By Mark Rogers

Is there a necessary connection between gold coins and politics? The short answer is: yes. Undoubtedly over the course of the last century, and beginning fairly early on, gold became, and still remains, a highly controversial political subject. The most influential economist of the century, John Maynard Keynes disparaged not just the gold standard but the metal itself: he thought wealth creation a sort of secular sin, and considered those who saved to be selfish. In 1933, President Roosevelt banned the private ownership of gold, and passed measures to confiscate privately held gold – something that may be about to occur in places as widely diverse as the European Union, Turkey and Vietnam, with a suspicion that the same is afoot in China.

Not surprisingly, these animosities towards gold have gone in tandem with the creation and expansion of the Welfare State, the political entity that is utterly bankrupt and is the prime cause of the financial crisis.

So, yes indeed gold, whether in the form of collectable coins or other types of investment, is very political indeed, but not just because it is seen as a store of selfish wealth, or, as its enemies derisorily call it, “hoarding”.

Ray Vicker in The Realms of Gold (published by Robert Hale, London, 1975) makes this very important point:

“The deeper one gets into monetary matters, the more one realizes that the whole argument about gold’s monetary role, or its inability to perform it, involves fundamental emotional attitudes toward man and his environment.

“Not only technical monetary systems are at odds when the chrysophilites and the chrysophobes argue money. This is cash versus credit. Sound versus easy money. A balanced federal budget versus deficit spending. Rugged free enterprise versus government economic management. A black-and-gray world versus utopia. The belief in sinful man meeting the conviction that man is essentially good. The idea that progress only comes through individual gain clashing with the contention that communal efforts spell forward movement.”

Gold, therefore, is not only a measure of prudence, it is also the summation of the political arguments of the last century – and even a repository of some of the profoundest truths of human existence.

Those who invest in gold are, in the long run, realists, as the following account by Vicker of what happened in the 1960s and 70s makes clear:

“When sense and nonsense are being evaluated the chrysophobes must explain how come they erred so much in the 1960s when they were denigrating gold and claiming that it was on the way out. It was in the 1960s and early 1970s that the great monetary battles involving gold were fought, with few people in the United States realizing what was happening even after the dollar experienced two devaluations. Briefly, the dollar, which had been ‘as good as gold’ for so long, no longer was as good as a thirty-fifth of an ounce of gold. And many people were discovering this fact.

“These people were termed ‘speculators’ through the monetary cyclones which erupted. Actually, they were ordinary businessmen, bankers and others who had sense enough to protect their assets. In politics, whenever anyone disrupts a pet project of the party in power, it is customary to tack some derogatory term onto the disrupters. The word ‘speculator’ has enough of an unsavoury connotation that it appealed to those in government who saw themselves as ‘defenders of the dollar’, though they couldn’t see the easiest method of preserving the whole system – a doubling of the monetary price of gold.”

Therefore, however unlikely it may seem on the surface that a numismatic website should feature regular political commentary, the central role that gold plays in human affairs means that its political and economic aspects need constant analysis.

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"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."