. What this means is that currency value is nowadays derived from economic confidence. When there is none the currency becomes worthless and it is not because the central bank has printed a number on a piece of paper that it becomes meaningful. While it is true that Human Action is the ultimate source of value, human confidence is a much more precarious matter, easily swayed, easily duped.

As Detlev Schlichter argues in his immensely important book (Paper Money Collapse, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey, 2011):

“Large sections of the public today embrace a strong and interventionist state. They consider the government a magic cure-all and the answer to everything. Given […] the consistently devastating historical record of state paper money, it is remarkable that those who advocate commodity money today are either marginalized as slightly eccentric or made to extensively explain their strange and atavistic-sounding proposals while the public readily accepts a system of book entry money in which the state can create money without limit. […] The result has been and will continue to be yet more money printing, more debt, more privileged treatment of banks and more government intervention in the economy. Given the interests of the political establishment, the views of the mainstream media, the vested interests of the financial industry, and the state zeitgeist, a timely return to hard money can almost be ruled out.”

Note that Schlichter says “timely”. Earlier in his book, he had noted that the “Achilles heel of this system may then be seen, more accurately, not in a fickle public but instead a banking sector that issues uncovered claims against itself.” Such a system was bound to cause panics from time to time, or what politicians and bankers saw as panics, but which were rather “attempted shifts by the public out of uncovered fiduciary media issued by the banks and previously accepted by the public, into money proper.”

That is, people looking for ways to protect their wealth outside of paper money.

Gold as a future currency?

Gold as a currency of the future may seem far-fetched but given the state of paper money and the increasing interest in gold who knows, it is already being planned as an alternative stable money in certain places. Even if gold coins do not re-enter circulation they are being used as a more certain tangible investment, thus protecting and covering other forms of wealth.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD DEMONETIZED BY THE JAMAICA AGREEMENT

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

The role of the Dollar in the Bretton Woods Agreement

The decisive change that led to the Jamaica agreement was President Nixon’s suspension on 15 August 1971 of the convertibility of the dollar into gold. Until then this had been the keystone of the financial system created in July 1944, the Bretton Woods Agreement, the chief architects of which had been Lord Keynes (despite his distrust of gold) for the British and Harry Dexter White for the Americans.  On 1 October 1971 the general assembly of the IMF asked the board of trustees to study and propose a comprehensive reform of the international money system.  This would be adopted by member States during a meeting held in Kingston, Jamaica on 7-8 January 1976, and included a set of provisions which put an end to the reign of gold.  The decisions taken focused on two main points:

1. The new exchange rate system

Member countries had to refrain from manipulating their exchange rate for competitive reasons and had to choose between three possibilities:

1. Not to assign parity to their currency which was to float freely on the foreign exchange markets;

2. To fix the value of their currency by pegging it to another currency or a Special Drawing Right* not to gold;

3. To link the value of their currency to one or various other currencies as part of cooperative mechanisms.

2. The role of gold

The solution presented was a compromise between the French argument that pushed for gold to remain part of the organization and running of the international monetary system and the American policy that had for a long time wanted gold to be withdrawn from its supreme position.  The agreement withdrew the status of the IMF and all references to gold and replaced it and its core functions with SDR whose dollar value is posted daily on the IMF website.  The consolation for gold was that central banks were given back the freedom to carry out transactions with metal without restrictions on them or the market.

This desire to remove gold as the standard of parity and to abolish the official price of the metal was completed by abolishing obligatory payments in gold for operations between the IMF and member countries and obliging the IMF to get rid of a third of its gold holdings (50 million ounces) by returning half to member states at the old price ($35 an ounce) and by selling the other half through public auctions.

Again we must add that the abolition of the official price of gold resulted in central banks being able to carry out transactions at a price derived from the market and to reassess metal stocks in their possession (as was very quickly the case with France and Italy).

Even if the United States made it known that they would continue to assess their reserve at the old official price of $ 42.22 an ounce and even if the first auction by the IMF lowered the price of gold on the world markets, at least for short periods, we can say that in the fact the results expected by the American policy and the IMF were a long way from being achieved.  The price of gold and gold itself still remain important elements of a vast political game: all things considered, if gold has survived, it’s because it has not stopped being the official metal that governments didn’t want it to be and wanted to forget.

Today, the dollar struggles and the new gold giants Russia, China and India are all looking in different ways towards gold as the international medium to back commitments or in the long term to oust the dollar as the international reserve currency. Closer to home the crisis that rose to the surface in 2008 has caused us to once again look at the stabilisation that resulted in the Bretton Woods agreement, which collapsed, partially due to economic expansion in excess of the gold standard’s funding abilities on the part of the United States and other member nations.

However, the problems of currency systems not pegged to gold lead to economic problems far worse.

Both France and Britain have envisaged such a stabilization. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were recalling the previous success and called for a “new Bretton Woods” agreement in October 2008. What Sarkozy and Brown envisaged was a new multilateral agreement to stabilize international finance in the 21st century, the way the 1944 conference, which established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, stabilized financial relations among countries in the second half of the 20th century. The summit meeting of world leaders held in Washington, D.C., in November 2008 started a process that could lead to such an agreement. What would that take to succeed? What kind of leadership, and what kind of commitment, would be needed? History offers some useful lessons.

On several occasions throughout the Twentieth Century, political leaders in major countries sought international agreements on the global economic or financial architecture. Many of those efforts failed, Bretton Woods being the major exception. The central lesson that emerges from these efforts is that successful reform in response to a crisis requires three ingredients:

1. Effective and legitimate leadership combined with inclusive participation;

2. Clearly stated and broadly shared goals

3. A realistic road map for reaching those goals.

Of these desiderata, only number two, of course, is feasible: many things are easily said and agreed to, goals have a marvelous capacity for being broadly shared – at conferences. While these may be the central lessons learned by advisers and politician, because for such people diplomacy is all (as indeed witness the inability of the eurocrats to get beyond agreements and actually act to solve the eurocrisis); indeed it is possible that diplomacy in itself generates the lack of concerted action because there always has to be something to discuss at the next summit.

Gold the Real Lesson

The most obvious question to arise is: why in Kingston was a decision made to undo the successes of the Bretton Woods system? The immediate answer would probably be that the dollar was able to behave in ways that undermined other nations – but this was entirely because the gold-dollar peg was not a true gold standard even if it seemed to act like one most of the time. Nevertheless, this link did cause imbalances in favour of the United States, which the French, de Gaulle in particular, drew attention to during the sixties.

In spite of the success of Bretton Woods, that success was insufficient to prevent unilateral action by the American government, culminating in Nixon’s decision to abolish what was left of a gold standard in 1971. Henceforth, the goals and achievements of the new system, as much as what was deferred became dependant overtly on the behaviour of the participant countries. New rules in finance can only be devised by those who are the major players in the financial, industrial and emerging markets. Therefore any pretence of stabilizing the world economy was in fact abandoned in favour of powerful nations and cliques, the perfect recipe for currency wars.

In other words the lesson of Bretton Woods which ought to have been learned was that financial stability can only come about with a return to the classical gold standard (1870-1914). Kingston, Jamaica was a staging post on the way to the brink, the edge of which came into sight in 2008.

* The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement member countries’ official reserves. Its value is based on a basket of four key international currencies, and SDRs can be exchanged for freely usable currencies. With a general SDR allocation that took effect on August 28 and a special allocation on September 9, 2009, the amount of SDRs increased from SDR 21.4 billion to SDR 204.1 billion (equivalent to about $ 321 billion). It should be borne in mind that this is a paper reserve, and for that reason is liable to all the defects of paper money.

This is a revision by Mark Rogers of an article posted earlier on this site by Maurice Hall redacted from L’Or [Gold] by Jules Lepidi and an article by J.M. Boughton (IMF Historian).

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

FRANCAIS ESPANOL ITALIANO CHINESE

Search

Error: Feed has an error or is not valid


Error: Feed has an error or is not valid


Thoughts
"For a mountaineer, the important things are the effort, the posture and the muscles. The rope that holds him serves no purpose when everything works but it gives him a sense of security. In the same way, all gold does is ensure confidence; it's a safe haven."