May 23, 2024

Gold Currency – An Escape From A Failing Paper Money System

Fed Chairman Bernanke’s statement that “gold is not money” seems to be an increasingly lonely position.  No less an authority than Alan Greenspan, his predecessor at the Federal Reserve, directly contradicted Bernanke by calling gold a “currency.”

In remarkably candid language, Greenspan spoke in Washington about the Euro ‘Breaking Down’, the European banking crisis and the deterioration of the fiat money system.

“The euro is breaking down and the process of its breaking down is creating very considerable difficulties in the European banking system,” Greenspan said today in Washington.

A lack of confidence in euro-denominated debt is straining the region’s banks, Greenspan said. “That stuff has always been thought of as the ideal collateral and now it’s getting highly questionable,” he said in a question-and-answer session at the Innovation Nation Forum in Washington.

Greenspan also said that he did not think gold, which reached a record above $1,900 an ounce this week, was in a bubble.

“Gold, unlike all other commodities, is a currency,” he said. “And the major thrust in the demand for gold is not for jewelry. It’s not for anything other than an escape from what is perceived to be a fiat money system, paper money, that seems to be deteriorating.”

While Bernanke contemplates additional ways to debase the US currency his counterparts at other Central Banks are retaining gold to help manage debt and adding to their gold reserves at a record pace.  Meanwhile, before providing more bailout funds to insolvent member of the European Union, the German labour minister is demanding that gold be put up as collateral.

Central banks, net buyers of gold for the first time in a generation, are likely to retain their holdings even if they need to raise cash to counter an escalating debt crisis, according to Morgan Stanley.

“Once they’ve sold, that’s it, and buying back would be extremely expensive,” Peter Richardson, chief metals economist at Morgan Stanley Australia Ltd., said in an interview. “They would rather have the backing of a rising asset within their reserve portfolios than use it to reduce debt.”

“Under conditions of austerity we’re going to see a further deterioration of debt,” said Richardson, who has studied metals markets for 20 years. “Rising risk argues in favor of holding on to their gold reserves rather than selling them because they’ve only got one shot at selling.”

“The European central banks won’t sell their gold because while it may be a means to raise cash, it definitely won’t be enough to settle their debts,” said Duan Shihua, head of corporate services at Haitong Futures Co., China’s largest brokerage by registered capital. “Besides, none of the central banks believe in the currencies of other countries.”

Bernanke can deny reality and history by saying that gold is not money while he wildly prints more paper currency, but the rest of the world isn’t buying it.

US Mint Silver Eagle Bullion Sales On Pace For Record High

Since Congress authorized the production of American Eagle Bullion coins in 1986, it has become one of the easiest ways for investors to accumulate a physical position in precious metals.   American Eagle Bullion coins have been available in gold and silver since the program’s inception.  Platinum has been available under the Bullion coin program since 1997.

The bullion coins are priced at the current market price of gold, silver or platinum plus a dealer markup.  The US Mint does not sell the bullion coins directly to investors but instead sells the coins to a network of Authorized Purchasers who resell  the coins to the public.  Unlike commemorative or numismatic coins, the bullion coins will closely track the price of the underlying precious metal making it easy for investors to follow the value of their bullion holdings.

The American Eagle Silver bullion coin is available only in the one ounce size and is particularly attractive to small investors as a cost effective way to hedge against inflation and debasement of paper money.  The US Mint’s American Silver Eagle Bullion program has been successful from the start.  The first year’s sales of bullion Silver Eagles in 1986 was 5,096,000.

Between 1987 and 2007 sales of the Silver Eagle averaged 7.1 million coins per year.  The lowest year on record for sales was in 1996 when sales of the coin were only 3.6 million.  Since 1986, sales of the American Silver Eagle  exceeded 10 million coins only two times during 2002 and 2006.

The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in a surge of Silver Eagle sales as worries intensified over the integrity of paper money and the soundness of the financial system.   During 2008 Silver Eagle sales soared to 19,583,500 coins which was a record high.  In 2009, sales continued to explode reaching 28,766,500 coins and 2010 was another year of record sales at 34,662,500.

Year to date sales of the Silver Eagle bullion coins during 2011 has now reached 25,530,000.  Based on average monthly sales during 2011, sales for the entire year could easily reach 42 million coins, up 20% over last year.

Investors in silver have preserved their purchasing power and increased their wealth.  As previously discussed, the dip in silver prices during May was a buying opportunity and silver prices should be hitting all time highs before year end (see How Soon Will Silver Hit New Highs?).

American Silver Eagle Bullion Sales 2011



US Mint Gold Bullion Sales Collapse in August

The US Mint’s published sales figures for the month of August show a stunning decline in the level of gold bullion sales. The monthly sales for their popular American Gold Eagle bullion coins measured just 41,500 ounces. This represents the lowest monthly total since June 2008, before the financial crisis took hold and led to a surge in bullion sales.

American Gold Eagle sales during August included 39,000 one ounce coins, 1,000 one-half ounce coins, 2,000 one-quarter ounce coins, and 15,000 one-tenth ounce coins to make up the total sales of 41,500 ounces. This represents a decline of more than 70% compared to the previous month and about 50% compared to the year ago period.

The US Mint’s other gold bullion offering, the 24 karat American Gold Buffalo also put in a lackluster month with sales of 15,500 of the one ounce coins. This is down from a monthly high of 70,500 ounces in May and the prior month total of 23,000 ounces. In the year ago period, the coins were not available.

Since the American Gold Eagle coins have been available continuously (amidst a few periodic suspensions), the monthly sales totals illustrate the pattern demand for the US Mint’s gold bullion coin. There have been a few other monthly drops over the course of the past few years and demand has always managed to recover.

Here are the monthly sales totals for American Gold Eagle bullion coins (in ounces) since June 2008.

Jun-08 15,500
Jul-08 50,000
Aug-08 86,000
Sep-08 113,000
Oct-08 121,500
Nov-08 116,500
Dec-08 176,000
Jan-09 92,000
Feb-09 113,500
Mar-09 136,500
Apr-09 147,500
May-09 65,000
Jun-09 116,000
Jul-09 86,000
Aug-09 82,000
Sep-09 115,500
Oct-09 115,500
Nov-09 124,000
Dec-09 231,500
Jan-10 85,000
Feb-10 84,000
Mar-10 102,000
Apr-10 60,500
May-10 190,000
Jun-10 151,500
Jul-10 152,000
Aug-10 41,500

US Mint Silver Bullion Sales on Record Pace, Gold Sales on Pace for Fourth Highest

Through June 30, 2010, the United States Mint has sold 18,168,500 ounces of silver bullion and 833,500 ounces of gold bullion. If the current pace is maintained for the rest of the year, US Mint silver bullion sales will break another record and gold will be within the top four annual sales totals.

The United States Mint currently offers the one ounce American Silver Eagle. This has been the US Mint’s only silver bullion coin option since its debut in 1986. Annual sales totals have ranged from a low of 3,466,000 ounces sold in 1996 to a high of 28,766,500 ounces sold in 2009.

This year’s mid-year total sales of 18,168,500 suggests that a new record high for annual sales will be extremely likely. Monthly sales figures have been relatively steady with four months above the 3 million level. It should be noted that this is not necessarily indicative of steady demand, as sales of the coins are currently subject to an allocation program, which rations the available supply amongst the US Mint’s authorized purchasers.

Later this year, the US Mint will be releasing a new series of America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. These coins will contain 5 ounces of silver and feature designs which are duplicates of the current quarter program. It’s still uncertain just how many of these new silver bullion coins the US Mint will produce and whether this will have a meaningful impact on overall silver bullion sales.

On the gold bullion side, the US Mint current offers the American Gold Eagle and the American Gold Buffalo. The first is a 22 karat gold coin available in one ounce, one-half ounce, one-quarter ounce, and one-tenth ounce sizes. The latter is a 24 karat gold coin available in one ounce size only.

The mid-year gold bullion sales total of 833,500 ounces is made up of the following:

  • 618,500 American Gold Eagle 1 oz
  • 31,000 American Gold Eagle 1/2 oz
  • 44,000 American Gold Eagle 1/4 oz.
  • 280,000 American Gold Eagle 1/10 oz.
  • 160,500 American Gold Buffalo 1 oz.

According to the latest information I have read, the one ounce bullion coins are not subject to allocation, however the fractional weight gold bullion coins are subject to allocation. These coins available to authorized purchasers starting on June 10, 2010.

The highest annual US Mint gold bullion sales was achieved in 1999 when 2,055,500 ounces were sold. This is followed by 1998 at 1,839,500 ounces, 1986 at 1,787,750 ounces, and 2009 with 1,625,500 ounces. The lowest annual gold bullion sales total occurred in 2002 when only 164,500 ounces of gold were sold for the entire year. The US Mint actually sold more gold bullion than this last month when 185,000 ounces were sold.

US Mint Gold and Silver Bullion Sales July 2009

During the month of July, sales of physical bullion at the United States Mint were somewhat split. In the case of silver, sales as measured by the number of ounces sold reached the second highest level of the year. In the case of gold, sales as measured in ounces marked the second lowest total for the year.

The table below displays the number of ounces of gold bullion sold by the United States Mint during the month of July. As the case has been all year, sales were limited to one ounce American Gold Eagles and one ounce American Silver Eagles. Platinum bullion and fractional gold bullion coins were not offered.

July 2009 US Mint Bullion Sales
1 oz. 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 1/10 oz. Total oz. YTD Total oz.
Gold Eagle 86,000 86,000 756,500
Silver Eagle 2,810,000 2,810,000 16,634,500
Platinum Eagle

Sales of the Gold Eagle reached 86,000 ounces. As mentioned, this represented the second lowest monthly sales total this year. The low of 65,000 took place in May. It should be noted that the level of sales still remains above the monthly total reach one year ago in July 2008 when 50,000 ounces were sold. Although the furious pace of gold sales has slowed, it remains historically high.

Sales of 2009 Silver Eagle bullion coins reached 2,810,000, marking the second highest monthly total of the year. The highest level was reached in March when 3,132,000 ounces were sold. This month’s total represents a hefty125% increase over the sales levels from the year ago period. Notably, the number of ounces of silver sold year to date is now approaching the total number of ounces sold during the entire year of 2008, which was 19,583,500. One more month of strong sales would push this year’s total above the mark.

Gold and Silver Eagle Bullion Sales June 2009

The US Mint’s sales of gold and silver bullion coins during June 2009 showed increases from both the prior month and year ago levels. The increases came amidst two interesting developments for the US Mint’s bullion coin programs.

In the middle of the month, the US Mint announced that their long standing rationing programs would be lifted. Authorized purchasers of bullion coins had been limited in the total number of coins that they could order. This had been cited by many as a sign of the high physical demand for precious metals which would eventually drive prices higher.

Later in the month, the US Mint made the seemingly contradictory announcement that the American Gold Buffalo bullion coin offering would be canceled for 2009. This had been the US Mint’s 24 karat gold bullion coin, launched in 2006 as a way of competing with other world mints that produced gold coins with greater fineness than the 22 karat Gold Eagle.

Here’s a look at the US Mint’s gold, silver, and platinum bullion sales during the month of June 2009. A year to date total appears in the last column.

June 2009 US Mint Bullion Sales
1 oz. 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 1/10 oz. Total oz. YTD Total oz.
Gold Eagle 116,000 116,000 670,000
Silver Eagle 2,245,000 2,245,000 13,824,500
Platinum Eagle

Sales of the Gold Eagle were still confined to only the one ounce bullion coin. A total of 116,000 ounces were sold, which was close to double the prior month’s sales of 65,000 ounces. This also marks a huge increase from the year ago period when only 15,500 ounces of gold were sold. It’s interesting to note that the sales increase comes amidst a down month for gold. Physical gold buyers have tended to increase purchases during period of price decline and curtail purchases during periods of price appreciation.

Sales of the Silver Eagle reached 2,245,000 ounces. This was an increase from the prior month when 1,904,500 ounces were sold and an increase from the year ago period when 1,735,500. With the year now half completed, the American Silver Eagle remains on pace to exceed last year’s record sales of 19,583,500 ounces.

Once again, the US Mint did not offer the Platinum Eagle bullion coin in any size.

US Mint Gold and Silver Bullion Sales Through May 2009

As in the past, I wanted to write another post examining the US Mint’s monthly gold, silver, and platinum bullion coin sales. Previously these figures were a flawed method of examining demand for physical precious metals due to the rationing program in place from the United States Mint. As long as authorized purchasers of US Mint bullion coins were restricted in the quantities they could purchase, it was difficult to ascertain how much unmet demand existed behind the rationing wall.

However, this month the figures might be closer to providing a useful measure. As I mentioned in several posts this month, a likely combination of decreasing demand and increasing supply has turned the Gold and Silver Eagle shortage to a surplus. For the first time since the rationing programs began, authorized purchasers did not purchase the maximum number of coins allotted by the US Mint.

Here’s a look at the US Mint gold, silver, and platinum bullion sales for the month of May 2009, along with a year to date total in the final column.

April 2009 US Mint Bullion Sales
1 oz. 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 1/10 oz. Total oz. YTD Total oz.
Gold Eagle 65,000 65,000 554,500
Gold Buffalo
Silver Eagle 1,904,500 1,904,500 11,579,500
Platinum Eagle

There were sales of 65,000 ounces of gold during May 2009. Once again this consisted entirely of one ounce 2009 Gold Eagles, as the US Mint did not offer fractional coins or the 24 karat Gold Buffalo. This was a big drop from the prior month when 147,500 ounces were sold, however it is more than double the number of coins sold in the year ago period of May 2008 when 31,500 ounces were sold.

There were sales of 1,904,500 ounces of silver during May 2009. This was a decline from the prior month when 2,518,000 ounces were sold and a decline, but still up from the year ago period of May 2008 when 1,516,000 ounces were sold. Sales of silver bullion still remain on pace for a record breaking year. The current record was set during 2008 when 19,583,500 ounces were sold for the entire year.

Platinum bullion coins were still not offered for sale by the US Mint. No platinum bullion coins have been offered since November 2008. The US Mint has not provided any additional statements on the status of platinum bullion coins. Notably, the Royal Canadian Mint has been able to produce and sell their Platinum Maple Leaf coins during 2008.

Based on the figures for the gold and silver bullion sales, demand for physical precious metals is apparently dropping significantly at a time when the market prices of the metals seemed to be gaining some momentum. This could be a seasonal impact since prior sales figures show the sales trailing off during the summer months. Or it could be a signal that some buyers are taking pause to see if the much ballyhooed “green shots” actually take root or whither up and die.

Disclosure: Long physical gold and silver

US Mint Bullion Sales for April 2009

The US Mint’s bullion sales figures for April 2009 remained robust. The amount of gold bullion sold during the month was the highest of the year. Silver bullion sold was the second highest figure for the year. Once again, the US Mint did not sell any platinum bullion coins. This offering has been delayed with no indication of when sales might begin. Similarly, the 24 karat Gold Buffalo coins were not offered as they are also delayed.

The sales totals for all bullion coins offered by the United States Mint are presented below.

April 2009 US Mint Bullion Sales
1 oz. 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 1/10 oz. Total oz.
Gold Eagle 147,500 147,500
Gold Buffalo
Silver Eagle 2,518,000 2,518,000
Platinum Eagle

There were 147,500 ounces of gold sold during April 2009. This consisted entirely of one ounce gold coins, as fractional coins were still not offered.This represented the highest sales level of the year to date. The prior month had sales of 136,500. Sales for the year ago period of April 2008 were 47,500 ounces.

There were 2,518,000 ounces of silver sold during April 2009. Silver bullion sales continue to be at higher levels, on pace for a record year. Since the coins are subject to rationing, this might be an indication that the Silver Eagle shortage might be ending. The prior month silver bullion sales were 3,132,000. Sales for the year ago period of April 2008 were 1,584,000.