Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

The Panda 1 ounce

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The Chinese Gold Panda is a popular series of Gold bullion coins issued by the People’s Republic
of China in Proof-like, brilliant uncirculated quality. They are issued in a range of sizes between
1/20 Oz and 1 Oz with larger 2 and 5 Oz coins being additionally issued in some years.

panda 1 onceChina issued its first Gold coins bearing the Panda design in 1982. These were limited
to sizes of 1/10 Troy ounce along with 1/4 Toz, 1/2 Toz and 1 Toz. From 1983, the 1/20 Toz size was added and additionally a 2 Toz and 5 Toz coin is sometimes issued.
These strikingly beautiful coins are always issued in Proof-like brilliant uncirculated quality and prove very popular.
A different design was issued each year until the 2000. When the 2001 edition was announced, so too was a freeze of the design and thus the 2002 Panda is identical to the 2001. Collectors spoke up on behalf of the annual change and China responded by reversing their policy so that from 2003 onwards, the designs again change each year.
However, on the reverse side, it always features the endangered Giant Panda. It also features the size, Gold fi newness and monetary value.
The main design on the obverse of the coin has hardly changed, save for minor detail changes in the image. It features Beijing’s famous Temple of Heaven (Tien Tien) in the centre with Chinese characters on the top saying “Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo” meaning People’s Republic of China and at

the bottom the year of issue. If it is a commerative issue, the theme will also be marked here.
There was an adjustment of the face values of the coins in 2000/2001 – please see
the table overleaf for details.
The Chinese mints usually do not employ mintmarks. In certain years, there have
been minor variations in items like the size of the date, the style of the temple and
so on. These allow the numismatist to identify the originating mint. In some years,
but not all, other marks and Proof marks (signifi ed by a ‘P’) have been added. The
four mints involved in the production of the Panda are Beijing, Shanghai, Shengyang
and Shenzhen.

Investment Advice


All Panda coins are issued as pure Gold fineness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.
However, their intrinsic beauty makes them very collectable and they attract good premiums.
As with any coin, the best quality grades will attract the best premiums. The early years in particular will be those with the highest premium. Although the coins were issued in Proof form, many were unpacked and have thus been damaged and are at lower gradings. The mintage figures should be carefully examined – the number originally minted is quoted but it has been found that production continues for various years, hence the total mintage may be quite a bit higher some years after.




All investment coins sold by

are EF quality or above.

For further information: +44 (0)203 318 5612

The Maple Leaf 1 once

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf is one of the oldest bullion coins alongside the Krugerrand. It is a classically beautiful coin, internationally recognised and provides investors with a secure, quality addition to a portfolio.


The Royal Canadian Mint introduced the Maple Leaf in 1979. Along with the Krugerrand, it has been in continuous production ever since. It came about because of the Krugerrand – at the time, there was an economic boycott of South Africa so Krugerrands were not widely available – and thus the Maple Leaf fi lled a gap in the market. It contains virtually no base metals at all and uses Gold exclusively mined in Canada.


The earliest years between 1979 and 1981 had a Gold fineness of 999.0‰ but 1982 onwards is 999.9‰. For those same fi rst years, only a 1 Toz coin was produced. Between 1982 and 1985, the 1/4 Toz and 1/10 Toz sizes were added. Then in 1986 the 1/2 Toz was added and in 1993 a 1/20 Toz coin joined the group. It has remained thus to date except 1994 when a 1/15 Toz coin was produced for that year only. That year, a Platinum 1/15 Toz coin was also produced, possibly for jewellery, but both the Gold and Platinum 1/15 Toz coins were not a success and were dropped. The Maple Leaf is also available in Silver and Palladium.

Each coin features the image of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley on the obverse side. It also has the denomination and year of issue. On the reverse is an image of Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf along with the word CANADA and the Gold fi neness in both English and French. Every coin is guaranteed to contain the stated amount in Troy ounces of fi ne Gold. The coins are identical in design except for the obvious items such as weight.

All Maple Leaf coins are legal tender in Canada although are categorised as “non-circulating bullion coins”. Their Gold fi neness easily puts them into the general category of being VAT-exempt.

On 3rd May 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a 100 Kg Gold Maple Leaf with a face value of C$ 1 million although the Gold content makes it worth much more. The coin was produced as a promotional product to give the mint a higher international profi le. However, several interested buyers came forward so the mint announced it would manufacture to order. There are believed to be five confirmed orders and/or deliveries. It held the record for the largest coin until 2011 when an Australian coin superseded it.

Investment Advice

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


All Maple Leaf coins are issued as pure Gold finewness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.


However, the reality is that a 5% premium should be achieved for a quantity of coins

with higher values for individual coins. As always, the smaller value coins will have higher premiums.
The coins were never really designed to be handled due to the softness of 24 carat Gold, the milled edge and clear fi eld around the image of the Queen. With some coins supplied in tubes, this makes them susceptible to handling marks and other damage. So careful examination of coins is highly recommended.



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).



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 :


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:


- 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



Detailed reading:’s-most-sought-after-gold-coin/4103/All investment coins sold by are EF quality or above.

For further information:   +44 (0)203 318 5612     or email :

How much does 1 gram of pure gold cost ?

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Who said that only wealthy people could afford buying gold ?

  • Save from 1 gram of gold per month
  • Secure storage in Swiss vaults – FREE*
  • No administration or signup fee
Sign up for the LSP for free

Gradually build your wealth by simply buying each month a minimum of 1 gram of physical gold, for your LinGOLD Savings Plan (LSP) and benefit from freestorage in Swiss vaults outside the banking system.

How to save with the LSP?

  • Connect to your LinGOLD account or create a new account
  • Signup free to the LSP programme
  • Buy each month a minimum of 1 gram of pure gold
  • The gold you have bought is fully referenced : bar code, photograph, certificate of ownership
  • The gold is stored in a Swiss vault outside the banking system
  • You are free at any time to increase or reduce the amount of your savings, or you can unsubscribe from the LSP with no charge or prior notice.
Minimum Purchase 1g pure gold per month*
Maximum Threshold Unlimited
Storage Charges Free*
Signup Fee None
Availability Immediate Resale
Minimum Engagement None

*The storage charges levied on your gold stored in the LSP are FREE, on the condition that you buy a minimum of 1 gram of pure gold per calendar month, before the last day of each month. If the minimum monthly purchase is not made, storage charges will be applied, currently £4 per month per 200g total weight stored.

What are the products that fall within the LSP?

  • All the fractions of pure gold (1 g, 10 g, 100 g) issued from bars or gold investment coins (Britannia, Sovereign, Napoleon 20F, Napoleon 10F, Panda, Vera Valor, etc)
  • A whole coin : Vera Valor 1 ounce
  • A 1kg bar of pure gold

For further information on the LSP.

Manipulation of financial markets ?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

What’s happening with the London gold fixing ?

First, Bloomberg reported that the U.K.Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was investigating over the way gold prices were set every day in London, as the main bullion-trading centre in the world based on information from the LBMA.

Now it is the BaFin, German’s financial supervisory authority, who is actually investigating into suspected price-fixing of benchmark gold and silver prices.


One should ask ?

The facts :
It would seem that the London fix, benchmark rate used by mining companies, central banks and other companies to buy, sell and value gold, may have been subject to manipulation over the past few months.  According to some traders interviewed by Bloomberg, it seems that ‘insider trading’ around the gold fixing is potentially possible as dealers and customers exchange information. That should lead to a wider investigation into how global rates are being set.
Remember last year when the London interbank offered rate – LIBOR – was being manipulated. Would other financial markets be manipulated ?
Similar investigations would be under way in the Uk and US, no sources

actually confirmed that point.
It wouldn’t be the first time prices are being manipulated.


Your savings in a safe place

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Traditional investments are at risk because they are inextricably linked to the world wide web of paper debt that exists in futures, bonds, hedges and spread bets.

Pension funds, banks, stock markets and even countries are using your investments to pay off their own debts rather than to seek a profit for you.

These paper investments are all at the mercy of the debt cycle and could be lost completely or become worthless at any time. What happens when these massive debts are called in and can’t be repaid ?  This will happen but nobody knows when. How bad will it be ? How long will it last ? Politicians publicly pretend it can’t happen because they couldn’t handle the panic and their main preoccupation is preserving power or surviving their ‘shift’.

Did you know?

- You can still buy a new car today with the same weight of gold as you needed to buy a new car 90 years ago.

- 300 years ago 2 oz of Gold could buy a cow, the same amount as you need today!

- Current devaluations are decreasing your ‘paper’ savings, investments and pension funds

- Since  2000 stock markets have slumped while the price of gold has increased more than 5 times’s commitment to doing things differently is exemplified through its ‘Vera Valor’ gold coin.  The ‘Vera Valor’ is the first ethically produced coin made from “clean extraction” gold, which is 100% traceable from mine-to-mint.’s vault storage facility is based in the highly secured facility of Geneva Freeport and is independently audited to ensure total propriety and counterparty.

investment in lingold

investment in lingold

Britannia 1 ounce Gold Coin

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

The Gold Britannia is a 1 Troy ounce investment coin. Whilst the figure of Britannia has graced coins since Roman times, it is only since 1987 that the modern Gold Britannia coin has been produced. The Gold Britannia is also available in fractions and the Silver Britannia is 1 Troy ounce of pure Silver.

It is probably Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war who set the pattern for powerful maidens, like Britannia, to personify the characteristics of the nation they represent. It was the Romans who first portrayed Britannia on their coins. However, in the mists of time, it seems Britannia was depicted as resisting the invasion of the Roman Empire paying tribute to the fighting spirit of the island’s inhabitants, the Ancient Britons. In modern times, Britannia remains the universally recognised personification of Britain.



The coin history can be traced through Roman coins, those of Charles II and Elizabeth I through to today. Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952 and by that time, Britannia had been on coinage continuously for the previous 300 years. These coins were made from copper, and later bronze. In 1971, Britain adopted decimal currency and Britannia was chosen for the 50p copper/nickel alloy coin. In 1987, Britannia was finaly “promoted” to grace the Gold bullion coin which is known today as the modern Britannia. Ten years later in 1997, a Silver bullion Britannia was also issued.

In modern times, different aspects of Britannia’s history and character have been interpreted by different artists. The portrait by David Mach is the ninth to appear on both the 2011 Silver and Gold coins of Elizabeth II’s reign. The 2012 and 2013 coins were designed by Philip Nathan with the obverse continuing to show the acclaimed monarch effigy by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS.The first Gold Britannia coins were produced in 22 carat form.

The 2013 edition is pure Gold, 24 carat. See full specifications below :

Although it is 1 Troy ounce of pure Gold, the Britannia is in fact the highest denomination coin in Britain. So as well as being free from VAT as it is investment-quality Gold, it is also free from Capital Gains Tax on any sale or transfer which is advantageous over other bullion coins and bars as an investment instrument.

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


The Gold Britannia is issued in weights of 1 Troy ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce and tenth-ounce. The Silver Britannia is produced in a weight of 1 Troy ounce only and has a face value of £2.00. The large coins are those which attract the best premium. The reason for this is the costs of manufacture are approximately the same regardless of size and therefore Gold content.

The premium of Britannia coins is determined by the quality of the coin, design features, mintage and Gold content. From 1987to 1989, the coin was alloyed with Copper. From 1990 to 2012 it was alloyed with Silver. From 2013, it is pure Gold.


The British Royal Mint has issued Proof editions every year and these should be sought where possible. Generally, the Britannia is not a high mintage coin. The years with the lowest numbers minted are 1990 to 2000. Coins minted in the years 1990, 1991 and 1997 are particularly sought after as their proof mintage was 262, 143 and 164 respectively. There are several design variations of the reverse, notably the year 2003 which featured Britannia’s head only as opposed to the usual full figure.

Silver Britannia tends to be sold in bulk because of the much lower value of Silver. Beware that Silver prices are much more volatile than Gold.



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.


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  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


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 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


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 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


Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

 Banks are businesses like any other (in principle) but the regulatory frameworks constructed to “oversee” them in fact legislated banks out the consequences of operating in the private sector. The question inevitably arises therefore: what were the kickbacks?

They were obviously not such as obtained in the media, where for decades newspapers have espoused political causes and backed parties and politicians. Yes there were some ultimately certain relations that proved fairly poisonous for democracy – one thinks of Murdoch and Blair for example. The Browne/Balls-Banker axis was more fundamental, more insidious and more toxic than the media-politician axis, if only because the latter was transparent, in the sense that we could see some at least of what was going on and newspapers made no bones about their political stance.

Banks had traditionally been independent of the state (remember: the Bank of England was only nationalized in the late 1940s). The media-state “interface” had always been the more obvious and troublesome one: censorship versus boosterism – no surprise there. Journalists and politicians after all have a lot in common.

In other words, what the LIBOR arrangements, if guessed correctly by The Spectator, amounted to were not merely a conscription of the banks by the state, but the willingness of the former to be so co-opted. So where does that leave Barclay’s decision not the take the Queen’s shilling? And the subsequent vilification of Bob Diamond?

Are bankers inherently dishonest or do politicians persuade, even force, the at least more craven of the bankers to become so?

After all you don’t have much choice after you’ve been nationalized – and the legislation that exempted bankers from the commercial consequences of failure was effectively a form of nationalization.

Nazi-style socialism

It needs to be strongly emphasised that when Mr Anthony Blair persuaded the Labour Party to abandon Clause Four, the nationalization of the means of production, in favour of “market forces”, he actually was trading in the Communist version of Socialism for the Nazi version of Socialism which was to leave industrial and commercial productive forces in private hands but surround them with state interference and legislation. This is not market forces.

For a brilliant analysis of the banking problem as caused by the regulatory framework – not, it must be insisted upon, bad or lax regulation but the fact of the regulatory regime existing at all – please read the last of the three links below, and then go out and buy the book!

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


Monday, January 28th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has started quite a trend; the words “avoidance” and “evasion” are routinely used synonymously by politicians and journalists alike, and have by now mutated amongst the public at large into a general disparagement of those who “don’t pay their taxes” – even when there is no legal requirement to do so!

A case in point. At the local charity shop for which I sort the books, there is a persistent complaint that the charity doesn’t pay taxes on donated goods. This arises in the context of complaints about prices. It is a charity for a UK cause (you wouldn’t catch me supporting with my time the more problematic charities such as Christian Aid and Oxfam) and routinely receives donations of clothes from one or two of the large clothing chains. The obligation on the part of the charity is to sell them for around one-quarter of their retail value.

Even so, customers complain that £50 is too expensive, even though the original mainstream shop price for quality coats, for example, is £200. It doesn’t matter that customers are told they are under no obligation to buy; that they can always go to Primark if they want to pay less; or that the retailers expect their donations to make a proper difference to the charity’s turnover.

Far from accepting that these are reasonable points, the charity is routinely abused for not paying taxes, although not only are charitable donations exempt from tax, tax is recoverable at 25 pence in the pound if donated by a tax-paying donor under the Gift Aid scheme.

Now this is only right and proper: it would be utterly invidious for the state to tax gifts made for relief, especially as many charities, local hospices for example, fill crucial gaps that the unwieldy welfare state is unable to supply.

I even spotted a poster in a remainder bookshop window the other day: “CAN PAY, DO PAY, WE PAY OUR TAXES.” Lewis Carroll in Sylvia and Bruno imagined a protest march in which the burden of the demand was: “Less Bread! More Taxes!”

That could stand as the epitaph for the welfare state!

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


Monday, January 21st, 2013

By Mark Rogers

The other morning a friend of mine who deals in antiques including gold and silver, rang me up to ask me whether I thought the price of gold had bottomed out or would fall further, and when and by how much it would rise.

I reflected that there is simply too much uncertainty about the euro crisis, the motives behind the Deutsche Bundesbank’s recalling of its gold from New York and Paris, and Basel III to be able to say anything about the price except be watchful. Of course there are those who are known to call the shots accurately, but even they cannot be relied upon: past performance is no predicator of future performance.

This of course is the well-known Humean scepticism, that just because something has happened before is no reason for it to happen again. In broad terms, and especially of human behaviour, this is a reasonable position to take, and it is Nassim Nicholas Taleb who has popularised this attitude in financial affairs as “black swan” events, although his own adherence to what in his hands has become a doctrine has practically paralysed him (see the essay on him in Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw).

How do we know? Let me give an example that happens to be to hand in Nudge (already mentioned here). In describing the activities of unpractised investors the authors Thaler and Sunstein note: “Their market timing was backward. They were heavily buying stocks when stock prices were high, and then selling stocks when their prices were low.”

Surely, though, this is only knowable with hindsight. At the time they were buying, presumably the investors thought or had been advised that the price was right, i.e. low, in relative terms. When that turned out to be incorrect and the prices fell, they sold, and for an equally valid reason: not to lose too much given that they now had new information.

A Gold Standard?

So where is the price of gold likely to go? One school of thought suggests that the price of gold is artificially low because of the uncertainty created in the market by paper gold, the ETFs that are so abundant – and this is surely likely to be correct. Be that as it may though, what else is going on?

At the end of the Second World War, Germany’s gold was divided into four, with one quarter being held by the Bundesbank, and the other quarters kept in London, New York and Paris. There were two reasons for this: one to have leverage on the Germans doing again what they had twice already done, and, more immediately, to prevent the Soviets from grabbing too much gold should they mount a successful invasion on West Germany.

Two and a half years ago the Bundesbank repatriated the quarter held by the Bank of England; towards the end of last year it made claims for repatriation of its gold in New York and Paris. Why? Well, one reason may well have to do with the very public argument between the Bundesbank and the ECB over the latter’s quantitative easing: the Bundesbank rightly says that QE is damaging any chance of recovery of the euro, and therefore the repatriation of the gold may well have something to do with shoring up the German position should the euro finally collapse. Remember, we noted at Christmas 2011 that Deutsche Marks were in circulation, though certainly no-one knows how many there are. But would it not be a fine irony if Germany were the first to exit the euro, with a Mark backed by gold!

Elsewhere, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard noted in The Telegraph on 17 January 2013, the buying of gold by central banks presages a return to a gold standard. He is wary about this return, and thinks it will only work as part of a tripartite system underpinning value. Whether the latter can work is very uncertain, as it effectively puts gold in a competitive position rather than an absolute one and therefore gold would surely not operate as a brake on the ambitions of politicians, and thus in effect be no gold standard at all.

However, there is a simpler explanation for these purchases: Basel III. The latter’s revision of gold as a Tier III asset to Tier I was no secret, and so central banks having been asked by the Basel Committee to revise their attitude towards gold have done so in the only proper manner – by buying it. This ought to stimulate the price, but perhaps the reason it has not is that gold buyers and investors are waiting to see just what might happen as a result. The Basel III accords should have come into force on 1 January 2013, although there were several pleas from central banks towards the end of last year for deferment, until next year in some cases. Already the Reserve Bank of India has announced it will not implement Basel III until April at the earliest.

There therefore seems to be a degree of nervousness in relation to gold at present: but it does seem like a good time to buy.

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

2012: Tax, the Euro and the Gold Standard: A Roundup

Monday, January 7th, 2013

By Mark Rogers


In a move practically designed to prove my assertion that the Inland Revenue is behaving more like the Stasi than a branch of democratic government, it was announced on Friday 4 January that the H.M.R.C. was publishing the names and photographs of some of the worst tax “cheats” of the previous year. Yet the lack of clarity persists: “The Government invested £917m in tackling tax evasion, avoidance and fraud in 2011-12, with an additional £77m planned over the next two years. ‘Most people play by the rules and pay what they owe, but HMRC is cracking down on those who don’t,’ said Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke. ‘We hope that publishing these pictures will help get across that it always makes sense to declare all your income, and tax dodgers are simply storing up trouble for the future.’”

While the news report does give details of an overtly criminal gang, the persistence in lumping together criminals on the one hand and dodgers and avoiders on the other is deeply worrying; the latter are people who have committed no crime. Until and unless the law is specifically changed the pursuit of those who legally avoid paying tax is a direct assault of the rule of law. And it will not do to pass legislation criminalising avoidance: avoidance only takes place because the tax code is too large, too multifarious, too unfair and too confiscatory. It would be an even graver assault on the rule of law if criminalising legal behaviour was to be the government and parliament’s preferred option rather than a serious overhaul of the tax code. But then expecting that is like expecting the EU’s commissioners, politicians and bankers to sort out the euro mess.

The Euro

Where is the promised resolution to the Euro crisis, specifically the problems in the first place of Greece? The European Stability Mechanism merely defers the inevitable, but true to form, the EU’s political class is congratulating itself that “something is being done”.

In his book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washingto, 2008), Mark Steyn makes the following observation: “The progressive Left can be in favour of Big Government or population control but not both. That mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse. There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital – and that’s before anyone invented unsustainable welfare states.”

Thus a decline in the European demographic, which was predicated on the welfare state providing for all and giving a better standard of living which in turn is often taken to mean fewer children, is ensuring that the welfare state is collapsing while its beneficiaries demand more – see, for example, the Greek reaction to “austerity”.

But was “Europe” on any of its models ever going to be sustainable? In an interesting article from an old Encounter that I recently picked up, much food for thought suggesting that the answer was no from the beginning is to be found in an article by François Bondy, The Sick Man of Europe is .. Europe (Encounter, Vol. X, No. 6, June 1958). While he is talking about NATO, rather than the emergent political arrangements that would eventually become the EU as we know it, it must be remembered that The Europeans leapt under the NATO nuclear and military umbrella on the specific assumption that the Americans would be footing the bill; this in turn, allowed France to pursue her squalid little colonial war in Algeria, while allowing them all to begin that slide into welfarism, the effects (or rather, defects) of which are now manifest. Bondy says this of the relations that the Europeans and the Americans thought they were entering into at the time:

The truth is that, in essentials, the West Europeans have relied on the United States for their defence, and that N.A.T.O. is the instrument, not of a partnership, but of a receivership.” [My emphasis]

That note of insolvency struck right at the very beginning!

He also goes on to be very prescient about how things would fall out: “A great and present danger would arise out of an unequal division of privileges, responsibilities, and burdens among the European states; this inequality could generate new national hatreds and rivalries, and make of Europe simply a greater Balkans.”

Which is exactly how to describe the quite deliberate plan to bring this state of affairs about through the melding of the “hardcore” euro currency countries into a fiscal “heartland” for the EU. He goes on to ask: “Balkans or Switzerland? Perhaps neither goal is likely to arouse enthusiasm in the citizens of that Europe which discovered the modern world, established it, and ruled it for so long. But Balkanisation will only be the fate of those who are themselves ready for it, and prefer to be a shrunken power rather than a small state.”

And this was said in 1958.

And the gold standard, what has that to do with welfarism?

The Gold Standard

“The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. … The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves. This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.” (Quoted in, The Coming Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It, James Turn and John Rubino, Doubleday, New York, London etc., 2004)

Well said, that man! But who was that man? No less than Alan Greenspan, whose views clearly cover the span between what he said in 1966 in an essay, “Gold and Economic Freedom”, and his own genial oversight of “an unlimited expansion of credit”, no doubt thinking the while that this was because this had to be done to counter the expansionist ambitions of the welfare statists, but with, inevitably, the same result.

But as a succinct description of what in effect has happened in the banking crisis, his first sentence is spot on, and this may yet be revealed as not only the way the crisis evolved, but of the very motor at the heart of it, the politically expedient manipulation of the LIBOR.

And the future of the gold standard? We shall see if the Utah sound money scheme catches on in other States in the U.S.A. And we shall see if the arguments for its return start stacking up in the minds of those whose minds need to accommodate it. But the really serious question is if Basel III, if, when, implemented does turn out to be a tentative restoration outside the political system, and if indeed it does turn out to be a de facto gold standard, how will the politicians react?

Basel III is difficult to interpret, and so far this year the main news about it is that the Reserve Bank of India has declared that it is to defer implementing it for at least a few months.

How strange it is that the most perceptive remarks about Europe’s decline and the warning about the welfare state’s destruction of wealth should have been made in 1958 and 1966 respectively. History indeed is a gold mine!

For more on tax go to: STARBUCKS AND ALL THAT TAX, which also contains a link to a brief summary of my arguments and a link to all the previous articles on tax.

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


Friday, December 28th, 2012

By Mark Rogers

Globalization: what is it but an activity that is as old as civilization – simply a modern name for trade? Joseph Addison’s paean to its virtues stresses the civilizing effect it has, bringing together merchants from every clime and culture, who, in furthering their own mutual interests, enhance everything from landscape to palates to manners and morals.

So why is it scorned and despised by so many, especially in the rich west?

Martin Wolf in “Why Globalization Works” (first referenced here) provides a useful list summarising the attitudes of the anti-globalizers, the first three of which I will deal with in this article. His summary is an accurate one of these views, so equally accurately does he indicate their incoherence.

“The critics make the following more or less specific charges against market-driven globalization.

“It destroys the ability of states to regulate their national economies, raise taxes and spend money on public goods and social welfare.

“In the process, it undermines democracy, imposing in its place the rule of unaccountable bureaucrats, corporations and markets.

“It amounts to an abdication of power by benevolent democratic governments in favour of predatory private corporations.”

Underlying assumptions

The first thing to notice about these attitudes is the underlying assumption that the modern democratic state is benevolent and rational and that its primary function is the regulation of the economy in order to tax the productive and furnish what are laughably known as “public goods and social welfare”.

The second underlying assumption is that modern democracies are accountable, and that it is corporations and markets that somehow are not. On the contrary, the collapse of accountability is manifestly evident in the euro crisis and the concomitant collapse of the European project, yet far from behaving in a responsible, accountable manner, the politicians are desperately trying to cling onto their power and privileges.

In the U.K. we have seen how politicians brazenly justified their expenses, in the process demonstrating their ignorance of the legal system. In one of the more scandalous moments of that preposterous saga, when one of the overtly criminal M.P.s was on trial and facing the prospect of jail if convicted (which he duly was), more than one hundred M.P.s wrote the judge a letter to try and influence the outcome of that trial, pleading with the judge not to sentence him to prison. One simply does not do this to an English common law judge: he duly ignored them, but that it was possible for so large a number of M.P.s to bring themselves to behave in this way shows a sorry disregard for our constitution – but then, at least since the Second World War, that disregard has become increasingly the parliamentarians’ mode of proceeding.

Markets, on the other hand, are engines of accountability, through bankruptcies and competition. That we may not see those who run companies, and anonymity is largely how free societies function, they are nevertheless under the remorseless pressure of their customers and competitors to provide the goods and services desired.

State Worship

The most important thing about these assumptions is that they amount to an unquestioning assumption that the state is the proper director of human affairs, and that ordinary humans are not – the ordinary person is not trusted, and the greater his wealth, the less trustworthy he is deemed. This is a preposterous view, and a dangerous one. I have quoted before Paul Johnson’s dictum that the ability of the state to wreak great evil has been amply proved; whether it is capable of good is open to considerable doubt.

Take two recent stories in the press. I have dealt with the first already in several articles about tax avoidance, the latest twist to which is the transformation of a parliamentary committee, the Public Accounts Committee, which is meant to hold the government to account, the proper function of M.P.s, instead turning on taxpayers and in accusatory mode devising ways to hold the public to account. We had also earlier seen how H.M.R.C. was devising means to use schools to snoop on tax avoiders.

A yet more recent story of the government turning on the people is the revelation this week of a costly scheme to monitor every child taken to an A. & E. Department for signs that its parents are trying to hide evidence that it is being abused. The National Health Service, that is, is being turned into a Stasi-like instrument to intrude into family life. This gross violation of privacy is based on an illusion. After the prominent publicity given to the deaths of battered children such as Jasmine Beckford, Victoria Climbié and Baby P, public inquiries were held. In spite of the detailed evidence in the findings of specific neglect at best, malign acquiescence at worst, combined with ignorance and lack of care, on the part of the social workers, each inquiry came to the same conclusion: that there had not been sufficient sharing of information between the relevant branches of the state.

So now in the fullness of time, some bright spark in the government has seen how the NHS can be turned into an information gathering and disbursing scheme – entirely neglecting two essential facts: the male abusers of infants are not the children’s natural fathers (mothers may hide the evidence of abuse, but this is because they are either mentally deficient, as Baby P’s showed every sign of being, or simply scared) – this is common knowledge, but is routinely overlooked. The second is that a highly abused child is more likely to be imprisoned at home than be taken to hospital. When a social worker did manage to get Jasmine Beckford and her sister into hospital, the police were adamant that they should not be returned. The social worker over-ruled them, and the police acquiesced (why they didn’t take advantage of that hospitalization to arrest the step-father I have never understood).

There is ample evidence that when the state reaches a certain size, and has acquired powers of intrusion into daily life by nationalizing health and education, its functionaries become a coterie, acting in their own interests at the expense literal and figurative of the general public. That the state in this form should be trusted with our welfare is belied by history, the same history that shows the most dangerous religion ever invented is the cult of the state.

Re-inventing the wheel

The present writer indeed agrees with those who object that globalization “destroys the ability of states to regulate their national economies, raise taxes and spend money on public goods and social welfare” and hopes that destruction proceeds apace. To quote the American commentator Michael Ledeen: “Faster please!”

Joseph Addison was right to see in the mercantile classes of his day the great benefactors of mankind: we in our day have seen the “benevolence” of the state in action, not least in those developing countries the anti-globalizers weep for where state aid has created destitution, and where restoring trade and expanding markets have repaired the ravages of that aid.

Not for the first time in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries have we been required to re-invent the wheel – under the baleful glare of those who think it shouldn’t have been invented in the first place.

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