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Buying a Vera Silver 1 ounce is possible now …

Friday, January 10th, 2014

VERA SILVER 1 OUNCE

VERA SILVER 1 OUNCE

It is all ours and it is all nice, coming from the same Mint as our Vera Valor 1 ounce but the difference is, it is made of 999,7‰ pure silver, with the same DNA as the Vera Valor. It is also QR coded on the observe as a guaranty of high security.


Unlike other coins which are legal tender such as the Philharmonic Vienna and the Maple Leaf, the Vera Silver does not depend on any arbitrary decisions coming from markets or states. Therefore, the Vera Silver protects you from any risk of lack of supply that causes higher prices.


Part of the LSP range, the Vera Silver 1 ounce is available in pack of 10, 100 and 1000.


Stored in our free zone in Geneva (Switzerland), exempted from VAT, it is actually on sale from the very beginning of January 2014.


Rather good news : why paying more money when mints are actually running out of Philharmonic Vienna or Maple Leaf silver coins ?

Silver just like gold is a safe value and just like diamonds are. These are different means to diversify your wealth.

The Vera Family is extending so please yourself by buying one Vera Silver 1 ounce.



The British Sovereign

Friday, November 29th, 2013

The Gold Sovereign is a highly collectable investment coin first introduced in Great Britain in 1489 at the request of King Henry VII. In 1816, there was a major reform of coins in Great Britain which resulted in The Coin Act. This laid down in law, amongst other things, the specifi cations and dimensions of Gold Sovereigns produced from 1817 onwards which have remained in place to this day. The Sovereign weighs 7.99g and is 22 carat Gold (or 916.667‰ fineness).

SOVEREIGN AVERSE AND OBVERSE

Details

The first Gold Sovereign was struck in 1489 for King Henry VII. Sovereigns continued to be issued by monarchs up until the end of the reign of Elizabeth I in 1603. As part of the coin reform of 1816/1817, the Sovereign was re-introduced. A young Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci, was appointed to create the reverse design coming up with the beautiful image of St George slaying the dragon. This design saw many alterations over the years but is essentially the same. As a testament to the design, it still appears on the very latest 2013 edition. Other reverse designs have at times been used during the reigns of William IV, Victoria, George IV and Elizabeth II. The obverse of the Sovereign followed the trend established by the original and portrays an image of the reigning monarch, which remains the case up to the present.

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 produced at other mints of the then British Empire but at lower quantities than before. Sovereigns which were not produced at the Royal Mint carry a mintmark showing their provenance, hence one finds coins referred to as Australian Sovereigns or South African Sovereigns. This “foreign” production stopped in 1932.

In 1957, the Royal Mint began again producing Sovereigns in order to meet world demand and to stop the booming counterfeit production which had become rife since the Royal Mint stopped producing in 1917. They were not however reintroduced into everyday circulation. Prior to 1979 only Gold bullion coins had been issued and it was this year that the fi rst Gold proof Sovereigns were issued. Between 1983 and 1999 the Royal Mint ceased producing Gold bullion Sovereigns and only minted proof Sovereigns. Gold bullion Sovereigns were re-introduced in 2000. There are several special designs but essentially, the George & Dragon design remains with the wheel turning full circle where Pistrucci’s design (which was on the Sovereign when the current monarch was crowned) has been re-introduced for the 2013 edition to mark the 60 years reign of Elizabeth II.

Investment Advice

There are various grading systems in use around the world. However, the British system is as follows :

SOVEREIGN 1

Whilst older Sovereigns were produced in much larger quantities than those produced today, it is much more diffi cult to source a good quality Sovereign from those times. Sovereigns from the reigns of George III, George IV and William IV are extremely rare in good quality and thus command high premiums. EF quality can be found but are still quite rare. For example, a UNC George IV Sovereign from 1825 made £14,950 at a sale in March 2004! Early Victorian shield Sovereigns are highly sought and therefore an EF quality coin would fetch a high premium. Indeed anything UNC or FDC from the reign of Victoria is a high premium coin.

Edward VII and George V are fairly easy to obtain in EF quality as they were produced in very large numbers. As with Victoria Sovereigns, any UNC or FDC coins would attract a high premium.

The majority of coins on the market is from the reign of Elizabeth II and has lower premiums than earlier editions. However, the quality again affects the premium and the investor should look for the highest grades. Any coin will always fetch a higher premium anyway than the price of Gold and can only become more sought after in the future. There follows a list of certain rare Sovereigns to seek out if possible – finding one of these will command an excellent premium:

SOVEREIGN 2

– 1817, the first year of the modern Sovereign

– 1838, the first Victoria Sovereign

– 1841, the rarest Victoria Sovereign

– 1917, London-minted Sovereigns, not Australian or South African

– 1989, 500th anniversary of the Sovereign edition

– Anything from George II, George III and William IV – FDC, UNC and even EF grades

Specs

SOVEREIGN 3

Detailed reading: http://goldcoin.org/numismatics/the-british-gold-sovereign-the-world’s-most-sought-after-gold-coin/4103/All investment coins sold by LinGOLD.com are EF quality or above.

For further information:   +44 (0)203 318 5612     or email : info@lingold.com

THE GOLD SPOT: RICARDO ON GOLD AS VALUE

Sunday, June 2nd, 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.

Extracts from ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION by David Ricardo, from the collected Works and Correspondence edited by Piero Sraffa with the collaboration of M.H. Dobb, published for The Economic Society by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1951

Adam Smith, after most ably showing the insufficiency of a variable medium, such as gold and silver, for the purpose of determining the varying value of other things, has himself, by fixing on corn or labour, chosen a medium no less variable.

Gold and silver are no doubt subject to fluctuations, from the discovery of new and more abundant mines; but such discoveries are rare, and their effects, though powerful, are limited to periods of comparatively short duration. They are subject also to fluctuation, from improvements in the skill and machinery with which the mines may be worked; as in consequence of such improvements, a greater quantity may be obtained with the same labour. They are further subject to fluctuation from the decreasing produce of the mines, after they have yielded a supply to the world, for a succession of ages. But from which of these sources of fluctuation is corn exempted? [Chapter I On Value, Section I]

It has therefore been justly observed, that however honestly the coin of a country may conform to its standard, money made of gold and silver is still liable to fluctuations in value, not only accidental and temporary, but to permanent and natural variations, the same manner as other commodities.

By the discovery of America and the rich mines in which it abounds, a very great effect was produced on the natural price of the precious metals. This effect is by many supposed not yet to have terminated. It is probable, however, that all the effects on the value of the metals, resulting from the discovery of America, have long ceased; and if any fall has of late years taken place in their value, it is to be attributed to improvements in the mode of working the mines.

From whatever cause it may have proceeded, the effect has been so slow and gradual, that little practical inconvenience has been felt from gold and silver being the general medium in which the value of all other things is estimated. Though undoubtedly a variable measure of value, there is probably no commodity subject to fewer variations. This and the other advantages which these metals possess, such as their hardness, their malleability, their divisibility, and many more, have justly secured the preference every where given to them, as a standard for the money of civilized countries.

If equal quantities of labour, with equal quantities of fixed capital, could at all times obtain, from that mine which paid no rent, equal quantities of gold, gold would be as nearly an invariable measure of value, as we could in the nature of things possess. The quantity indeed would enlarge with the demand, but it value would be invariable, and it would be eminently well calculated to measure the varying value of all other things. I have already in a former part of this work considered gold as endowed with this uniformity […] In speaking therefore of varying price, the variation will be always considered as being in the commodity, and never in the medium in which it is estimated. [Chapter III On the Rent of Mines]

Comment: Apart from the importance Ricardo attached to machines cropping up in this discussion (his famous Chapter XXXI On Machinery), the interesting thing to note in these passages is that the argument with Adam Smith about sources of value devolves on gold as having the least variability when compared to other possible sources. Smith laid so much stress on corn, partly because it is a staple foodstuff and people must eat, and partly because the labour used to plant and harvest it was an easily quantifiable volume of work; Smith’s theory of value ultimately depended on labour, because the fact, the necessity of labour is an everyday constant.

Ricardo took exception to both corn and labour as measures of value, because the fact that both are necessary does not therefore bar them from continual accident and misfortune: exceptionally bad weather before a harvest destroys not only the crop but the need for labour at all, and has almost the same complete effect should bad weather occur during the harvest. The resulting famine may cause seed prices for next year’s crop to go up. That people must work for a living may be a constant, but their ability to work at any given time is contingent. Similarly, improvements in machinery may have a longer term effect on labour even as these improvements increase the harvest in a good year.

Therefore, these cannot be units of measurement of value: they fluctuate, or are capable of fluctuating too wildly.

The subject was to crop up again in Ricardo’s “Notes on Malthus”, where he takes issue with the gloomy Mr Malthus’s misreading of the points Ricardo makes above, in particular Malthus’s overlooking the qualifications about gold being “nearly an invariable measure of value” and his consequent assumption that Ricardo meant that as things stood, here and now, gold was such a measure. Indeed, Ricardo gets so hot under the collar in pointing out to Malthus that he had not been so simple as to claim this that he practically reverses himself as expressed above, almost implying that gold has no such intrinsic virtue! But indeed, he was quite cross with Mr Malthus all round; he did, in correspondence, express himself as being even less pleased with Malthus’s book on his second reading than he had been on first reading it, his further disgruntlement with Malthus leading to the “Notes”.

What is important about Ricardo’s quarrel with Adam Smith is that it is a very early rebuttal of the notion of labour as the source of value, and an equally important claim for precious metals as that source, as being the closest thing we are ever likely to possess for the purpose. That this claim is hedged with qualifications demonstrates two things: a prudent mind, and, secondly, that the major and long term experiments with paper money lay, of course, well in the future, i.e. the Twentieth Century. What Ricardo was doing was to estimate which of all possible sources of value, supposing such a measure to be desirable (and he concludes that it is), would best serve. There are obvious attractions in Adam Smith’s approach: it is practical, deals in vital constants of human action, and is empirical. But in the end it is insufficient. There is a discussion of paper currency in Ricardo’s book but it is fairly narrowly focused, as the experience of it in his day was narrowly focused, primarily on its promissory nature in terms of specie. Nothing like what we have experienced in the Twentieth Century was available to the political economists of the Eighteenth Century.

Nowadays, while accommodating the arguments to prudence as is always desirable, a stronger case for gold as “nearly an invariable measure of value” can and must be made because the realities foisted upon us by the advocates and practitioners of paper have been so dire.

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

GOLDEN NUGGETS: WHAT ARE SILVERSMITHS?

Friday, February 8th, 2013

An occasional series of curiosities of Gold, its history and ideas about it.

By Mark Rogers

At first blush that looks like a daft question, but not when you know the answer, which is that silversmiths are goldsmiths.

I was visiting my goldsmith friend Jocelyn Burton just recently and the subject came up. We were discussing a book I had found cataloguing the hallmarks of London’s goldsmiths from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and she suggested that, as it was unlikely that the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths would want another copy, The Silver Society might be interested. Why, I asked, would The Silver Society be interested in the hallmarks of goldsmiths? Because, she replied, it is full of silver hallmarks. That only perplexed me further, so she explained that historically no distinction was made: a goldsmith was a craftsman who worked in gold and silver. At that point the light dawned and I realised that of course there is no Worshipful Company of Silversmiths, there was no need: goldsmiths inevitably worked in silver as well, and the craft is named for the more precious of the metals.

As we were discussing the prospectus I had written for her next major project (which shall remain secret for now), I asked had it been wrong, then, to describe her in it as Gold- and Silversmith of Holborn? Well, she replied, in all accuracy, yes, but, she thought, that as a distinction within the craft has been growing of late it was probably useful to spell it out like that, not so much to reinforce the distinction itself, but to emphasise the roll of the goldsmith.

How recently has this distinction been made? The Silver Society was founded in the late fifties to foster the study of silver in its own right, so that would be a good date to start from, but it is only very recently that The Goldsmiths’ Company decided that it would hold a separate British Silver Week to accommodate the increased number of smiths who only work in silver. How has this come about? An obvious answer is that silver is vastly cheaper than gold and so is more affordable to potential clients. It is a less risky investment for the smith. And perhaps, we thought somewhat cynically, that as so many of the younger generation of smiths are not taught the traditional craft, and perhaps disdain it, less money gets wasted on the unfortunate results. Alas, the world of smithery has gone the way of the rest of the arts, where all is “concept” and “design” and little depends on ability.

Jocelyn Burton insists in her own work not only on the highest standards of craft and aesthetic delight but also on utility: if it is a teapot, for example, it must be capable of pouring, if it is cutlery, it must be balanced and a pleasure to hold.

She reckons that there are some 2,000 smiths in the UK, only 200 of whom have any grounding and ability in the traditional craft – and of those 200, the best work for her.

For a statement of what she tries to accomplish in her work, please go here, where you will also find a link to her online exhibition/catalogue.

MONEY AND CASH

Monday, January 14th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

If cash is properly regarded as (precious metal) specie – historically speaking, a recent innovation – then, when the Americans abandoned the gold standard in the early seventies, the entire world reverted to a non-cash culture. Given that the dollar was the reserve currency, relied on by other currencies because it was the sole remaining currency tied to gold, it is an important historical consequence of the abandonment of the gold standard that for the first time in history every currency in the world was no longer supported by tangible wealth.

By saying that we are now in a non-cash culture I mean that what is in circulation is merely promissory notes with the distinguishing feature that they cannot be redeemed, merely exchanged….

The worthlessness of such a system (if “system” adequately denotes the present lunacy) is of course underlined by quantitative easing. Q.E. is usually defended on the grounds that it buys time, that it keeps those ATMs whirring. Yet it is well known that Q.E. merely stores up trouble for the future, that it plays havoc with savings and pensions – so for some the future is already here. And indeed, insofar as it plays havoc with savings, it therefore plays havoc with investment.

Given these features of Q.E., far from it being a rational response to financial crisis, one of the causes of any present crisis is in fact the solution to the previous crisis; that is, crises multiply. Is the true Keynesian multiplier effect?

The Anthropology of Money

David Graeber, in Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, New York 2011) suggests that credit/debt systems are the ancient and persistent form of “money”. But is this really the case? In the absence of money as we now are beginning to understand it [link what is money], is what Graeber describes merely a primitive “pricing system”? But in the absence of money, how does a pricing system work, and does one maintained along the lines suggested eventually collapse? And any form of credit/debt system has to cope with the problem of trust, which matters less in a cash culture, but only one which involves specie and therefore genuine promissory notes.

The questions raised here will be some of the major ones to be explored on this site over the course of the coming year.

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

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

And 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 Banking: news item

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

In recent posts we have looked at the Utah Sound Money Scheme and the Utah Gold and Silver Depository, where a local return to precious metal backed currency is successfully under way. Other States of the Union are watching.

The story which this article links to shows that the legendary investor Eric Sprott has made a drive for the same kind of banking in Canada, expected to start operations next year. We shall watch this space.

Go to this link for more.

MONETIZATION OF GOLD IN THE U.S.A. – NOW!

Friday, August 17th, 2012

We saw here how the gold standard is likely to make a return, and specifically how it could be managed. We took a look at how Iran and China have been conspiring to revive payment in gold for bulk purchases of Iranian oil, a pseudo-return to gold as a currency, pseudo, that is, if it remains a means of payment for a limited period of time and limited to a single commodity. We have also speculated about the possibility that China may be planning to launch the renminbi as a reserve currency backed by gold.

We also saw here how sensible Greeks are forming credit unions and devising alternative currencies.

In the U.S.A., however, States are going for the real thing: under way is a revival of gold (and silver) as legal tender, and the pioneer is Utah and the Utah Gold and Silver Depository.

The move is in deliberate protest at the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Republican state representative Brad Galvez, sponsor of the bill, is quoted as saying: “If you’re mad about government debt, ditch the cash.  Spend your gold and silver!”

The Utah Gold and Silver Depository states:

“On March 25, 2011 history was made when Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law Utah HB317 thereby monetizing precious metals in the form of Gold and Silver American Eagles and United States numismatics (rare coins dated 1792 to 1964) in the state of Utah. The Utah Gold & Silver Depository was founded on the belief that every citizen of the global community has the fundamental right to legally create, preserve and store wealth. To meet the global demand for safe, secure transactions and storage, UGSD has developed a number of depository account options from which a customer can choose and tailor to best meet that customer’s needs and goals.”

The idea is that citizens who wish to monetize their gold and silver will lodge it in an account with the Depository which will then issue them with electronic money in the form of a debit card, which stores the dollar equivalent which is debited against the gold and silver which backs it. A simple idea, but one with radical implications.

The Fed can hardly claim that this sort of thing, especially if it starts to spread to other states, will undermine its authority – the Quantitative Easing it has been indulging is already doing that!

See here also for the Sound Money Act.

Gold vs. Silver : Gold wins, as always

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Recently, a wave of panic swept the precious metals markets and there was talk about the end of the cycles of mega-rise in raw materials! And whereas some thought there was a bubble on gold, it was on silver that the bubble inflated, then burst: The Wall Street Journal talked about the sudden   fall in the grey metal which “ fell 12% in just 11 minutes when the fall was at its most severe. Spot silver saw its informal open at $47.863/oz before rising to a peak of $48.150/oz; it then sold off sharply to a base of $42.210 before stabilizing.

The move down is the first break in an extraordinary run for silver, which has more than doubled in price over the past six months as investors bet on rising prices from renewed industrial demand and as a cheap safe-haven alternative to gold.”.

A piece in the  Financial Times asked  “Did the Silver bubble just burst?”,  illustrating with a chart that “the grey precious metal has tumbled 20 per cent in a week”.

The feeling was that a rapid rebound would be unlikely as expressed by Phillip Klapwijk, executive chairman of the precious metals consultancy GFMS, who said of silver’s position, “I think it could be over on the upside for the next little while.”

The FT also explained the extent of the early May slump sayingSilver prices plunged for the fifth consecutive day on Friday(6th May) as the grey precious metal suffered its biggest correction since the billionaire Hunt brothers cornered the market in 1980. As the week drew to an end they summarised “The reversal of fortunes for silver – which until this week’s 25 per cent drop had been up 56 per cent since January – has led a wider sell-off in commodities markets, which were heading towards one of their worst one-day falls on record.”

Market manipulation rumours were rife and silver faced additional challenges because of rule changes by the CME Group.The volatility in silver has been exacerbated by a series of increases in margin – or the amount of cash that investors must set aside to trade each contract – by CME Group, which runs the silver futures exchange in New York.

CME has raised its margin requirements five times in the past 15 days. Investors must now set aside $14,000 per silver futures contract, worth about $180,000 at current prices. The rate will rise to $16,000 on Monday (9th).”

The grey metal, with a predominantly industrial use, is traditionally much more volatile than gold.

So where does gold feature in all this?

According to the FT “gold has managed to remain relatively unscathed compared with its poorer cousin

It remains on top, as always!

Silver has never been able to compete with gold

For a long time, these two precious metals have been linked by a ratio of 10 to 15.5. In the time of the Pharaohs, it was said that there was a ratio of 13.3 between gold and silver. In 440 BC, this ratio was of 13 during the Roman Empire it was set as 12.

In 1876, Henri Cernushi wrote in “The Bimetallic Currency” that “gold and silver are two natural and eternal currencies. Nobody can produce them artificially nor by decree and this is why they remain a trustworthy guarantee”. During this era most fiduciary systems fixed the parity between gold and silver at 15.5.
In 1840 Europe, the situation was tense because almost everyone felt that there was a tendency to believe that the ratio of 15.5 tended to overvalue silver.  Indeed the grey metal was abundant due specifically to heavy production in the United States.

These historical references are interesting because they are not too distant from geologist’s estimates that Silver is 17 times more abundant than Gold in the earth’s crust. This has given rise to some investors believing this ratio is the natural balance between the two metals and that one day we should somehow return to it.

Many traders, speculators, and investors focus on the gold/silver price ratio in determining which metal is under or overvalued. In recent weeks and months the ratio has collapsed from above 65:1. The ratio of gold to silver prices is at its lowest since 1980, and has plunged from 46 in January this year to 33

Throughout the twentieth century, the gold/silver price ratio went to nearly 100:1, occasionally dipped below 30:1, and only briefly hit a ratio of 17:1 in 1980.

Put against gold, silver does look distinctly volatile and vulnerable.

Simone Wapler (Editor of MoneyWeek France) writing in La Chronique Agora explains why this ratio dropped:

“The gold/silver ratio collapsed because gold, like silver, has been demonetarized. Silver even more than gold. The central banks still have some gold in their coffers, but not silver. Gold is always popular in the jewellery market, but aside from  monetary uses, the uses of silver are in decline (traditional  photography, silverware). For many silver is just a poor man’s gold. When one cannot afford gold, one buys silver.

However this argument although valid is not strictly true because of innovations that make gold investments even more accessible and in a way that is not restricted by individual budgets.

Investors no longer need to settle for second best when they can have the real thing.

It is now possible to start investing in gold by the gram including a savings account that encourages investment in physical gold (that you own outright) with a plan to start from as little as 1g of gold per month.”

Similarly this form of investment is finding increasing favour from businesses looking to protect their contingency funds against inflation and the risk of traditional portfolio investments that are vulnerable to sovereign and national debt issues. Holding physical gold as an owned asset has an increasing appeal   as an investment with security and profits.

But when the figures speak for themselves…

Simone Wapler also adds that “when gold goes up, so does silver, but to a lesser degree. When gold drops, so does silver, but to a greater degree”.   Furthermore, gold gains twice as much as silver during a rise yet silver loses twice as much as gold during a fall. Before the bubble on silver this rule was proved, clearly meaning that something was going on. The sharp current correction reminds us that there was an unfounded rush on silver- and today the rate should be around 25 euros. Above that it is overheating.

If you are not convinced, here is a brief outline of the evolution in the rates for silver and gold, in recent days and over the last 5 years.

In short, when gold sneezes, silver catches a cold, and when silver starts to take take-off, gold reaches towards its peak!

Gold remains a safe haven

According to the French daily Le Monde, one reads that in spite of the fall in rates, “gold should remain protected by its status as a safe haven when faced with inflationary threats, and a prolonged decline in oil prices does not appear very likely. Worldwide demand remains solid and supply remains under the shadow of tensions in the Arab world, with light crude from Libya still cruelly lacking.”

In MoneyWeek France we are told that “Falls are necessary and compulsory in a large bull market we are more than ever convinced that gold has a promising future ahead. Let’s give time for the new world order to be created, for the former rich countries to become aware that they are the new poor and that they live well above their means… in short, there is still quite a while to go”.

Arguments in favour of gold

Indeed, gold has recorded a slight fall recently, but if you need additional arguments to be convinced of its role as a tangible asset;

  • gold is “reconverting into money”: it is clearly not the case for silver
  • silver has lost its status as a safe haven contrary to gold
  • silver is a rare industrial metal, very volatile just like other raw materials.   Let us take for example palladium: the market for palladium remains confidential and prices extremely volatile. The production of palladium is concentrated within Russia and in South Africa. This concentration of production confers a certain instability in the market with regards to price and reliability of supply. And uncertainties with regards to its provision have even caused the price of palladium to rise in October 2010, reaching its highest level since June at 605.13 dollars an ounce. Demand is increasing consistently, mining development is limited, a hold by the Russian State on reserves and lack of investors: such are the characteristics that have led to the palladium market finding itself in deficit.
  • silver is not a product for protection against crisis. It is rather comparable to platinum which had fallen in 2008 because the automotive industry was at its lowest point (noteably platinum is used in catalytic converters)
  • silver is increasingly rare and difficult to revalue. Silver is a non-renewable resource and experts agree that by 2021 -2023 the exhaustion of silver supplies will be final.  In any event, silver is a metal which cannot be synthesized and for which no substitute exists. And even if the exact date of a drain in the metal market still remains on hold, in 2010, with a production of 19,300 tons, and demand standing at 25,200 tons, reserves are clearly running low. Remember that principle industrial uses consume the silver
  • silver takes up space in storage, and savers prefer gold which in value and in volume is better
  • because of its scarcity, industrialists are trying to replace silver as soon as possible. This  linked article deals  with the uses of silver in particular in the manufacture of RFID Tags for stock control and identity cards. If we imagine that one day industrialists find another metal or synthetic to replace this need what leeway will remain for silver? This article is based on a completely biased study of silver. All industrialists say if one day they are able to do without silver, they will do so because it is expensive. The use of gold in industry itself remains limited compared to its use for investment purposes and jewellery.

This is exactly what one is looking for from gold, once again it becomes  a private currency, regardless of form.

Let us leave silver to those who want to get their fingers burnt with molten metal…

Coin Grading

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Grading is probably the most controversial and by far the most important area of coin collecting and there are almost no grading guides for world coins. Grading issues have caused disputes between buyers and sellers since collecting begun and will continue to do so for ever more. Grading coins accurately is a skill acquired in time and after looking at many similar/identical coins in all ranges of condition. Many coins fall in between grades, and so terms such as ‘nearly VF’, ‘good VF’, ‘gem BU’ are encountered. The numerical system (1 -70) popular in the USA is not common in Europe but it does allow greater flexibility within key grades. We should bear in mind that their grading system is more generous than that of the UK. E.g. the lower ranges of Almost Uncirculated ( AU50 – 57) allows for some wear which is not acceptable in the UK, so care is needed. There are also differences between European countries where FDC (Fleur De Coin) is used to describe an uncirculated coin but in the UK, FDC is a perfect coin that could only be attributed to the best of proofs and is equivalent to the to the top number on the American system (MS70) and is rarely found

We are not numismatists and our concern is only with gold and silver coins as an investment so the grade is not as critical as it is for a collector of rare coins. Nevertheless the condition of a coin is important and numismatists agree that in most cases the condition of the coin is more important than its rarity.

There are key grades and grades between these grades so it is often easier to start with buckets, Circulated, Almost Uncirculated and Uncirculated.

The coin should be graded on its weakest side, look for overall wear and loss of design detail such as strands of hair, feathers or coats of arms.  Detecting wear can be made more difficult where relief is low particularly applicable to coins of Edward VII and George V

Some tips for sovereigns

The majority of Sovereigns since 1820 contain Benedetto  Pistrucci’s fantastic engraving of St. George slaying the dragon and there are some high points that can indicate wear.  Look at the helmet above the eye this is the first place wear occurs, the strap across St George’s chest, the fingers on the hand, signs of wear on the reins, relief of the sword against the flank. This reverse covered a number of monarchs on the obverse. In general look for detail of the ears on males and hair on females.

Look at the example below of a 1918 Halfcrown. With examination under magnification the slightest rubbing can be seen on the ear, cheek and moustache. A very nice coin but not Uncirculated

G1918_Halfcrown_AU marked

1918 Halfcrown AU (About Uncirculated) American AU58-59

KEY GRADES

I have listed the Key grades below with some sample coins of various denominations to give an idea of grading but please remember this is subjective and maybe variable in the eyes of the expert who would examine with magnification.

Poor: A very worn coin but better than a smooth disc. Inscriptions worn off, date illegible, only outline of design visible. Such coins are generally of no value to a collector.

Fair: A heavily worn coin but date and denomination legible, type recognisable. Very little detail visible , worth no more than the metal value

Gpennyfair

Penny Fair American F2

Good (G): (sometimes Mediocre) Inscriptions and date considerably worn but legible. Generally worth no more than the metal value

Very Good (VG): Considerable wear over the whole coin, and high spots worn through. Coins in this or the previous grades are really only collectable if extremely rare and generally worth no more than the metal value

Fine (F): Worn over whole area, but only the highest spots are worn completely through. Some of the hair volume should be visable but not individual strands (US Grade about VF)

GfarthFine

Farthing F (Fine) American F12-14

Very Fine (VF): Detail clear, but obvious evidence of limited circulation. High spots worn but detail remains. More hair detail is evident and also detail of other designs. Traces of mint lustre may linger amongst the letters of the inscription. (US Grade about XF)

GsixpVF

Sixpence VF (Very Fine) American VF25-30

Extremely Fine (EF): A coin with little sign of being circulated. Slight wear on high spots on close inspection, and all other detail clear and sharp with minimal scratches and marks. Much mint lustre may remain. (US Grade about AU)

GHPEF

Half Penny EF(Extremly Fine) American XF40 - 44

Almost Uncirculated (AU): Not quite in Uncirculated condition could be down graded because of heavy bag marks, edge knocks or other undesirable feature but without the slight wear that determine it to be EF, would usually contain more than half of its mint luster.

GflorgEF

Florin gEF (Good Extremly Fine) American AU About Uncirculated AU55

Uncirculated (UNC): No wear, although it is possible for the design not to be fully struck up in the minting process. Not perfect as there may be bag abrasions and knocks through mass production. The coin should have most of its mint luster present. Older coins may be tarnished or toned.

GShlChUNC

Shilling UNC ( Uncirculated) American MS60-62

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU): There will be no visible signs of wear or handling and ideally no bag marks.  Usually implies full mint lustre, in other words no toning or tarnish.

GHPGemUNC

Half Penny BU (Brilliant Uncirculated) American MS67-69

FDC: (Fleur de Coin) Perfect mint state, with no abrasions or marks, and full lustre. Usually applied to proof coins only, as coins intended for circulation are in contact with others during production.

GPenny_FDC

Penny FDC (Fleur De Coin) American MS70

Proof: Not a condition, but the coin has been struck using specially prepared dies and polished blanks, and the minting process has been carried out usually twice with extra pressure to ensure the die is filled. A characteristic of proof coins is that they have very sharp edges because of the high pressures used to ensure that the metal flows into all details of the design.

All the above photographs are by courtesy of Wybrit British Coins

The table below attempts to show in detail the Key Grades in bold and grades in between

Coin Grading

Maurice Hall

The Ancestors of our gold coins – History of Gold

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Gold can be found in its purest form on the earth’s surface, mainly in sand found in rivers.  This metal has been known about and used since the early times of mans’ history.  Great ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Assyrians and the Etruscans etc. left behind gold treasures, ornaments and jewellery.  The “Monetary Phenomenon” began in part of Asia Minor in the kingdom of Lydia which lay along the edge of the Aegean sea along the coast of what is now Turkey, criss-crossed by rivers whose names have remained famous: the Meander, with many bends and the Pactolus, symbol of wealth.

Lydia

Herodotus, who wrote around 430 BC, talks about the Lydians as “the first people we know of to have struck gold and silver coins.”  We can therefore place the birth of currency in Lydia due to the fact that archaeologists working in the twentieth century on the site of ancient Sardis, capital of the kingdom, found small round ingots of a metal called electrum.  This is not pure gold but a natural alloy of gold and silver.  It could be found in abundance in the mountains of Lydia and especially in alluvial deposits in the Pactolus River, which retained a reputation for being wealthy that its current condition no longer merits.

Lydia gold coin 1

Lydian gold coin issued under the reign of Croesus (Fifth century BC) - Obverse - Source Sacra-Moneta.com

Historians are generally in agreement that currency first appeared around 650BC during the reign of the King Ardys of Lydia, (652-615).    Metal plates dating back to this period were found with deep recesses in them produced by a hard object such as a punch.  On the other side there were lines like scratches.  It is highly likely that a few drops of molten electrum were poured onto an anvil with a rough surface.  A punch with a design on it would then have been placed on the metal and it would have been struck by a hammer which would have printed the design on one side and stripes from the anvil on the other.  This very simple design was often nothing more than the mark of a broken nail.

Gold and silver had been used for trading for centuries before this, but each nugget or ingot had to be checked and weighed each time it changed hands.  Punched marks used by merchants were only useful for recognizing coins they had previously controlled or accepted.

Lydia gold coin 2

Lydian gold coin issued under the reign of Croesus (Fifth century BC) - Obverse - Source Sacra-Moneta.com

Under the reign of King Alyattes (610-561) a new form of Lydian money appeared.  The surface of the anvil was replaced by a lower die with an intaglio design engraved in it.  Using a hammer and a punch the metal was pressed into the lower die so well that the design appeared in relief (it was a lion’s head).  The punch itself left a deep mark on the reverse side of the coin.    It was a square or rectangular indentation, usually divided into four compartments, each with a pattern with the relief as a focal point.  Before being struck the blank pieces of metal were adjusted to a standard weight.  The heaviest coins weighed about 10.90g, and were called “staters” which signified balance or standard value.  Fractions of “staters” were also used with various weights and values.  A third of a “stater” only featured the head of a lion; smaller coins only showed the foot.

The lion was the symbol of royal authority.  It served as a guarantee of the weight of the coins doing away with the need to carry out tedious and time consuming checks of coins each time they changed hands through a commercial transaction.  However, in electrum, proportions of silver and gold were not fixed; the intrinsic value of each coin could vary considerably.  Electrum coins would not have been easily accepted outside of the region in which they were produced.  This is why they were soon abandoned in favour of pure gold.

The first issue of pure gold coins on a large scale took place under the reign of King Croesus of Lydia (561-546) whose name remains to this day a symbol of opulence.  So great was the wealth of Lydia that the King gave one gift to the shrine of Apollo at Delphi of ingots and ornaments containing an estimated 4 tons of gold.  Coins issued under the reign of Croesus were oblong coins minted in Sardis and contained about 98% gold.  They were the closest to pure gold it was possible to get with the refining methods available at the time.  They soon led to the end of electrum coins due to the difficulties of determining the proportion of gold and silver content.

The obverse of Croesus’ coins featured the royal symbol: the head of a lion and the head of a bull clashing.  The reverse, as with previous coins, only featured the indented square made by the punch of the money maker.  Aside from these gold coins, Croesus also had silver coins struck which were identical except for the fact they had a larger diameter.  The purchasing power of one gold stater was equal to ten silver coins.  The relative value of equal weights of gold to silver was in fact 13 1/3 to 1 at the time.  The king strictly controlled the sources of precious metals (mines and rivers) in his kingdom, because a fixed relationship between the value of gold and silver could only be maintained if there was a regular supply of metal.

Lydia’s wealth could not save Croesus.  In 546 the Lydian army lost to the Persians of Cyrus.  Minting of Lydian money ended.

Russia – Gold mining in some of the harshest conditions in the world

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Every winter, an ice road is laid across 400 km (250 miles) of tundra to carry supplies to one of the world’s most isolated gold mines.

kupol-mine

Kupol Russian Arctic Mine

There is no other way for heavy machinery to reach Kupol, the $700 million Arctic mine behind a resurgence in Russian gold production after five straight years of decline.”It’s one of the harshest climates I’ve worked in, and I’ve worked in the Atacama desert in Chile and at 15,000 feet in Indonesia,” said Patrick Dougherty, general manager at Kupol. “But I don’t get to pick where the gold is.”

Only South Africa holds more gold than Russia, but Moscow’s fragmented industry has struggled to access vast reserves in its inhospitable Far East. The region was first mined in the 1930s by prisoners of the Gulags set up by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.Russia is the world’s biggest energy supplier, but falling prices and reduced demand have cut income from natural resources to about 8 percent of its gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2009, from nearly 11 percent a year ago.

Gold, on the other hand, has been helped by recession. Its safe-haven appeal has shielded it from a demand slump that shredded other commodity prices, lifting it to over $1200 an ounce in December 2009

Chukotka, a region revived in the last eight years by the $2.5 billion investment of Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich, produced a fifth of Russia’s gold in the first half of this year. Gold is the region’s passport to growth after Abramovich quit as governor last July.Russia ranked fifth among the world’s gold miners last year, between Australia and Peru, with an 8 percent share of output. Production rose 13 percent in 2008, the first increase in six years, and jumped another 25 percent in the first half of 2009. “This was solely due to the commissioning of Kupol,” said Olga Okuneva, mining analyst at Deutsche Bank in Moscow. “If other large projects in the Far East start producing gold, this will be a major growth driver for the Russian gold industry.”

Kupol — meaning dome in Russian — is named after a rounded outcrop of rock that juts skyward from the tundra in central Chukotka, over 200 km (125 miles) from the nearest settlement. The mine took five years to build. It is the largest tax payer in Chukotka, a land twice the size of Germany where reindeer outnumber people four to one. “With a deposit as large as Kupol, mining’s contribution to the regional economy is expected almost to double to 37 percent this year,” said Roman Kopin, the 35-year-old who took over as governor when Abramovich resigned.

Kinross Gold Corp, the Canadian miner which owns 75 percent of Kupol, is unusual among foreign investors for holding a majority share in a major Russian mineral deposit. The government of Chukotka owns the other 25 percent. Untangling the red tape that stifles some foreign investors in other parts of Russia was one of the main achievements of Abramovich’s more than seven years as governor, Kopin said. “The investment climate here, perhaps, is a little bit different, because we understand that it’s very difficult to work in Chukotka,” he added.Kinross has been the top performing gold stock on the New York Stock Exchange for the last three years, when the company’s value rose more than 160 percent. Kupol will supply about a third of its total output this year and 15 of 24 equity analysts polled by Reuters retain a bullish rating on the stock

ARCTIC CORRIDOR

About 1,400 jobs are related directly to Kupol, and Chukotka’s population totals around 50,000. Miners and catering staff spend four weeks on site and four weeks off, earning an average monthly wage of 50,000 roubles, 25 percent above the regional average. “We have equipment that works here,” said Alexander Puzovets, 48, a drill rig operator who works 10-hour shifts at the pit face. “I’ve been in mines where we’ve used hammers.”The mine’s in-house electricity plant could generate enough to power the regional capital, Anadyr.In winter, miners walk the purpose-built Arctic Corridor — an enclosed, 900-meter tunnel from camp to mine — to avoid temperatures that drop more than 50 degrees Celsius below zero (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

About 60 percent of Kupol’s gold is mined underground. Zurab Samteladze, a 55-year-old Georgian more than 7,000 km from home, hauls 45-tonne rock loads to the surface in a Caterpillar truck.In deeper parts of the mine, skilled operators maneuver drill rigs by remote control. This avoids the need for miners to work long hours beneath areas vulnerable to rock falls.

“With all the video games they play, the younger generation has a better chance of operating these units,” said Dougherty, a native of Arizona. Alcohol is banned. Miners pass their time playing pool, in the gym or watching television. Popcorn is a popular snack, while eight tons of reindeer meat was served up last year. “I play guitar — they have a music room. I like basketball — they have a sports hall,” said Andrei Aksanov, 34, a mechanic in the truck shop.Like 80 percent of the miners at Kupol, Aksanov comes from Magadan, the port city 1,500 km (940 miles) to the southwest.

russia miner

A worker cast an ingot at the Koylma refinery Magada

This is where mining began in Russia’s Far East. Stalin, needing bodies to unearth new-found gold reserves, sent hundreds of thousands of prisoners to slave in the region’s labor camps over two decades from the early 1930s.From such grisly beginnings, Magadan has developed into the hub of gold processing in the Russian Far East. Kupol flies its dore  (bullion bars)  to be processed into almost pure metal to be refined at the Kolyma Refinery to the north of the city. Vladislav Feoktistov, the refinery’s 71-year-old director, raised a glass of vodka to visiting officials from Kinross Gold. Supplies from Kupol will guarantee the plant’s biggest turnover in its 11-year history, he said.”This a business that’s only as good as its suppliers,” he said. From here, 15 kg (33 pound) gold bars worth more than $450,000 each at current prices are delivered to Russian banks.

Kinross report – The production at Kupol mine was started during the second half of 2008. During the second half of 2009, Kupol mine reported production of 234,265 gold equivalent ounces. Out of this, Kinross has produced 75% or 175,699 gold equivalent ounces. The production includes 151,327 ounces of gold and 1,633,673 ounces of silver. Kinross says that, with a cost of sales of about $205 per ounce on a co-product basis using a gold price of $400/oz and a silver price of $6/oz, Kupol will become one of the lowest-cost gold and silver mines in the world.

Processing – The Kupol mill is a conventional gold/silver cyanidation plant that incorporates a CCD thickener washing circuit and Merrill-Crowe zinc precipitation because of the high silver ore grade. Cyanide destruction is accomplished with calcium hypochlorite. The Kupol mill is designed to process about 3,000t of ore per day (1,100,000t per year). Run-of-mine ore is crushed in a jaw crusher and conveyed to a crushed ore storage bin. The crushed ore is ground in a SAG grinding mill followed by a ball mill. Gravity separation of free gold and silver will be carried out with a Knelson concentrator in the grinding circuit.

MORE GOLD TO MINE

There should be more to come. Polyus Gold, owned by billionaires Mikhail Prokhorov and Suleiman Kerimov, plans to launch Natalka, the world’s third-largest gold deposit, in 2013. Annual production of between 25 and 30 tonnes will put Natalka on the same scale as Kupol. Beyond 2017, Polyus plans to raise output to more than 40 tonnes a year. “It’s a deposit with reserves of more than 1,000 tonnes that will create jobs, infrastructure and become a major center for Magadan region,” said German Pikhoya, Polyus Gold’s deputy chief executive for strategy and corporate development. If Chukotka is to retain its leading position, it must do more. Current reserves at Kupol will last only until 2016. To extend the mine’s life beyond this date, more reserves must be found, mapped and registered with Russian authorities. Kinross and others are already exploring. “Chukotka is definitely a key gold-producing region, particularly in the long term,” said Vitaly Nesis, chief executive of St Petersburg-based miner Polymetal. His company plans to launch the Mayskoye gold deposit in Chukotka by 2011.

Maurice Hall from Sources Reuters, Kinross and mining-technology.com

The Latin Monetary Union – 1865

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Prior to 1860 the Germinal system was adopted to create a monetary community between Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland.  In 1803, the “germinal franc” (named after the month Germinal in the (revolutionary calendar) was established, creating a gold franc containing 290.32 mg of fine gold. From this point, gold and silver-based units circulated interchangeably on the basis of a 1:15.5 ratio between the values of the two metals (Bimetallism). This system continued until 1864, when all silver coins except the 5 franc piece were debased from 90% to 83.5% silver without the weights changing. It, however failed because these countries had to lower the fineness of their coins to curb the disappearance of silver coins.  There was no harmony between the countries.  The Swiss reduced their 2 franc coins and higher value coins to 800 thousandths.  Italy reduced their coins to 835 thousandths.  Due to the need for small coins, France overruled the Legislative Body and tentatively decided to reduce the fineness of 50 and 20 centime coins to 0.835 thousandths (law passed on the 25th May 1864).

Belgium leopold

Belgium gold coin from Latin Monatary Union - Leopold II

The story began when Belgium adopted the French franc in 1830. Switzerland harmonized its currency to the franc in 1848 and Italy joined in 1861, both retaining the names of their national currencies but adjusting their values to match the franc. In 1865, this arrangement was formalized as the Latin Monetary Union. Greece and Bulgaria joined in 1867, and a number of states (Spain, Romania, Austria, Finland, Venezuela, Serbia, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican) issued currency following the conventions without officially joining the Union.

The basic idea was that each member country would have identical coinage made from gold and silver. While the names of the individual currencies were kept, the weights were identical, so 5 French francs were worth exactly the same as 5 Italian lire and could be used through the Union like national currency (minus a 1.25% handling charge). Each country could mint as many coins as it wanted, there being no risk of inflation due to the intrinsic worth of the metal. The following coins were issued throughout the Union:

LMU units

Belgium used French gold for all its dealings and therefore made it legal tender in 1861.  The Belgian delegate remarked that because his country was situated between France, England, Holland and Germany it formed the perfect natural link for payments to these States.  Some were using gold and others silver.  The balance of the National Bank was suffering from the aftershocks of these actions which disrupted credit and trade.  Belgium, Italy and Switzerland therefore demanded adoption of the gold standard.  The agreement was signed reducing the fineness of coins worth less than 5 francs to 835 thousands.  The money supply was voluntarily limited.  Individuals could only make maximum payments of 50 francs.  Each country was also forbidden from printing more than 6 francs per capita.  A very simple system that Greece joined in 1868.

However, there were problems that eventually lead to failure. The exchange rate of gold to silver was fixed at 1:15.5, which soon turned out to over value silver significantly. The Union countries tried to unload their silver coins into other countries, so they could profit by turning them into gold. Speculators could buy 16 francs of silver, go to the Mint and strike four 5 franc coins which enabled them to go and buy a beautiful Napoleon. France’s gold was disappearing.

Germany shamelessly profited and benefited greatly from the situation.  German agents came to Paris and Brussels with silver ingots from the recent demonetisation of thalers and transformed them into 5 franc coins which were then converted into notes and then gold.  To put an end to these practices Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland limited (1874) and then soon after suspended (1876) the striking of écus. A larger problem was that there was also a second set of subsidiary silver coins for smaller amounts, issued by each country on its own and not fully convertible elsewhere. Even though these coins had a lower silver content than the primary coins, Union members were by law required to accept up to 100 units of them at face value per transaction, very much a loss-making proposition for the receiving side. Also, while the ending of silver convertibility stopped the minting of new silver coins, outstanding ones remained legal tender. With the advent of World War I and the massive financing strains involved, not to mention war between members of the Union, the system collapsed totally, although it remained in legal fiction until the end of the 1920s.

The United Kingdom entered discussions of  Britain joining the Latin Monetary Union. The proposal involved reducing the amount of gold in one pound sterling by less than 1% to make one pound equivalent to 25 Francs and also decimalising the currency. During the period of the Latin Monetary Union, the United Kingdom was already in a monetary union with territories now commonly known as the “Commonwealth” The gold standard of the British gold sovereign existed in these territories until the outbreak  World War I.

Maurice Hall

FRANCAIS ESPANOL ITALIANO CHINESE

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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."