Headline, March26, 2014



WHEN TIMES ARE GREAT, any investment will do. Price/earnings ratio? Fuhgeddaboudit.

When time are lean and mean, shorting stock is the smart play. But when times are terrible and hopeless, what really glitters is   good old gold   for centuries and centuries.

Whenever wars have started and  woes stacked up,  people have tended to turn paper money into the precious metal. Does it make sense? Maybe not, but paper is paper:

Staunchly governments back it; the ancient need for the sheer physicality of the yellow ore just, just can't be denied.

Gold has its problems, though. Practically speaking, it's less immediately fungible than greenbacks. And its value can be extremely volatile. But for all its star power as a prop in caper movies,  gold doesn't always glitter with the same intensity.

In 1980  -a time of terrible inflation-  gold soared to more than $800 an ounce and looked to be about as solid an investment as anybody could hope for. Yet Midas wannabes who bought into that particular bubble took a serious hit when the price dropped vertically the following year.

Some forms of the metal, however, are worth quite a lot more than their weight in gold. Two things make all the difference: artistry and history. Where the gold came from:

Who owned it and what happened to it on its way through the  need-greed spectrum can add to its mystique. And as any collector can attest, mystique is money.

In the case of gold, money is also mystique. The gold dust brought into San Francisco's assayer's office was worth, gram for gram, exactly what the market said it was worth.

Its value stayed pretty much the same after the assayer melted it down, removed impurities, poured it into ingots and stamped the bars with various bits of information. But as years pass, bars can take on a patina of romance, pushing up the value.

As Theodore V. Buttrey, a former  "keeper of coins"  at the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge University put in an interview not long ago, "You not only sell the bar, you sell the story that goes with the bar."

Take a bar of gold that was recovered from an old Spanish shipwreck or was born in the  1849   California gold rush and its original, stamped value of $200 may increase by a factor of up to  500.

It's like  '90s  tech stock without the down, down, downside. Well, nothing is without some kind of downside, and the ingot trade, that would be the problem of bogus bars. Not fool's gold, but real gold with a phony back story.

Some years back, Buttrey disputed the provenance of several bars from the glittering board of an Indiana collector named Josiah K. Lilly Jr. Some of those who vouch for the authenticity of the gold, including the renowned New York City dealer Stack's Coin Company, filed a $6 million libel suit against Buttrey. which was later dismissed.

Given the bulk and ambiguity of ingots, the best place to put your money is actually money. In particular, American gold coins, a prime collectible with well-documented auction records, reams of scholarship and quasi-science, and a long list of:

Well-known, reputable dealers who won't pull  a shekel-and-hide in you. In general gold coins of any nationality have a significant advantage for collectors over gold in its pure form.

For one thing, all coins have an aesthetic element, and great coins are truly object d'art. And since money, history and the human condition are seamlessly intertwined, a display case of coins can tell more stories than a pub crowd in Dublin.

BUT why American coins?  Well,  unlike, say, the  pocket change of ancient Greece,  their stories are familiar, and deciphering their symbols doesn't require a working knowledge of Sophocles. But to be entirely crass about it, it's because  U.S.  gold pieces have become  "the most valuable"  coins in the world.

The record for a  foreign coin  is   $570,000,  paid for a Greek coin struck in  in 410 B.C. in Sicily,  whereas,  an American gold piece sold in  1996  for $825,000.

Best of all,  homegrown gold coins is a market in which your $20,000 can make significant inroads. According to David Redden,  vice chairman Sotheby's who runs the coin sales at the Manhattan auction house:

"That amount of money can take you quite a long way in starting a collection." Redden also points out that with a fairly brief slog up the learning curve, you will quickly understand why one coin is worth more than another to collectors.

The visual charm of old coins can be wonderful,  but other more important factors contribute to, or detract from, their value.

"Aesthetics ought to play the biggest part in the valuation of a coin, as well as rarity," says Ridden. "A collector ought to be looking for beauty. But today condition has become a prime factor, especially when many of a given coin are available."

David Tripp, a coin consultant in upstate New York who advises major banks, Sotheby's and private collectors cites an example of how much condition matters:

"Today a generic $20 gold piece made in, let's say, 1876, in average condition  -a coin circulated as money, with nicks and scratches, can be bought for $340. That's not much more than the melt value of the gold in the coin, which weighs almost an ounce."

But, Tripp says, that same coin, from the same year, in the best possible condition, is worth around  $100K. Which certainly gives new  -or, rather, original   -meaning to the term............mint condition 

The honour and the Post continue:

With respectful dedication to all the Students, Professors and Teachers  - and all of you   -who  collect coins. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"'  Honour Hits  "'

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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