October 1, 2023

Gold, Silver & Platinum 2009 First Quarter Performance

With the first quarter at an end, let’s take a look at the performance of gold, silver, and platinum so far this year.

When putting the numbers together, I knew what to expect, but its still surprising to see where the final numbers landed. Gold, silver, and platinum’s performance relative to one another has basically been turned upside down from the 2008 annual performance.

2009 First Quarter Gold, Silver, and Platinum Performance
30-Dec-08 31-Mar-09 Change Percent
Gold 869.75 916.50 46.75 5.38%
Silver 10.79 13.11 2.32 21.50%
Platinum 898.00 1,124.00 226.00 25.17%

For 2008, gold had performed the best with a gain of 4.32%, followed by silver with a loss of 26.90%, with platinum in last place with a loss of 41.31%.

As you can see the performance for the first quarter of 2009 has been the opposite with platinum performing best with a gain of 25.17%, followed by silver with a gain of 21.50%, with gold in last place with a gain of 5.38%.

Platinum and silver were in some respects recovering from the beating they took last year. Over the past several years gold has emerged as more of a steady performer, as compared to the more volatile performance of the other metals, commodities, equities, real estate, etc. It’s ironic that whenever a mainstream publication discusses the possibility of investing in gold, they never fail to caution about gold’s “volatile” prices.

At any rate, precious metals outperformed stocks for the quarter, mostly by a wide margin. The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq lost 14.29%, 12.81%, and 3.07% respectively.

Did Platinum Just Break Out?

After falling below the $900 level in late October, Platinum spent more than two months trading in a relatively tight range between $780 and $900.

In the final days of 2008, Platinum pushed above $900 and now stands at $946. This recent move looks bullish to me.

Chart courtesy of stockcharts.com

2008 Gold, Platinum & Silver Performance

As trillions of dollars in equity values were vaporized this year, a strong November and December performance pushed gold into positive territory by year end. Gold’s annual gain was 4.32%. This marks gold’s eighth consecutive annual gain. The “lost decade” for stocks, has been quite the opposite for gold. Silver and platinum were less fortunate, posting losses of 26.90% and 41.31% respectively.

(Figures calculated from Kitco’s London PM Fix prices)

The headline numbers only tell part of the story. I rounded up a bit more data which paints a more complete picture of the 2008 performance of gold, silver, and platinum.

Gold Silver Platinum
Dec 31, 2007 Close 833.75 14.76 1530.00
Dec 31, 2008 Close 869.75 10.79 898.00
Annual Change +36.00 -3.97 -632.00
Percentage Change +4.32% -26.90% -41.31%
2008 Low 712.50 8.88 763.00
Change from start to low -121.25 -5.88 -767.00
Percentage Change -14.54% -39.84% -50.13%
2008 High 1011.25 20.92 2273.00
Change from start to high +177.50 +6.16 +743.00
Percentage Change +21.29% +41.73% +48.56%

The first section of the table above shows the performance of gold, silver, and platinum from start to finish during 2008. The second section lists the lowest closing price for each metal during 2008, and calculates the percentage change from the start of the year to the low price. The final section lists the highest closing price for each metal during the year, and the percentage change from start of the year to the high price.

Some observations:

Often when the mainstream press writes about gold as a potential investment option, they usually caution that prices are “extremely volatile.” A look at the figures above shows otherwise. While it seemed like a year of extremes for gold, at its lowest it was down 14% and at its highest it was up 21%, probably making it one of the least volatile investments of 2008.

Platinum, which is starting to draw my interest, basically went straight up during the month of February to its peak price of $2,273 per ounce. Then it experienced three months of nearly continuous declines from mid-July to mid-October where it reached its low of $743 per ounce. At its high it was up nearly 50%, at its low it was down more than 50%. Briefly, the price of gold exceeded the price of platinum, but the situation has now reverted to the norm.

Silver experienced a similar plight, up more than 40% at its peak and down more than 40% at its low. The period of decline also took place from mid-July to mid-October. Many have pointed to the enormous concentrated short position taken by a handful of banks in July as responsible for the decline.

On a housekeeping note:

Sorry for the lack of posting on Gold and Silver Blog during the end of December. I should be back on a regular schedule for the new year. I aso plan to add some new sections to the site, which compile historical data relevant to gold and silver watchers. Thanks for reading and let’s make 2009 a great year!

Two Milestones for Gold

In the past week, gold quietly marked two important milestones.

First, as of Monday the price of gold is now showing a gain for the year. The closing price of gold on December 31, 2007 was $833.75. The price of gold today is $854.60.  That makes gold up 2.5% for the year to date. If gold can hang onto this gain into the end of the year, this will also mark the eighth year in a row that gold has had a positive return. For the year and for this decade, gold has humbled its naysayers and rewarded its investors.

Second, on Tuesday the price of gold exceeded the price of platinum. The two metals now trade within a few dollars of each other with gold at $854.60 and platinum at $858. This is a big change from earlier in the year when platinum was trading over $2,200 per ounce, more than double the price of gold. If I’m not mistaken, the price of platinum has been higher than the price of gold for this entire decade. Not since the 1990’s has gold been more expensive than platinum. Considering that platinum is thirty times scarcer than gold, this makes a strong statement about the demand for gold.

Can the US Mint Handle Demand for the Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle?

For much of the year, the United States Mint has been touting the upcoming recreation of what they have called the “nation’s most beautiful coin.” Augustus Saint Gaudens’ design for the Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle will be recreated as a one ounce 24 karat gold coin available for sale to the public.

The Mint’s intention to recreate the coin was first announced this March, followed by an official unveiling in July, and a well publicized first striking in November. The US Mint intends to strike the coins throughout 2009 in quantities necessary to meet public demand. So far, coin collectors have responded enthusiastically to the upcoming offering. With the recent main stream attention on gold, there will likely be interest from the broader public as well. Is the United States Mint prepared to handle the potentially significant demand for the new gold coin?

This year the US Mint, as well as most other world mints, have had continuous problems procuring sufficient gold blanks to meet the incredible demand for bullion coins. The US Mint in particular has been forced to suspend sales of some gold bullion offerings and continues to distribute coins though an allocation program since they are unable to meet the full demand.

Next year the US Mint will be at odds with itself as it struggles to meet growing demand for their regular bullion coins and new demand for a potentially hot collectible coin.

To estimate how much demand the new coin might generate, we can look at the US Mint’s 2006 release of the 24 karat American Buffalo Gold coin. Similar to next year’s offering, the coin design was taken from an old collector favorite, in this case the Buffalo Nickel. The coins were offered as one ounce bullion coins and one ounce collector proof coins. Sales of the coins began in late June 2006. In just over six months, the US Mint sold approximately 337,000 bullion coins and 252,000 proof coins for a total of 589,000 ounces worth of gold. Sales of the regular 2006 American Gold Eagle bullion coins totaled only 261,000 ounces.

Even if only the collectible versions of coins are considered, this represents a 50% increase in demand for gold coins. Since the US Mint has been unable to meet the full demand for regular gold bullion coins this year, the prospects that they can handle the additional demand for a popular collectible gold coin on top of already robust gold bullion coin demand seem remote.

Another aspect to consider is that the Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagles are struck on specialized blanks. The coin will have a thickness of 4 millimeters which is more than 50% thicker than most one ounce gold bullion coins. So far the US Mint has been procuring these specialized blanks from Gold Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Western Australian Government, who operate the competing Perth Mint. Notably, the Perth Mint recently announced that they would be forced to cease taking orders for precious metals until January 2009 due to “unprecedented demand.” So, not only will the US Mint need to procure a large amount highly specialized blanks from an already tight market, they will need to procure them from a competitor struggling to meet their own demand.

Taken together these factors do not bode well for a smooth release of this “recreated materpiece.” I envision a frustrating series back orders, delays, and eventual order limitations for the new coin. The US Mint intended the Ultra High Relief Gold Coin to be “a prestigous example of the highest level of artistic excellence in American coin design.” Instead they might just end up with another gold related headache.

US Mint Makes Drastic Cuts to Collector Gold & Platinum Coin Offerings

Today the United States Mint announced some sweeping cuts to the number of products that they will offer to coin collectors. The deepest cuts take place in the US Mint’s offerings of collectible versions of gold and platinum bullion coins.

Most people know about the US Mint’s bullion coin offerings. American Eagle coins composed of gold, silver, and platinum are sold to the public through a network of authorized bullion dealers. In recent years, American Buffalo Gold coins were added to the lineup. These coins are bought and sold primarily as a means of investing in precious metals.

Since 2006, the US Mint has also offered so-called “collectible” versions of the popular bullion coins for sale directly to the public. The coins have been available in fractional denominations, four coin sets, and one ounce sizes. They are differentiated from the “non-collectible” bullion versions by carrying a “W” mint mark. The coins are also struck on specially burnished blanks and come in custom Mint packaging.  In addition, the US Mint has offered proof versions of bullion coins, which have been sold to collectors for many years.

The US Mint’s discontinued products (via Mint News Blog) will include:

  • American Buffalo Uncirculated Gold Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued.
  • American Buffalo Proof Gold Coins – The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.
  • American Platinum Eagle Uncirculated Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued.
  • American Platinum Eagle Proof Coins – The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.
  • American Gold Eagle Uncirculated Coins – These are the collectible versions offered by the US Mint. The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued.

Why are these products being discontinued?

The US Mint would likely cite low sales figures for the offerings, but that doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Basically, the US Mint has had a disastrous time selling the products over the past few years. This was due in large part to the way the US Mint was required to set prices combined with the extreme fluctuations of precious metals prices over the past few years.

The US Mint is required to publish prices for upcoming collectible coin products in the Federal Register. This process seems to take about 30 days. As a result, every time these pseudo-bullion coins went on sale, prices were based on precious metals values from up to 30 days ago.  Any time the US Mint wanted to change prices, coin sales had to be suspended for at least 30 days while the publication process took place.

Throughout 2006 and 2007, sales of these “collectible” bullion coins were suspended numerous times as precious metals prices climbed. Premiums above the precious metal value were in constant flux, since coin prices were fixed and precious metals changed. Typically, premiums would be high at the start of sales, but then lower as precious metals prices climbed. If you timed your purchases right, you could buy the coins for around the same price as the regular bullion coins.

During 2008, the “collectible” bullion offerings were priced early in the year when precious metals prices were at their highs. As precious metals prices dropped from their peaks, coin prices remained the same, making premiums extraordinarily high. For example, the 2008-W 1 oz. Uncirculated American Gold Eagle is currently priced at $1,119.95 (see US Mint website).  Compare this to the gold value of $742. This premium is ridiculously high for a product slightly better than a bullion coin.

The only prices that were actually lowered this year were for the platinum products. Following nearly two months of suspension, platinum coins returned with prices approximately halved. Even after the reduction, prices still reflected huge premiums. The 2008-W 1 oz. Uncirculed Platinum Eagle is priced at $1,214.95 (see US Mint website). Compare this to the platinum value of $837. Another ridiculously high premium.

On the upside, this represents the end of a bad experiment in precious metals products from the US Mint. On the downside, this represents one less way for people to acquire precious metals.