April 20, 2024

U.S. Treasury Wants To Eliminate The Only Currency That Still Has Intrinsic Value

News that Canada will stop production of the penny has fueled speculation that the United States will also eliminate production or change the composition of both the penny and the nickel.  According to Bloomberg, Canada will withdraw the penny from circulation this year due to high production and transaction costs.  The Canadian penny currently costs 1.6 cents to produce.

The Royal Canadian Mint, which has produced 35 billion pennies since it began production in 1908, will cease distribution this fall due to the coin’s low purchasing power. Production and handling cost for the one-cent coin are a C$150- million drag on the economy, according to a 2006 study by Desjardins, a Levis, Quebec-based financial institution.

“Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home,” Finance MinisterJim Flaherty said in the text of his budget speech in Ottawa. “They take up far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs.”

A story in the Wall Street Journal (Treasury to Cut Cost By Remaking Coins) seemed to suggest that a change in the composition of both the penny and the nickel were imminent.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined how his department will find savings, including $286 million in the next fiscal year, by changing the materials that go into coins, replacing paper with electronic communications and consolidating internal agencies.

“Currently, the costs of making the penny and the nickel are more than twice the face value of each of those coins,” Geithner said in his remarks.

Treasury Secretary Geithner, in testimony to Congress this week, further pressed the argument that the penny and nickel should be made with cheaper materials.

The Budget also proposes legislation to provide Treasury with the ability to change the composition of coins to utilize more cost-effective materials.  Currently, the costs of making the penny and the nickel are more than twice the face value of each of those coins.  In addition to this proposal, Treasury is implementing measures to improve the efficiency of coin and currency production, including improved manufacturing practices and administrative cost reductions, which will save more than $75 million in FY 2013.

Is the long and rich history of the penny and nickel about to disappear from the American landscape?  It may not happen as soon as some seem to think.  Obama’s 2013 budget proposal was resoundingly rejected by Congress along with the request to  transfer authority over coinage composition from Congress to the Treasury.  According to Coin Update,

President Obama’s recently submitted 2013 Budget includes a proposal to provide the United States Mint with greater flexibility in the material composition of circulating coins. Specifically, the Budget seeks to enable the Treasury Department to explore, analyze, and approve new, less expensive metals for all circulating coins.

Currently, the authority to establish the composition of coins rests with Congress. In December 2010, the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 was signed into law, which provided the Secretary of the Treasury with the authority conduct research and development activities for alternative metallic coinage materials. Within a required report due to Congress by December 2012, the Secretary may make recommendations for changes to the composition for circulating coins, however any changes would still need to be accomplished through an act of Congress. By contrast, the proposal included in the 2013 Budget would bypass Congress and provide the Secretary with direct authority to alter coin compositions.

The Budget provides justification for the change based on “volatile metal prices” which have contributed to negative margins on both the penny and nickel. During the 2011 fiscal year, the United States Mint’s unit cost to produce and distribute the cent was 2.41 cents and the unit cost for the nickel was 11.18 cents.

Since 2006, it has cost the US Mint more than the respective face value to produce the cent and the nickel. In the latest fiscal year, the losses generated from producing cents and nickels was $116.70 million. Since 2006, total losses from producing the two denominations has reached $359.80 million.

As a monetary unit, the penny and nickel are relics of the past, costly to produce and almost irrelevant as a unit of value.  Nonetheless, the penny and the nickel represent the only remaining general circulation U.S. “money” that still has an intrinsic value based on the metal content.  If Congress decides to retain their control over the composition of U.S. coins, Mr. Geithner may never get his chance to debase the penny and nickel.

Gold Bullion Coin Sales Soar By 94% In January As Confidence In The Dollar Crumbles

According to the latest production figures from the U.S. Mint, January sales of American Gold Eagle bullion coins soared by 93.8% over the previous month.

A total of 127,000 ounces were sold in January compared to 65,500 ounces in December 2011.  The surge in demand for gold bullion coins is now at the highest level since January 2011 when 133,500 ounces were sold.

Investors are taking opportunity of the bargain price of gold which remains below last year’s high.  After hitting a London PM Fix price of $1,895 on September 6, 2011, gold sold off by 19.2% to a closing low of $1,531.00 on December 29, 2011.

Since the beginning of the year, the price of gold has steadily advanced.  The closing London PM Fix price of $1,744.00 on January 31st represents a gain of $213 per ounce for the month, up 13.9% from the 2011 year end price.  The price of silver has also advanced strongly in 2012 with a gain of 26.8% from last year’s low amid record breaking demand for the American Silver Eagle bullion coins.

Sales of the American Gold Eagle bullion coins hit an all time record in 2009 when 1,435,000 ounces were sold.  A summary of annual gold bullion sales since 2000 is shown below.

Total yearly gold bullion coin sales from January 1, 2000 to January 31, 2012 are shown below.

Gold Bullion U.S. Mint Sales By Year
Year Total Ounces Sold
2000 164,500
2001 325,000
2002 315,000
2003 484,500
2004 536,000
2005 449,000
2006 261,000
2007 198,500
2008 860,500
2009 1,435,000
2010 1,220,500
2011 1,000,000
2012 127,000
Note: 2012 total through January 31, 2012

The huge demand during 2009 for gold bullion coins came in the wake of the 2008 financial system meltdown as investors sought a safe haven from paper assets.  Here we are four years later and the financial system is more fragile than ever with insolvent banks  and governments being propped up by central banks that are printing money on a scale previously unimaginable.

Although I have been a precious metals investor for many years (more sometimes than I care to think about), many of the people I deal with on a personal  and professional level seemed to be totally confident holding only paper assets, even after the financial system came very close to a total collapse in 2008.

That confidence now seems  to be slowly but persistently eroding and I am seeing many people enter the precious metals market for the first time.  It is not an “all in” seismic shift but rather a thoughtful and fundamental portfolio reallocation based on the growing realization that paper dollars are being constantly debased.

A one time bout of money printing by the Federal Reserve to “save the system” can perhaps be quickly forgotten, but a persistent and deliberate effort to debase the currency is another matter.  The growing realization that the Federal Reserve is deliberately destroying the integrity of the dollar will be the basis for continual future demand for the only real money left – gold.

The growing movement to reallocate wealth into gold is still in its infancy which implies a future gold value many thousands of dollars higher than today’s price.

Every “Solution” To The Euro Crisis Involves Printing Money

Attempts by central banks to blatantly manipulate the price of gold lower should come as no surprise to long time gold investors.  Market News International reported on Thursday that the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and the Bank for International Settlements mounted coordinated selling in an attempt to drive the price of gold lower. After advancing to $1,757.80, gold reversed course, ending the day in New York trading at $1,706.80, down $51 from the morning high.

The reported attempt to crush the price of gold coincides with the growing perception that every “solution” offered thus far to resolve the potentially catastrophic debt crisis in Europe revolves around the creation of vast amounts of new fiat currency.

European countries that have piled up ruinous levels of indebtedness are quickly discovering that they have run out of options. The limits on imposing new taxes have been reached, bond markets won’t finance additional borrowing, austerity won’t work and debt costs are spiraling out of control as Euro zone economies grind to a halt.

Here’s a rundown of some of the bizarro world “solutions” that have been offered by European rulers to prevent an economic collapse in Europe.  Try to figure out which option does not, at its core, involve the printing of new Euros.

European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi insists that the central bank will not finance government deficits by purchasing new government debt with freshly created Euros.  The amount of government bonds already purchased by the ECB exceed €200 billion and the ECB continues to buy billions of additional euro debt each week.  In addition, the ECB is currently lending European banks as much money as they ask for.  Although the ECB’s charter prohibits it from financing governments by buying their debt directly, the ECB has no qualms about buying government debt in the secondary market.

-Financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund is another option being discussed.  Where would the IMF get the money to lend to debt stressed European governments?  The IMF would be funded with money created by Europe’s central banks which the IMF would then re-lend to the same European nations whose central banks created the money in the first place.

-The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was established to bail out insolvent members of the European Union.   The amount of ESM funding was grossly inadequate to address the debt crisis.  The proposed solution – grant the ESM a banking license (read license to print money) which would allow the ESM (as a bank) to borrow unlimited amounts of money from the European Central Bank.

If you correctly guessed “none of the above”, you probably are already invested in gold although probably not to the extent that you should be.

Printing money is the last desperate attempt of failed governments to keep the lights on.  Allowing the price of gold to soar would expose the extent to which the Euro, in particular, and all paper money in general have been debased by insane monetary policies.  The Central Banks cannot hide this truth anymore.  Nor can they prevent the price of gold money from ultimately reflecting its true value priced in paper currencies.  Any retreat in gold prices should be viewed as a buying opportunity, courtesy of central banks.


Ron Paul Links Bullion Coin Shortage To Horrendous Currency Debasement

Rep. Ron Paul, during a Subcommittee hearing on problems at the US Mint, linked the shortage of gold and silver coins to the “huge debasement” of the United States currency.

The remarks came during a hearing by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy, entitled “Bullion Coin Programs of the United States Mint: Can They Be Improved?”  Four different coin and previous metals industry experts provided testimony on how to address ongoing problems with coin production and shortages.

After some lengthy discussion by witnesses and committee members regarding shortages of silver coin blanks and marketing and production problems at the US Mint, Rep. Paul focused on what he considered to be the primary reason why the US Mint was, at times, unable to meet public demand for gold and silver coins.

Listed below are highlights of Rep. Paul’s remarks at the Subcommittee hearing.

  1. It is “imperative” that the US Mint should be able to produce an adequate supply of coins to the U.S. public.  According to Rep. Paul, investors are rushing to purchase gold and silver due to quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.
  2. The US Mint should take the appropriate steps to source enough planchets to meet public demand for gold and silver coins.  People are worried, stated Rep. Paul, and are trying to preserve their wealth through the purchase of gold and silver due to government policies that will lead to inflation and debasement of the currency.  Rep. Paul stated that “If we had a sound currency” there would not be a shortage of gold and silver coins since demand by the public would be a non event.
  3. Rep. Paul detailed the “horrendous huge debasement” that has occurred with the US currency.  In the early 1930’s, when gold was on a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar, the dollar was worth 1/20 ounce of gold.  It was subsequently devalued to 1/35 ounce of gold during the 1940’s, to 1/38 ounce of gold in the early 1970’s and to 1/42 in 1973.  Once it became legal for US citizens to own gold and the dollar was based on market prices, the value of one dollar subsequently dropped to 1/1450 ounce of gold.
  4. Rep. Paul noted that total annual demand during 2011 for Silver Eagle bullion coins should reach 48 million ounces, but that total US silver production would amount to only 40 million ounces.  The US Mint should take all necessary steps to ensure that adequate supplies of silver are available to meet public demand for silver coins.

Although not specifically addressed, the issue of whether the US government is making an effort to limit the sale of gold and silver coin to the public remains an open question.  By law, the US Mint is required to produce coins “in quantities and qualities that the Secretary determines are sufficient to meet public demand”.  There were no US Mint representatives present at the Subcommittee hearing to explain why the US Mint is unable to comply with production mandates specified by law.