BullionStar would like to thank all our friends and customers for supporting us during 2017, and to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! To wrap up the year, we have published this light-hearted article about outlandish products made from gold.
Throughout the world, many luxury good companies vie for attention in producing luxury products made from gold, plated with gold, or with substantial gold content. These products tend to be very opulent and usually very expensive because of the gold content and workmanship that goes into them. It seems that nothing is off-limits for receiving the gold treatment.
While a lot of these products may be considered slightly ridiculous, what they have in common is that they are well-designed, mostly customized, and on the whole very valuable. The limited edition nature of the products and the fact that in some cases they are made to order also adds to their rarity value and collectability. Below we profile some of the more outlandish products made from gold, all of which, apart from some one-off customized designs, are available for purchase.
Gold Fidget Spinner
By now, nearly everyone will have heard of fidget spinners, the spinning toy which gained worldwide popularity in 2017. Tapping into this trend, Russian luxury gift specialist ‘Caviar’ released a limited-edition fidget spinner in mid-2017, made from 100 grams of 18-karat gold. As the world’s most expensive fidget spinner, Caviar’s gold fidget spinner model retails for nearly RUB 1m (US $17,000), but is now sold out on the company’s website.
Toy manufacturer Wisa Gloria is famous in Switzerland for producing a traditional tricycle for young children. However in 2010, Wisa Gloria collaborated with designer Werner Harerer in producing a 24-karat gold-plated version of its classic tricycle, complete with gold-plated wheel bearings.
Gold Nikon Camera
Nikon is one of the top names in high-end cameras, and its products are synonymous with quality and used widely by professional photographers. Now luxury technology company Brikk, based in California, has gone one step further and created a limited-edition gold Lux Nikon DF camera with matching lens. Both camera and lens are finished in pure 24-karat gold, and only 77 units of this edition have been produced, each costing US $58,000.
Some readers will be familiar with the story of a customized gold shirt produced for a man in India a few years ago. However, there were actually 2 shirts made for two different Indian men at about the same time. The first famous Indian gold shirt was made in 2012 for a money-lender in Pune called Datta Phuge. This shirt was stitched from 22-karat gold strands, weighed 3.32 kgs, and at the time was said to be worth US$ 240,000.
The second famous shirt made entirely of gold was commissioned in 2014 for a politician / textile businessman named Pankaj Parakh from near Mumbai. This shirt weighed 4 kgs, was made from 18-22 karat gold and cost about US$ 210,000.
These 14-karat gold-plated staples are available from Dutch design company Oooms. Deisgned to be used either as a form of jewelry stapled to clothes or even as luxury conventional staples, they come in a pack of 24, and can be purchased for Euro 59 (about US$ 69). This works out at just under US$ 3 per staple.
Those who like to work out while being surrounded by gold and opulence might want to consider gold dumbbells. One such company that products gold weights is UK-based Custom Gym Equipment, a specialist in luxury fitness. According to its website, its client-base comes from “the super yacht world, luxury hospitality, luxury interior design and luxury private homes”.
Gold Table Football (Foosball)
There are a number of high-end table football (foosball) designs on the market, but one of the more luxurious offerings is a gold limited edition foosball table from Italian company Teckell. The table casing, legs and playing field are made from crystal glass, with one of the teams of players is plated with 24k gold, while the other team is decked in chrome. This table retails for around US $24,400.
Gold Vacuum Cleaner
US company Go Vacuum hit the news in 2012 when it created a limited edition gold-plated vacuum cleaner which retailed for US$ 1 million. Made using 24-karat gold, the gold-plated model GV62711 was limited to 100 units and was a fully functional working vacuum cleaner. Each unit also came with its own engraved serial number and certificate of authenticity.
From Ferraris to Lamborghinis, and from Porsches to Mercedes, there are many gold-plated and gold painted supercars on the streets of Dubai. When an expensive sports car is not enough, then the next step is to cover it in gold, like this Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano.
Gold Christmas Tree
In 2011, Japanese gold and jewelry company Ginza Tanaka, headquartered in Tokyo, created a pure gold Christmas tree. Containing 12 kgs of gold and standing 2.4 metres tall, the tree is also adorned with gold ornaments, and when it was made cost 150 million yen (which at the time was nearly US$ 2 million).
And there you have it folks! While the above list is a selection of some of the fairly outlandish gold laden items that are on the market, at BullionStar we still recommend that you to buy lasting gifts for your loved ones this Christmas and New Year in the form of bullion bars and bullion coins!
Singapore has evolved into one of the world’s most dynamic gold trading and storage hubs. Following sustained growth over the last five years backed by government initiatives to develop the country's investment precious metals (IPM) sector, Singapore now hosts a vibrant local and regionally focused gold market comprising a wide variety of precious metals participants. These participants range from retail bullion dealers to bullion wholesalers, from precious metals refineries to secure logistics providers, and from bullion banks to trading houses.
One of the early initiatives that transformed Singapore into a precious metals trading and storage hub came in February 2012, when during a budgetary speech to parliament, finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that the importation and supply of investment-grade gold and other precious metals in Singapore would become exempt from Singapore’s Goods and Services Tax (GST). Previously the GST on precious metals in Singapore was 7%.
“We will facilitate the development of gold trading, which can draw on Singapore’s strengths as a financial and trading hub, to meet strong demand for investment-grade gold in Asia.”
The GST exemption on investment precious metals was first introduced on 01 October 2012, and applies to transactions in investment-grade gold, silver and platinum that are in the form of high purity bars, ingots and coins. This means that investment grade precious metals purchased in Singapore are free of GST.
International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, an office of the Singapore Government, has also been active in supporting Singapore’s precious metal sector, and in promoting the benefits of Singapore's gold market internationally. Overall, the main aim of IE Singapore and the government in the bullion sphere is to ensure that Singapore becomes and remains the region's primary bullion trading, storage and transport hub.
Jurisdictional Advantages of Singapore
Apart from the GST exemption on investment precious metals, there are a number of other jurisdictional advantages that have supported the growth of Singapore as a gold trading and storage hub, and that reinforce the logic for buying gold and storing gold in Singapore.
In Singapore, there are no other taxes when buying gold, silver or other precious metals. This means no capital gains tax, no other sales tax, no death tax, in short no taxes. There are no reporting requirements when buying or selling gold or silver or other precious metals in Singapore. This means no reporting requirements to any Singaporean authority and no reporting requirements to any international authority.
There is no GST when importing gold and other precious metals into Singapore, or exporting gold or other precious metals out of the country. Singapore is also famed for its strong rule of law, making the country one of the safest and most secure countries on earth to buy and store gold. If taking delivery or selling precious metals, it is quite safe, apart from the usual precautions, to walk in and out of bullion dealer shops in Singapore carrying your precious metals.
Furthermore, the Singapore legal system is very protective of private property rights, and the nation of Singapore has strong military capabilities, both of which are reassuring when storing gold or silver in the city-state. Finally, because it's a thriving gold trading hub, with a buoyant wholesale and retail bullion market, Singapore has a very well-developed gold storage and vaulting infrastructure, and is very well serviced by secure transport companies.
Precious Metals Sector Participants
IE Singapore sometimes describes Singapore's bullion market participants as a precious metals ecosystem, not just because of the breath of entities present, but because of the way they interact as a sector. This ecosystem refers to the bullion wholesalers, precious metals refineries, retail bullion dealers and secure logistics providers mentioned above, as well as to the bullion banks and trading houses in the wholesale segment of the bullion market.
A large number of investment banks have a presence in Singapore, and many of these banks are active in Singapore’s gold market, either in a trading capacity or via their wealth management units, or both. Some of these banks include Standard Bank, ANZ, UBS, and JP Morgan. Colloquially, investment and merchant banks involved in the bullion market are referred to as bullion banks. United Overseas Bank (UOB), the Singaporean large-scale bank can also be added to this list.
Another group of players in Singapore’s wholesale gold market are referred to as the “trading houses”, and include names such as INTL Stone, Sumitomo Global Commodities, Mitsubishi, and MKS (the precious metals trading arm of the MKS PAMP group).
Since June 2014, Swiss based precious metals Metalor has also operated a precious metals refinery and production facility in Singapore. This move by Metalor to open a facility in Singapore was directly driven by the GST exemption on imports of precious metals that was introduced in 2012 at the same time as the GST exemption on transactions within Singapore. Apart from Metalor, the Dubai headquartered refinery group Kaloti metals also has a presence in Singapore with facilities for smelting gold.
In the secure logistics and transport providers segment, Brinks precious metals operates a regional base and secure storage facilities in Singapore serving Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the wider Asian region. Malca Amit also has a storage facility in Singapore, which is located in the Singapore Freeport, near Singapore's Changi International Airport. This Singapore Freeport, or 'Le Freeport' is a secure valuables warehouse complete with vaults which some of the bullion banks in Singapore also use to store precious metals.
A Vibrant Gold Trading Hub
According to the latest precious metals industry survey of Singapore's IPM sector, approximately 656 tonnes of gold and 4253 tonnes of silver were traded in Singapore during 2015. See survey table in Metalor presentation here. Much of these quantities would reflect trading activity between the large banks or involving the trading houses, and also gold flowing through the refineries operations of Metalor and Kaloti. For example, the trading house INTL could buy gold mining output from Indonesia and have it shipped to Metalor's refinery in Singapore for processing. Metalor is said by industry sources to trade over 100 tonnes of gold per annum.
The survey also notes that the figures reflect sales that were mainly to Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong but also to China and India, the Philippines and Malaysia. As such, a lot of the physical precious metals trading that goes through Singapore is in the form of supply flows for the wholesale markets in South East Asia and the wider Asian region.
According to IE Singapore data, 291 tonnes of gold was imported into Singapore in 2016, and 397 tonnes was exported. This gives a combined 2 way flow of 618 tonnes.
Most recently, according to a recent Thomson Reuters GFMS report, “Singapore Bullion Flows Surprise to the Upside with a Surge in Shipments in 2017”, for the year to the end of September 2017, gold bullion imports into Singapore reached 224 tonnes. Major import sources were Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. Some of this import activity was gold flowing through Singapore being converted into kilo bars destined for China, but some of it was also gold being smuggled out of China that made its way to Singapore.
GFMS says that apart from China, other export destinations for gold that leaves Singapore includes Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. As the figures reveal, there is therefore a huge amount of gold trading in Singapore and a huge amount of physical gold moving in and out of Singapore on an annual basis.
The world's major physical gold wholesalers are also present and active in Singapore,. These wholesalers supply the retail sector in Singapore and the wider South-East Asian region with investment bars and coins and sometimes maintain local inventories of precious metals in Singapore to satisfy demand. These wholesalers include Dillon Gage, which has an office in Singapore, MKS, also with an office in Singapore, and A-Mark, which although it doesn't have an office in Singapore, is an active supplier into the Singaporean bullion market.
Singapore's retail bullion market is active and thriving, and has grown strongly since 2012. It is currently served by BullionStar and a number of other bullion dealers.
A number of precious metals consultancies make estimates on retail physical gold demand in the world's key gold markets, including estimates for retail gold demand in Singapore. These consultancies include Thomson Reuters GFMS, Metals Focus, and the World Gold Council (WGC). Note that the World Gold Council does not gather its own data, and since 2016, the WGC has used Metals Focus to provide all gold supply and demand data for WGC publications, such as the WGC’s ‘Gold Demand Trends’ publications.
In its supply and demand data, GFMS defines physical gold demand as a combination of jewelry, industrial, central bank and retail demand. Retail demand is further divided into gold bar demand and gold coin demand. The World Gold Council / Metals Focus definitions are mostly similar to GFMS, and define a demand category called investment gold, or which “total bar and coin demand” is a sub-sector, and further breaks this down into physical gold bar demand and official gold coin demand, 'official' referring to legal tender coins issued by or on behalf of national mints.
Although each consultancy has its own methodology, and although none of the consultancies publicise the exact way in which their estimates are arrived at (since the data methodologies are commercially valuable), their overall approaches to estimating retail gold demand (gold bar demand and gold coin demand) in a given national market would be similar, and would involve extensive 'field research', i.e. talking to the commercial entities that make up the gold market.
As an example, GFMS' first step is to identify which entities are present in that gold market, for example refineries, banks, wholesalers, and retailers. They then identify those entities that together could provide data giving a full picture of retail gold demand in that market, and then go out and actually interview and talk with representatives from the identified companies.
This also seems also to be the approach Metals Focus follows, since the World Gold Council confirms in its supply and demand data methodology note that Metals Focus uses extensive field research that consists of talking to a network of contacts in the physical gold supply chain. For estimating demand data, this would include talking to refiners, official mints, bullion banks bullion dealers, and secure transport companies. The WGC actually states in its methodology note that:
“Investment demand will be measured using information from mints, manufacturers, retailers, wholesale dealers, banks etc”
Surprisingly, for collecting data on retail gold demand in Singapore, the major consultancies such as GFMS and Metals Focus do not request this data from major retail bullion dealers in Singapore such as BullionStar. Who they actually collect their demand data from is unclear because this type of information is treated as a trade secret by the consultancies. But using a little guesswork, we assume that their logic is to talk to key players in the supply chain (such as refiners and wholesalers) who in their view will provide enough information and feedback with which to create their retail gold demand estimates.
So the consultancies probably talk to the main suppliers of gold into Singapore's retail gold market, such as the Swiss refineries, and the national mints (e.g.Perth Mint and Royal Canadian Mint) and ask them how much gold was sent into Singapore during the year. In a similar fashion, they most likely ask the main gold wholesalers such as A-Mark and Dillon Gage the same questions.
At times, the consultancies probably also chat to the bullion banks and trading houses to glean information on what gold, if any, these entities would have supplied into the ‘retail’ market. As to how the consultancies draw the line between the retail gold market and the high net worth gold market is unclear. Because if a high net worth wealth management client of a bank (such as UBS or UOB) buys physical gold in a transaction facilitated by UBS or UOB, is this captured as ‘retail’ demand. The answer is probably not according to the logic of the consultancies, but at the same time this demand is not institutional demand either.
Note that in preparing this article, we talked to GFMS and Metals Focus briefly about their retail gold demand estimates. GFMS and Metals Focus were both courteous and helpful and responded speedily.
The World Gold Council's 'market intelligence group' was also approached with similar questions. After repeated attempts to approach the World Gold Council, they eventually acknowledged our request, but then refused to engage and ignored subsequent emails.
Gold Market Demand Figures
For 2016, GFMS estimates that Singapore retail gold bullion demand (comprising bar and coin demand) totaled 6.5 tonnes. For the current year up to the end of September (i.e. Q1 – Q3 2017), GFMS estimates retail demand was 5 tonnes.
For 2016, the WGC's 'Gold Demand Trends' data estimates that total gold bar and gold coin demand in Singapore totalled 5 tonnes, while its demand estimate for the first three-quarters of 2017 *Q1 - Q3) totalled 3.5 tonnes.
At first glance, these consultancy numbers look to be on the low side. This is because, based on internal data, BullionStar sold approximately 2.3 tonnes of gold bullion (bars and coins) during 2016. Based on the GFMS and World Gold Council figures, This would mean that BullionStar accounted for 35% of the total 2016 estimate of GFMS, and 46% of the total estimate from WGC / Metals Focus. This would also mean that based on GFMS data, all other bullion dealers in Singapore between them only sold 4.2 tonnes of gold in 2016, and based on WGC figures, all other bullion dealers in Singapore only sold a combined 2.7 tonnes of gold in 2016.
When the consultancies calculate retail gold demand, they claim to take into account the buy-back rate on gold, so as to estimate net gold demand for a particular year. This makes sense. For example, if a bullion dealer sold 1 tonne of gold to customers in a year, and if that same dealer bought back 0.4 tonnes of gold back from customers during the same year, then the net sale quantity would be 0.6 tonnes for that year. However realistically, its hard to understand how the consultancies would know buyback rates since they don't talk to all the major retail bullion dealers in Singapore.
For the record, BullionStar's internal data shows that for 2016, approximately 3 grams on every 10 grams sold was purchased back, meaning that the net tonnage of gold sold by BullionStar in 2016 would have been approximately 1.6 tonnes of gold during 2016.
Each year BullionStar publishes its annual financial results in a transparent and informative way, and also publishes commentary and infographics about these results where can be seen here.
General estimates can also be made on how much gold other bullion dealers in the Singapore gold retail market sold during 2016. This can be done by looking at the sales revenue of each dealer (since most of these companies file financial accounts with the Singapore companies office), and then making assumptions on what percentage of these annual sales were in gold bars and coins, as opposed to silver bars and coins and other products. Then the revenue figures representing gold can be divided by the average gold price during the year to yield quantities sold.
However, when this type of calculation is preformed on the revenue figures of the retail bullion dealer of the Singapore gold market, it yields figures that are higher than those of the consultancies.
So are the gold demand estimates of the major precious metals dealers accurate or under-estimated? The short answer is that the consultancy estimates look to be on the low side. However, the consultancies are not transparent about how they collect data, so the validity of their data collection techniques can't be appraised or tested. Only by giving a full disclosure would it be obvious that they are underestimating figures. However, they will never do this because they are in the business of selling data (i.e. monetising data). If it was proven that some of the consultancy data was inaccurate, it would lower the commercial value of all of their data offerings.
Another issue is how to define the retail segment and retail demand in Singapore and elsewhere. Again this comes back to the fact that the consultancies don't divulge what their data is based on. If we said that the consultancies are under-estimating retail demand because of X and Y, they could theoretically respond by saying "Ahh, but we don't define X and Y as retail demand". But because no one except the consultancies knows how they collect their data, and they will never divulge the sources of their data, such a debate would be virtually impossible to ever have.
While there are a number of specialist companies such as BullionStar servicing Singapore’s retail gold bullion market, the most unusual place to buy gold bars in Singapore must be the Mustafa Centre in the Little India neighborhood.
Located in a building on Syed Alwi Road, and part of another adjacent building on Serangoon Road, the Mustafa Centre is a cluttered haphazard department store and arcade that seems to sell everything from clothes to electronics, from perfumes to gold jewelry, and everything in between. It is also known as being one of the biggest gold jewelry outlets in Singapore.
Crowded and Congested
The Mustafa Centre itself is frequently crowded, often congested, and stays open 24 hours a day. Even trying to approach one of the entrances to the Mustafa Centre can be a stressful experience, and this is after navigating through a maze of often crowded streets if you find yourself approaching from the nearest MRT Station, which is itself a 15 minute walk from Mustafa’s premises.
Once you do happen to find Mustafa’s gold jewelry section, which is located in the basement 1 level of one of the centre's buildings, you will have to navigate past a floorspace crammed with clothes displays before stumbling upon a series of interconnected aisles assigned to gold jewelry.
While this jewelry space is about the size of a basketball court and stacked full of counters displaying gold earrings, gold rings, and gold chains and necklaces, the gold bar and gold coin display is relegated to a tiny rectangular counter, as if it was an after-thought among the masses of gold jewelry being hawked. This small gold bar and coin counter is itself cluttered, and badly presented, and is reminiscent of the display cases of a second-hand IT equipment shop.
The advertised prices for the limited selection of gold bars and gold coins that are on offer at Mustafa consists of a partially typed and partially hand-written price list page that sits on top of the counter. When this correspondent visited on the Sunday afternoon of 29 October, the price list strangely had the dates 28 - 29 October scrawled at the top, as if it had just been written one time that weekend on the Saturday and then not updated over the weekend.
The accuracy of the prices on that particular price list are therefore called into question. Where the Mustafa Centre sources its gold prices or 'Gold Rate' from is also not clear. In India and India's expat communities, 'Gold Rate' is a term often used to refer to the gold price.
Mustafa's bullion products and their prices, although typed, are squashed on to the list, with various hand-written notes along the left and right side margins. Strangely, parts of the list are highlighted in yellow highlighter marker. What this signifies we do not know, but perhaps it refers to the products that are in stock as opposed to out of stock.
Within the actual display cases of Mustafa's gold bar display cases, the gold bars are very much crammed into the display area as if everything in stock is actually on display. The old adage of "more is less" as regards presentation and visual display seems to have been lost on whoever lays out the Mustafa display cases.
Disappointingly, there is also a very limited range and brands of gold bars and gold coins actually offered by Mustafa's gold bullion counter, with nearly everything in the bar section being of the PAMP brand, and with very few gold coin types at all.
A number of precious metals research consultancies regularly do field trips to bullion markets around the world, including Singapore, so as to gauge at first hand the level of retail demand for bullion in a particular market. As regards Singapore, some anecdotal evidence we have heard from these consultancies is that it is virtually impossible to calculate the level of gold bullion demand in the Little India area.
Some of the reason for this is because gold bars and gold coins regularly arrive into Little India that have been hand carried from countries such as Dubai or other regional markets. And so this gold would not be reflected in the Singapore supply statistics of, for example, the Swiss refineries or the Canadian and Australian mints.
There are also a lot of resales of gold bullion in Little India, such as a parent swapping gold bars for gold jewelry to give to a sibling as a wedding present. It is therefore difficult to estimate where the gold bullion sold in Little India comes from. Not Mustafa specifically, but this issue must be borne in mind as regards Little India in general.
BullionStar's Spacious Shop and Showroom
In contrast to Little India's Mustafa, BullionStar could not be more different. BullionStar's shop and bullion showroom in central Singapore is located in an easily accessible and well-known section of New Bridge Road across from Clarke Quay Central Shopping mall. BullionStar's premises is also adjacent to the Clarke Quay MRT station. Those working in the Central Business District (CBD) will find that BullionStar is just a short lunchtime walk from the CBD. And from Chinatown, BullionStar's showroom is less than a 10 minute walk.
All of the gold bars and gold coins in the extensive range of gold bullion stocked by BullionStar are sourced either directly from the world's most prestigious precious metals refineries and mints such as Argor-Heraeus, PAMP, Heraeus, Valcambi, and the Royal Canadian Mint, or are supplied directly to BullionStar by the world's most renowned precious metals wholesalers such as Dillon Gage and A-Mark. BullionStar staff are also knowledgeable about all aspects of the range of gold and silver bullion stocked.
In BullionStar's shop and showroom, the floor-space is generous, the design calm and ergonomic, with many display cases devoted to gold bullion and silver bullion. Nothing is cluttered, and visitors and customers entering the air-conditioned showroom will be able to browse and view a huge range of gold bars and gold coins, and silver bars and silver coins, with every product type stylishly and spaciously displayed in its own display case. All display cases are also well-lit and well presented.
An impressive feature which BullionStar customers find useful are the electronic screens next to each display case which show updated prices for those products. These prices are live and are displayed electronically and updated electronically in real-time.
A final point to note is that the Mustafa Centre's gold bullion counter does relatively poorly in customer reviews, with customer feedback of poor customer service, dis-interested staff, and prices higher than elsewhere in Singapore. Based on reviews on the Singapore website 'Bullion Reviews', Mustafa scores lowest out of all 6 Singapore bullion dealers featured, with Mustafa getting a total score of 3.9 from 27 reviews.
In contrast, on the same review site, BullionStar receives a total score of 9.1 from 131 reviews. And BullionStar's prices are generally perceived to be some of the most competitive, if not the most competitive, in Singapore.
This blog post is a guest post on BullionStar's Blog by the renowned blogger JP Koning who will be writing about monetary economics, central banking and gold. BullionStar does not endorse or oppose the opinions presented but encourage a healthy debate.
People often like to describe bitcoin as digital gold, but that analogy isn't a very good one. Bitcoin is categorically different from the yellow metal. If we had to choose a metal as an analogy for bitcoin, that metal would be boring grey in colour (and thus lacking ornamental purpose), useless for industrial purposes, but scarce. As far as I know no such material exists, so let's come up with a name for this imaginary metal: uselesstainium. Bitcoin is digital uselesstainium.
Before bitcoin fans get angry with me, I should confess that I got the idea for uselesstainium from a 2010 discussion board post by Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin. Below are his thoughts on a scarce metal that is "boring grey" and "not useful for any practical or ornamental purpose":
Let's dig more into the difference between gold and this stuff we call uselesstainium. There are two reasons to value something: 1) because you want to use it, or 2) because you expect to pass it off in the future. Pass-it-off demand may be for short-term purposes, like money—you only expect to have a dollar bill in your wallet for a day or two before spending it on. Or it may be for the long-term, like a speculative asset that you intend to keep for a few years before selling to someone else. Either way, pass-it-off demand means that the item's value to you depends on what *the next person* is willing to provide, not on its use-value.
The demand for gold is made up of both types of demand. A portion of those active in the gold market value it as jewellery or a collectors item, or because it can be used to make circuitry or in satellites. The other portion likes the metal for its pass-it-off purposes, say they expect that someone else will pay twice the price next year.
Because it is an ugly grey colour and thus unsuitable for collectors or jewellery wearers, and it can't be used in teeth nor for industrial purposes, uselesstainium has no use-value. If it is going to be valued at all, then pass-it-off demand will have to be wholly responsible for generating that value.
Gold and a fat-finger trade
Thanks to this difference, the prices of gold and uselesstainium will act very differently. Let's say the two metals are each trading at $1000/oz. Each of them suddenly suffers from a freak $100 drop in price. No event has occurred to cause it, nor have people's tastes change, nor has the technological backdrop been altered. It's a fat finger event.
In this context there is *no* fundamental reason for uselesstainium to return to $1000. With gold, however, strong market forces will emerge to help fix the mistake and push the price up towards $1000.
Gold is a good conductor of electricity. And unlike copper and other metals it doesn't corrode, which means that gold electrical connections are superior to most. However, an ounce of gold is much more expensive than an ounce of copper or any other metal. When gold was at $1000, manufacturers of printed circuit boards (PCB) will have made a tradeoff between gold and other materials subject to the preferences of their customers, choosing the optimal amount of gold for the parts of the board that are too delicate to suffer from corrosion while directing copper, silver, and other materials to the rest.
But with gold now at $900, the yellow metal has become marginally more competitive than other metals. At these prices, PCB customers can afford to ask for a bit more gold on their boards. This demand will help drive gold back up to $1000. The PCB market won't be the only market to demand more gold. Collectors, jewellers, dentists, and many others will all find gold a little more advantageous than before relative to alternative materials and will step up their buying. Their combined purchases will help counterbalance the mistaken fat finger trade.
Speculators who are attracted to gold solely for its pass-it-off value will contribute to this rebound. Because they are constantly trying to anticipate the needs of future buyers, including those in the PCB market, speculators will purchase as much gold as they can from the fat finger trader based on their informed opinion that they can resell it to board manufacturers at a higher price.
Uselesstainium and a fat-finger trade
When uselesstainium falls to $900, no equivalent forces exist to drive the metal's price back to $1000. Remember, because uselesstainium has no industrial value the only basis for valuing it is by trying to guess what price it can be passed off to others. Whereas a gold speculator can try to anticipate the needs of participants in the PCB market, a uselesstainium speculator can only sell to other speculators. This means that she must try to anticipate what other speculators are likely to pay, while at the same time these potential buyers are in turn trying to anticipate what she will pay.
This sort of expectations game was beautifully described by the economist John Maynard Keynes back in 1936 as a beauty contest. Presented with a row of faces, a competitor has to choose the prettiest face as estimated by all other participants in the contest:
"...each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view. It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth and higher degrees."
Confronted with a sudden $100 crash, there is no inherent reason for a uselesstainium trader to anticipate that average opinion anticipates average opinion to move the price back up to $1000. A move up to $1100, or down to $700, or a collapse to $0, are all just as likely. In a beauty contest, there is no right or wrong price for uselesstainium.
Bitcoin is digital uselesstainium
Since there is no use-value to anchor uselesstainium's price, we'd expect it to be far more volatile than gold. Likewise with bitcoin, which is both rare and demanded solely for pass-it-off purposes. Let's take a look at a chart of the relative volatility of bitcoin and gold to see what it shows.
What you see in the above chart is the median daily change for each asset plotted over a moving 200-day period. By using the median rather than the average I am stripping out some of the large gut-wrenching changes that assets experience, in an effort to give a sense of what happens on a day-to-day basis.
Gold's median change since 2011 (the black dashed line) is around 0.5%. This means that on a majority of days you should expect a gain or loss of around 0.5% if you hold the yellow metal. Over the same time range, bitcoin's median change (the dashed red line) is about 1.7%, which means that an owner of bitcoin must generally deal with moves of +/-1.7% each day, more than three times what a gold owner must bear.
Bitcoin's rolling 200-day median return (the solid red line) is much less stable than gold's. It almost fell to the same level as gold in late 2016, hitting a low of around 0.75%, but has quickly moved back above 3%, a level last seen in 2011 and again in 2013-14. The volatility gap between gold and bitcoin—the distance between the two solid lines—is currently at its widest since 2012.
Bitcoin will always be an incredibly volatile asset because it exists entirely on pass-through demand. Like uselesstainium, it is a pure Keynesian beauty contest. If all contestants in the bitcoin price-setting game come to believe that the average contestant believes that the average contestant believes bitcoin is worth $0, then that belief will self-realize itself and bitcoin will fall to $0. If they all become 100% sure that it should be worth $100,000, then it will jump to $100,000. These sorts of price implosions and explosions can't happen with gold because its usefulness inspires economic behaviour that counterbalances beauty contest dynamics.
Now it is possible that bitcoin inherits some useful properties and therefore shifts from being a form of digital uselesstainium to a form of digital gold. Bitcoin advocates will often mention time-stamping as a service. People can take a digital representation, or hash, of a document and put it on the bitcoin blockchain by spending a small amount of bitcoin. Once accomplished the owner of the document will be able to publicly prove that they were the owner of that document on that date. Bitcoin time-stamping would in theory compete with other alternatives, like real-life notaries or the post office. In the event of a bitcoin price crash, anyone who wants to get cheap time stamping services may step in as buyers of bitcoin, in the same way that PCB makers support the gold market.
However, time stamping is still in its infancy. Certainly other uses for bitcoin apart from time stamping may eventually be found, but until then bitcoin remains digital uselesstainium, not digital gold. Plenty of money can be made betting on uselesstainium, and much can be lost. But no one should be buying uselesstainum—whether it be the digital type or physical—unless they are comfortable playing in a pure Keynesian beauty contest.
This blog post is the second in a series of guest posts on BullionStar's Blog by the renowned blogger JP Koning who will be writing about monetary economics, central banking and gold .
A popular phrase in segments of the mainstream financial media is that “You Can’t Eat Gold”. We don’t know who first uttered this comment, but it was more than likely a talking-head or Wall Street analyst on CNBC or Bloomberg.
The disparaging claim seems to be based on concluding that in a financial or monetary crisis, if you own gold, that “You Can’t Eat It”. And so, according to the logic of whoever came up with the phrase, this would make gold useless during a financial crisis.
In addition to the misleading and irrelevant nature of the comment, which we will discuss below, the claim that “you can’t eat gold” is actually factually wrong. And that is because you can eat gold. And also drink it.
Eating and Drinking Gold
While gold can be eaten, it cannot be digested. But it is non-toxic to the human body. And it does not react chemically in the human body. That is why gold can and does appear safely in a number of foods and drinks, not surprisingly foods and drinks which are predominantly at the luxury end of the market.
Some readers will have heard of Goldschläger, a Swiss/Italian liquor which has flakes gold suspended within it. On a similar note, a Swiss gin called ‘Studer Swiss Gold Gin’ also contains flakes of gold. Staying within Switzerland, you can also buy edible gold products including “Swiss chocolate truffles with gold flakes”. Not to be outdone by the Swiss, the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) offers a ‘Palace Cappucino” which is sprinkled with gold flakes.
In Selfridges department store in London, you can buy a “billionaires soft serve” ice cream cone topped with both sprinklings of gold leaf and a gold leaf covered flake. While in New York, in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a high-end restaurant offers a "Golden Opulence Sundae” topped with gold leaf, for US$ 1000 a glass. Back in England, a specialist cheese producer in Leicestershire created Britain's most expensive cheese - "Clawson Stilton Gold", a stilton cheese interwoven with edible gold leaf and shot-through with gold liqueur. These uses of gold in food and beverages illustrate that gold is a sought after and prestigious substance, but also that gold is real, that gold is tangible and that gold is of value.
Wall Street's Selective Focus
The logic of the “you can’t eat gold” comment, as well as being wrong, is also flawed. Because by extension, you can’t eat any of Wall Street's favorite investment assets. Imagine chewing on financial securities or fiat currencies. But whoever coined the phrase “you can’t eat gold” conveniently failed to mention this on CNBC. We would challenge anyone, especially CNBC and MSNBC, to eat share certificates or bond certificates or the electronic equivalent thereof.
Nor can you eat the electronic coins of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum’s Ether or Litecoin. Real assets such as art, antiques, real estate, agricultural land, or vintage cars are also off the menu. A possible exception is that can drink an expensive investment wine collection, but would you really want to do this, as then you would be consuming your principal investment?
Gold's Many and Varied Benefits
But beyond the fact that you can in fact eat gold, and that Wall Street never points out the non-edibility of stocks and bonds, there are many beneficial reasons to buy and own investment grade physical gold of which we recently pointed out in 28 reasons to buy and own physical gold. What we are talking about is real physical gold in the form of gold bars and gold coins. This is true both during times of financial crisis, and also over the long-term as a form of investment and savings.
Gold is without doubt the ultimate safe haven asset. In times of financial crisis and turmoil, investors and savers flock to gold as a wealth preservation strategy. The reason for investing in gold during times of crisis is based on the fact that investors instinctively know that the gold price behaves differently to the prices of other assets, particularly during crises. This is because the gold price moves independently of economic and business cycles.
In times of war and social upheaval, physical gold's benefits also come to the fore. Since gold has a high value to weight ratio, significant personal wealth can discreetly be carried in the form of gold across borders and frontiers and within areas of conflict.
Since gold is a universal money supported by a highly liquid global market, it will always be accepted everywhere at the going gold price. Gold can easily be sold. Gold can easily be traded or even bartered with, especially in non-functioning economies where the local paper currency has collapsed or has become worthless. The fact that gold coins are regularly issued to elite military personnel in areas of conflict attests to gold's critical benefits in times of monetary crisis and localized economic collapse.
Gold as Store of Value
But gold is not just of use during financial crises. It is also an essential asset to own over the long-term as a strategic form of saving and investment. Physical gold retains its purchasing power over long periods of time. This is in contrast to fiat currencies issued by the world's central banks, which generally lose most of their purchasing power over time. In other words, gold is a great hedge against inflation, as the gold price adjusts upwards to offset inflation. The gold price even adjusts to inflation expectations, hence it is sometimes called an inflation barometer and is watched like a hawk by central bankers because the gold price signals future inflation.
Physical gold is also an asset without counterparty risk. This is because when you own physical gold in the form of gold bars or gold coins, there are no counterparties. In other words, the physical gold that you own outright is no one else's liability. Nor are there any governments or central banks involved in issuing gold, or in trying to increase and debase its supply. Gold also lacks default risk, because it cannot default.
Physical gold is also inherently valuable because it is a scarce precious metal that is difficult and costly to mine and refine. Gold's price will never go to zero because it has a finite and significant production cost. Physical gold is difficult to counterfeit, impossible to create artificially, and cannot be debased.
These are just some of the reasons for buying and owning physical gold. Please see BullionStar's recent article"28 Reasons to Buy Physical Gold" for a list of reasons why you should consider buying physical gold.
Gold in Zimbabwe & Venezuela & South Korea
In the real world, owning physical gold can be of critical importance in scenarios where trust in a nation's money supply has evaporated, such as is currently the case in Venezuela or Zimbabwe.
Gold can also be of critical importance when entire nations suffer economic shocks. A case in point is the interesting experience of South Korea during the Asian financial crisis that swept the region in the late 1990s. This crisis left the South Korean economy severely impaired, with it’s currency, the Won, collapsing against the US dollar.
In addition to a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, the South Korean government also launched a patriotic campaign in early 1998 to actually collect physical gold from the South Korean citizens which was then sold on the international market to raise much-needed foreign currency. This collective campaign was pursued precisely because the South Korean government understood that gold is a high-quality liquid asset that has substantial value.
National Mobilization of Gold
By mid-March 1998, the South Korean citizenry had donated more than 220 tonnes of gold, worth over US$2 billion, in the form of investment gold coins and bars, and other gold in the form of rings, jewelry, and gold medals. More than 3 million households were said to have contributed. This collective mobilization of gold to overcome a nation's economic adversity and raise financing is a great illustration of how gold comes to the fore in a time of crisis, due to its store of value, safe haven, and high liquidity characteristics.
In conclusion, knowing the many compelling reasons to buy and hold gold, and how gold can sometimes be a lifeline in a time of crisis, the claim that "you can't eat gold" is exposed for what it is, misguided and disingenuous, and shows either ignorance on the part of the people who use it, or more likely, a deliberate intention to mislead and deceive.
Singapore offers a number of benefits when buying and storing silver. In Singapore, the majority of silver bullion bars and silver bullion coins from the world’s major mints and refineries are exempt from Goods and Services Tax (GST). There are also no taxes or duties on the import or export of silver.
Singapore is also one of the safest and most secure jurisdictions in the world. This has led to the development of an extensive range of secure vault storage services in the country. There are also no reporting requirements when buying and storing silver in Singapore.
While the gold market in Singapore often overshadows that of silver, its important to remember that Singapore hosts an active market for silver as well as for gold.
Singapore: Precious Metals Hub
Singapore's Government actively supports the growth and development of Singapore as a precious metals trading and storage hub, and this applies equally to buying and storing silver as to buying and storing gold. According to a recent Singapore bullion market survey conducted by the SBMA, more that 4200 tonnes of silver were traded in Singapore during 2015.
This active trading is partially due to the fact that there are no licensing requirements on the importation or exportation of silver to and from Singapore. The silver trading market in Singapore is also supported by the presence of a number of active bullion banks, trading houses, and retail bullion dealers.
Furthermore, Swiss headquartered Metalor operates its own precious metals refinery in Singapore which has processing capacity for both silver and gold, and there are a number of large wholesale precious metals storage facilities situated in Singapore, such as at Brinks and Le Freeport which store physical silver as well as gold.
One of the immediate attractions of buying silver bullion in Singapore is the exemption of silver bullion from Singapore's Goods and Services Tax (GST). This means that when you buy silver bars and silver coins from a bullion dealer Singapore, you pay no sales tax whatsoever.
The GST exemption was first introduced by the Singapore Government in October 2012, and applies to Investment Precious Metals (IPM) which are defined as qualifying gold, silver and platinum in the form of coins, bars, ingots and wafers.
Investment silver means silver bars and silver coins that have a silver purity of 99.9% or higher. Qualifying silver bars must be tradable on the international market, be fabricated by a refiner accredited to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) Good Delivery List for Silver, and generally, all qualifying bars are required to bear a recognizable hallmark of a refiner.
All silver bullion bars stocked by BullionStar qualify for this GST exemption, so when customers buy silver bullion bars at BullionStar, they can be assured that the prices listed for these silver bars will be free of GST.
For silver bullion coins to receive the GST exemption, they must be legal tender coins in their country of origin. Additionally, only silver bullion coins included on a specific list drawn up by Singapore’s Revenue Authority are currently GST exempt.
From the latest GST guide on exempted IPM, dated July 2017, the list of silver coins that are GST free spans 16 issues of silver coins from a combined 8 countries around the world.
These includes silver coins from the US Mint, Perth Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Mint, Austrian Mint, as well as silver coins issued by the Mexican national mint, the Chinese State, and a silver bullion coin issued on behalf of the Government of Armenia.
The current list of GST exempt Silver Coins is as follows:
From time to time, the Singapore revenue authority updates this list and adds new silver coins to the list of exemptions. Note that the above links are mostly to the popular 1 oz denomination, but the GST exemption applies to all weight denominations that are issued for each of the qualifying coin types.
All of the above silver coins are stocked by BullionStar in all available denominations, and are can be purchased either at BullionStar’s shop and showroom on New Bridge Road central Singapore, or via BullionStar’s online website. So when customers purchase any of the silver bullion coins on this list, they will receive these coins at prices that are free of GST.
Popular Silver Bullion Products
An interesting way to gauge the relative popularity of the investment silver bullion market in Singapore is by looking at BullionStar’s annual sales figures. Each year BullionStar transparently publishes its annual sales figures on its website, including in infographic format.
During financial year 2017, ending 30 June 2017, BullionStar generated full year sales revenues of SGD 186.2 million, with silver products accounting for just over a quarter of total sales (25.7%).
Silver bar sales represented 21% of total sales, with 1 kg silver bars being the most popular bar weight sold, followed by 100 oz silver bars. Silver coins represented just over 4.6% of total sales, and the most popular silver bullion coins bought by BullionStar customers were Canadian Silver Maple coins followed by Australian Silver Kangaroo coins.
Generally speaking, premiums on silver bullion coins will tend to be higher than premiums on silver bullion bars. Likewise, premiums on large silver coins and large silver bars will generally be lower than those on similar bars and coins of smaller denominations.
BullionStar 1 kg Silver Bullion Bars
BullionStar also offers the popular BullionStar branded 1 kg minted silver bar. These high-lustre polished 1 kg silver bars are exempt of GST and are fabricated by the world-famous Heraeus precious metals refinery in Germany. Heraeus is a LBMA accredited refinery.
Importantly, there is no spread between the buy price and the sell price on these BullionStar 1 kg silver bars when transacted in 100 units or more, and only a small spread if a quantity of less than 100 bars is bought or sold.
Saving in Grams of Silver
BullionStar’s Bullion Savings Program (BSP) in silver is a novel way to begin saving in silver. Denominated in grams, every gram of silver purchased by a BSP customer is fully backed by BullionStar’s stock inventory. Purchases start from as little as 1 gram of silver.
When a sufficient quantity of BSP grams of silver has been accumulated, customers can then convert these grams of silver to Heraeus 15 kg silver bars at no extra cost. The storage costs of silver in the BSP program are just 0.19% per annum.
Merlion Silver Rounds
BullionStar has recently issued a 1 oz Merlion Silver Round celebrating Singapore’s famous Merlion statue. The imagery on the 1 oz silver round also displays Singapore's national flower, the Orchid. This round silver bullion bar is minted by LBMA accredited refiner Republic Metals Corporation, and is GST exempt since it is a round silver bullion bar in .9999 silver minted by a LBMA accredited refiner.
The Silver Price in Singapore Dollars
During 2017, the silver price measured in Singapore Dollars has traded in a range between just over SGD 21.5 and SGD 26 per troy ounce, with higher prices seen in the first half of the year. Since August, the price has fluctuated in a narrow range between SGD 22 and SGD 23 mark. Overall, a troy ounce of silver in terms of Singapore Dollars is cheaper now than it has been for most of 2017, and now may be a suitable entry point for Singapore based investors buying silver for the first time, or for existing silver holders wishing to accumulate additional physical silver.
Silver Storage in Singapore
Singapore is one of the safest and most secure jurisdictions in the world for those who wish to store silver and other precious metals. Due to a strong rule or law and stable prosperous economy, there is virtually no serious crime in Singapore. Singapore’s legal system vigorously upholds property rights, and importantly, there are no reporting requirements on buying, storing or selling silver bullion or other precious metals.
In addition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) exemption on investment precious metals mentioned above, there are no capital gains taxes on silver or other precious metals in Singapore, no dividend taxes, no inheritance taxes, in fact no taxes whatsoever. All of these factors help explain why Singapore has become well-known internationally as a storage hub for silver and gold, and why a number of secure vault storage providers, such as BullionStar, successfully operate in the Singapore jurisdiction.
BullionStar's secure storage offering operates a highly security precious metals vault integrated into its downtown Singapore facility. All customer silver bullion bar and coin holdings in BullionStar's secure vault are fully allocated, and customers at all times have full legal title to their stored bullion. Storage charges for silver bars and silver coins with BullionStar are only 0.59% per annum.
All bullion is fully insured, and customer bars and coins are always handled under camera surveillance. In addition, BullionStar employs an extensive series of auditing approaches to continually confirm the existence of all bullion products. Storing silver bars and silver coins in Singapore is therefore an attractive proposition, and at the same time a safe and simple process to undertake.
For a comprehensive overview of the benefits of buying silver bars or silver coins as a form of investment or savings, please see BullionStar guide "Why Invest in Silver".
Gold is a highly valuable asset. When your buy gold, It is critical to store your gold bars and gold coins in a location that is secure but at the same time accessible.
Inside a Home
There are many places to store gold and other precious metals in your home, with some places more secure and covert than others. Luckily, since physical gold has a high value-to-weight ratio, for most people, storing their gold bars and gold coins won’t take up too much space.
1. Floorboards: Gold can be hidden under floorboards between joists, preferably under a short section of board covered by a rug or carpet.
2. Chimney: Positioning gold in a recess within a disused fireplace chimney stack is also an option.
3. Within a Wall: A natural hollow or cavity in an internal wall, or a hidden panel in a wall, are also worth considering.
4. Frozen Food: Hiding gold bars and gold coins within frozen food in a freezer is possible, for example, actually buried and frozen within minced meat or in a large tub of ice-cream. Horizontal chest freezers used for long-term deep freeze storage of supermarket produce are ideal for this tactic.
5. Piping: In a kitchen, possible covert storage locations include within a section of disused kitchen piping, or indeed within a section of false piping that has been specifically designed to accommodate your gold bars and coins, but which does not function as a real pipe.
6. Air-Conditioning: Gold can be concealed within an air-conditioning duct, which has the added benefit of usually being above head height.
7. Furniture: Heavy objects such as immovable furniture can also be considered as hiding places for gold, places that may not be obvious to time constrained intruders. For example, gold bars and gold coins could be securely attached within a compartment inside a chest of drawers or even stored inside a piano. A large cache of Gold Sovereigns was actually found inside an old piano in England in 2017.
8. Aquarium: For those with the option, storing a gold bar / gold coin cache inside an aquarium or fish tank is worth considering, among aquatic plants and fish tank paraphernalia.
9. Large Plant Pots: Large indoor plant pots on a veranda, patio or balcony provide another covet place for hiding gold. with the gold within the pots under the actual plants. These pots are always difficult to move, and would not normally be on the radar of a burglar.
Attics and Basements
Attics and basements provide further practical options for covert storage, and the inconvenience and difficulty of accessing such locations could act as a secondary deterrent to thieves.
10. Water Tank: In an attic, one possible place to hide your gold bars and coins is in a covered water tank.
11. Insulation: Another option is to secure your gold under ceiling insulation, preferably on ceiling joists that can support the weight of the gold.
12. Basement: Within the basement of a house, the choices for hiding gold are varied and include alcoves behind walls and under a basement floor.
13. Basement Junk: A gold cache can strategically be placed in one of the many large junk items or boxes that invariably end up being stored in basements - as long as you make a record of which item or box you have stored your gold in.
Garden Shed / Workshop
14. Paint Tin: Gold coins or gold bars can be hidden in an old paint tin in a garden shed or workshop, a tin that is securely sealed and looks to have not been opened in a long time. The sheer difficulty for intruders to search numerous old paint tins in a shed or workshop makes it highly improbable that anyone would spend time doing so during a break-in or robbery.
On Your Land or Property
Apartments will in most cases lack a garden, a location which can offer the adventurous multiple cunning places in which to covertly store their gold.
15. Buried in Garden: If your property has a garden, you can dig down into the ground on your land, wrap your gold securely, and bury it deep enough in the hole under soil.
16. Fishpond: Those with a large enough fish pond could also consider storing their gold cache at the bottom of the fish pond preferably among pond plants or reeds.
17. Under and In Trees: Under a tree in your garden or in the hollow of an old tree trunk on your property provide further concealment opportunities for gold. Indeed, in 2014, a US$10 million cache of 19th century gold coins was discovered under a tree on a property in Northern California.
18. RVs and Caravans: Those with RVs or caravans or rarely used boats that are stored on their properties could consider the possibility of storing their gold in these vehicles. However, this is presuming the entire property is secure and inaccessible to intruders, and runs the risk that the RV or boat or caravan might itself be the target of a robbery.
Hidden Rooms, Home Safes, Display Cases
19. Hidden Room: For those lucky enough to have a panic room (or other hidden room) in their house or apartment, this would obviously be a ready-made location to store their gold, as it is both secure and concealed. But would this be the first place a team of sophisticated intruders would try to locate and access if they had suspicions that such a room existed?
20. Home Safe: A home safe will offer a secure location in which to store gold bars and coins. Home safes rang from the small models such as those found in hotel rooms with digital keypads, to larger safes with combination locks, to large models that are fireproof and waterproof. The main consideration with a home safe is whether the safe itself is hidden and concealed within a house or apartment, or whether it is installed in a location which is easier to access but which could be discovered by burglars.
21: Display Cases: A final home option for those with the means and security, would be to store your gold bars and gold coins in museum style high-security and alarmed display cases within your house or apartment. While this will impress friends and visitors, you would need to be confident that your property is fairly impenetrable.
22. On Public Land: A less used and unusual tactic would be to hide your gold bars or gold coins in a secure and remote location which is on public land, for example in a forest, mountainous area, or coastal location. These locations have the benefit of being completely off the radar, but could by chance be inadvertently discovered by passers by, or disturbed by wildlife. A public location also runs the risk that it could be developed in the future, for example for road or path construction, so your gold could end up being buried under asphalt.
Safety Deposit Boxes
23. Safe Deposit Boxes: Renting and using a safety deposit box is a common way to store valuables including gold bars, gold coins, and other precious metals.
While safety deposit box companies and banks will pitch the fact that only the key holder has access to and knowledge of the box contents, this is a two-edged sword in some jurisdictions because of the following.
If police or other law enforcement officials raid a safety deposit box company in the pursuit of criminal assets, and seize all the contents of all the boxes, then your legitimate valuables could be confiscated and be extremely difficult to get back. For example, a number of safety deposit box companies in central London were raided by Metropolitan police in 2008, events in which everything in every box was seized. In typical government style, gold, jewels and other high value assets were the most of interest to law enforcement. This type of operation undermines the entire premise of deposit box confidentiality and is a disaster for those storing legitimate assets in these locations.
Safety deposit box companies can also be the target of professional thieves. Again, London provides a prime example, when in 2015 the vault of a safety deposit company in the famous Hatton Garden jewelry district was robbed by a gang of professional thieves over an Easter weekend and million of pounds worth of assets were taken from a large number of safety deposit boxes in the vault.
Safety deposit boxes within bank properties also pose another concern, in that since the box location is within a bank premises, the location could become inaccessible in the event banks remained closed during a financial crisis (think Cyprus in 2013), or fall under dictatorial government directives that the contents of safety deposit boxes would be in accessible due to capital controls (think Greece in 2015).
A final point to note is that safety deposit box companies can eventually open your box if you fail to pay the storage charges, and sell whatever is needed to pay the outstanding storage fees.
Stored with Family or Attorney / Solicitor
24. Family Member A less obvious option would be to ask a trusted family member to take care of the storage arrangements for some or all of your gold bars and / or gold coins. Storing portions of your gold in various locations could be considered a 'location diversification strategy.'
This arrangement would obviously be based on trust and you would need to ensure that wherever they stored the gold at their property was itself a secure and sensible place.
25. Attorney / Lawyer / Solicitor: In a similar vein, you could instruct your attorney / lawyer / solicitor to take care of storage arrangements for some or all of your gold. This arrangement would have to be based on a formal contractual arrangement or understanding and could involve a legal trust in some instances. It would probably also involve another layer of costs. Again, you would need to determine that the storage location used by the lawyer or attorney was practical, smart and secure.
External Secure Vault
26. Secure Vault Storage: Beyond home storage options, a popular choice for many is to store their gold in the vault of an external precious metals storage provider. When using such a service, a number of considerations are critical, such as the jurisdiction of the provider, its reputation within the industry, the cost of the storage service, whether the storage is allocated, and the flexibility and access offered to customers to keep track of, view, audit and withdraw their gold.
BullionStar's Secure Singapore Vault
BullionStar in Singapore operates a secure precious metals vault which is integrated into BullionStar's bullion shop and showroom in central Singapore. The storage vault itself is a high security old style steel bar concrete vault with a modern vault door.
Singapore is one of the safest and most secure countries in the world for storing gold bars and gold coins. With virtually no crime, a strong rule of law, and inviolable property rights, the Singapore jurisdiction is a natural gold storage location. Furthermore, the Government of Singapore actively supports and promotes the country as a gold trading and storage hub. There are no reporting requirements on buying, selling or storing gold or other precious metals in Singapore. There are also no sales taxes, no GST, or no taxes whatsoever on buying or selling gold in Singapore.
All customer gold stored in BullionStar’s vault in Singapore is stored on an allocated basis. Customers have full unencumbered legal ownership of their gold. All gold stored in the vault is fully insured for all insurable risks as evidenced by the Insurance Certificate.
All customer bullion product handling is meticulously documented, and all bullion is handled under camera surveillance. All customer bullion is photographed and photos of each customer’s bullion are uploaded to his /her online account.
Customers have full online control to view their gold holdings, view photographs of their gold bars and gold coins, see a transaction history, view the vault insurance certificate, generate a personalized vault certificate, and request withdrawals of gold bullion from the vault.
BullionStar employs a series of audit approaches which provide full confidence to vault customers. Via the 'Live audit report', customers can view photos of their own bullion.
BullionStar employs 5 levels of auditing to bullion products stored in the vault:
The ‘Live audit report’ allows customers to verify their stored bullion online and it view it visually via photographs.
Vault customers can also inspect their own bullion via a personal on-site customer audit at BullionStar's Singapore shop and showroom.
Physical audits of all customer owned bullion are conducted twice a year by LBMA approved independent auditor Bureau Veritas.
A physical stock inventory report is conducted each year as part of BullionStar's financial audit.
BullionStar futhermore conducts its own internal inventory audits.
Finally, BullionStar vault storage customers can withdraw their gold bars or gold coins at any time and have their gold delivered to them, or alternatively collect it in person at the BullionStar shop and showroom in Singapore.
Throughout human history, gold has constantly emerged as an unparalleled form of savings, investment and wealth preservation. Due to its unique characteristics and features, gold has inherent value and cannot be debased. When holding physical gold, there is no counterparty risk or default risk. Wealth in the form of gold can also be held and stored anonymously.
From its ability to retain its purchasing power over time, to its safe haven status in times of financial turmoil and uncertainty, to gold's ability to diversify investment risk, there are many and varied reasons to own physical gold in the form of investment grade gold bars and gold coins.
1. Tangible with Inherent Value
Physical gold is real and tangible. It is indestructible, impossible to create artificially, and difficult to counterfeit. Mining physical gold is arduous and costly. Physical gold therefore has inherent value and worth. In contrast, paper money doesn't have any inherent value.
2. No Counterparty Risk
Physical gold has no counterparty risk. When you hold and own gold bars and gold coins outright, there is no counterparty. In contrast, paper gold (gold futures, gold certificates, gold-backed ETFs) all involve counterparty risk.
Gold deposits are relatively scarce across the world and difficult to mine and extract. New supply of physical gold is therefore limited and explains why gold is a precious metal. Gold's scarcity reinforces it's inherent value.
4. Cannot be Debased
Because of its physical characteristics and features, gold cannot be debased, and gold supply is immune to political meddling. Compare this to fiat money supplies which are constantly being debased and destroyed via deficit government spending, central bank quantitative easing and financial system bailouts. On a survivorship scale, gold has far outlived all fiat currencies by thousands of years.
5. A 6000 Year History
Gold has played a central role in society for thousands of years from the early civilizations of ancient Egypt, right up to the contemporary era. Gold has facilitated international trade throughout history, has been directly responsible for the economic expansion and prosperity of numerous civilizations throughout history, and has even been, due to gold exploration and mining, the direct catalyst for the growth of some of today’s best-known cities such as San Francisco, Johannesburg, and Sydney.
6. Store of Value
Gold is a preeminent store of value. Physical gold, in the form of gold bars or gold coins, retains its purchasing power over long periods of time despite general increases in the price of goods and services.
In contrast, fiat currencies such as the US Dollar are not stores of value and their purchasing power consistently becomes eroded by inflation or the general increase in the price level. Fiat currencies have a long history of either becoming totally worthless and going out of circulation, or else becoming completely debased, such as the US dollar, while remaining in circulation.
Since the creation of the US Federal Reserve in 1913, the US dollar has lost over 98% of its value relative to gold, i.e. the US dollar has lost over 98% of its purchasing power relative to gold.
7. Long- Term Inflation Hedge
Physical gold’s ability to retain its purchasing power over time is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Constant”. This reflects the fact that gold’s purchasing power is constant over long periods of time. This ‘constant’ exists because the gold price adjusts to changes in inflation and future inflation expectations. Therefore, physical gold is a long-term hedge against inflation.
8. A 2500 Year Track Record as Money
Because of its ability to retain value and act as a store of value, physical gold has been used as money for over 2500 years. Gold coins were first issued in the Lydian civilization in what is now modern Turkey. Subsequently gold was used as a stable form of money in Persia, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, the British Empire, and right through to the various international gold standards of the 20th century.
It was only in August 1971 that the US famously suspended the convertibility of the US dollar into gold, a move which triggered the debt fueled expansion that is still having repercussions within today’s monetary system.
To put gold’s monetary importance into perspective, for 97% of the last 2500 years, gold has been chosen by numerous sophisticated civilizations as the form of money par excellence and an anchor of stability, precisely because of its ability to retain its value.
9. Safe Haven
Physical gold acts as a safe haven asset in times of conflict, war and geopolitical turmoil. During the financial market stresses and heightened uncertainties caused by wars, conflicts and turmoil, the counterparty risk of most financial assets spikes. But since physical gold does not have any counterparty risk, investors rush to gold during these periods so as to preserve their wealth. This is analogous to sheltering in a safe harbor. Gold can thus be seen as a form of financial insurance against catastrophe.
10. Portable Anonymous Wealth
Gold bars and gold coins combine high value with high portability. In times of conflict and war, gold bars and gold coins are ideal for transporting wealth and savings across borders and within conflict zones in an anonymous fashion.
11. Universal Acceptance
Gold is universally accepted as money across the world, with the highly liquid global market always providing ample sales opportunities for gold bars and gold coins. This means that whichever city you are in across the world, you can always sell or trade your gold bars and gold coins.
12. Emergency Money
Military personnel are often issued with gold coins that they carry with them in conflicts zones as a form of emergency universal money. For example, the British Ministry of Defense often issues RAF pilots and SAS soldiers with Gold Sovereign coins to carry on their persons during combat missions and activities, such as in the Middle East.
13. Outside the Banking System
In the current era of global financial repression, physical gold is one of the few assets outside the financial system. Gold is not issued by any monetary authority or central bank or government. Because its not issued by any government or central bank, gold is independent of the banking system. Fully owned physical gold, if stored in a non-bank vault or held in one’s possession, is outside the banking system.
14. No Default Risk
Unlike a government bond, there is also no default risk with gold because it is not issued by any authority that could default. Gold bars and gold coins are no one else’s liability. Physical gold cannot go bankrupt or become insolvent. Therefore, there is no need to have to trust any other party when holding physical gold.
15. Portfolio Diversification
Adding an investment in gold to an existing portfolio of other investment assets such as stocks and bonds, reduces the volatility (risk) of the investment portfolio and can increase portfolio returns. This is because the gold price has a low to negative correlation with the prices of most other financial assets, because gold is less influenced by business cycles and macro-economic cycles than most other assets.
Numerous empirical studies by financial academics, as well as industry bodies, such as the World Gold Council, have validated gold’s role as a strategic portfolio diversifier. Optimal allocations to gold in multi-asset portfolios have found to be in the 5% to 10% range.
16. Currency Hedge
There is generally an inverse relationship between the gold price and the US dollar, in that the gold price generally moves in opposite directions to the US dollar. Therefore, holding gold can act as a currency hedge of the US dollar, and help manage the currency risk of portfolios denominated in US dollars.
17. Gold's Metallic Properties
Gold has many and varied metallic properties. These properties provide gold with many technological and commercial applications and uses, which in turn contribute as additional demand drivers in addition to the investment and monetary demand for gold.
Gold is highly ductile (can be drawn into very thin wire). It is also highly malleable (can be hammered and flattened into very thin film). Gold is a very good conductor of electricity and heat. Gold does not corrode or tarnish. It is chemically unreactive and non-toxic to the human body. Gold has a high luster and shine, and an attractive yellow glow.
These properties explain gold’s use in electrical and electronic wiring and circuits (e.g. computers and internet switches), its use in the medical and dental fields, gold’s use in solar panels, space travel, and gold’s traditional uses in jewelry, decoration, and ornamentation. With new technological uses being found for gold all the time, gold's demand pattern is diversified and underpinned by its commercial importance.
18. Physical gold - A tiny fraction of Paper Gold
The London wholesale gold market and the US-based COMEX gold futures market generate huge trading volumes of paper gold that dwarf the size of the physical gold market. However, these markets only trade derivatives on gold (futures and unallocated positions), representing fractionally-backed and unbacked claims on gold that could never be convertible into physical gold by claim holders.
In a scenario under which these paper gold markets became unsustainable, the prices of paper gold and physical gold would diverge, with the paper gold markets ceasing to trade and collapsing, and only physical gold retaining any real value. Physical gold is therefore an insurance against the collapse of the world's vast paper gold markets.
19. By Definition - Not an ETF
Physical gold Provides all the benefits that gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) do not. ETFs provide exposure to the gold price, not to gold. Holding physical gold is by definition direct exposure to gold. With most gold-backed ETFs, you cannot convert the units into gold and take delivery of the gold, and in many cases, the locations of the vaults are not even known. If holding physical allocated gold bars or gold coins in a vault, such as with BullionStar in Singapore, you can always take delivery.
Gold ETFs have many counterparty risks since there are many moving parts in an ETF such as a trustee, a custodian, and a sponsor / issuer. Physical gold has no counterparty risks. When you hold a gold-backed ETF, the quantity of gold backing the ETF declines over time due to management fees being offset against the gold holdings. When you hold physical gold, you always remain with 100% of the actual gold you first purchased. There is no erosion of holdings.
20. Anonymous Storage
Gold can be stored anonymously, either in your possession within your house or property, or in a vault in a jurisdiction, such as Singapore, that has no reporting requirements. Since gold has a high value to weight ratio, storing gold does not take up much space.
21. Independent of Internet
Owning physical gold is not reliant on having internet access and access to electronic wallets and cryptocurrency exchanges. Furthermore, gold cannot be stolen by hacking an electronic address or by transferring or deleting a number in a computer.
22. Real Gold is Measured by Weight
Physical gold is measured in weight, not through a number set by a politician or central banker. When you buy a 1 Kilo gold bar, or a 10 Tola gold bar, or a 1 troy ounce gold coin, or a 5 Tael gold bar, you will always have that gold bar or gold coin, irrespective of the fluctuations of fiat currencies.
While thinking of the value of physical gold in terms of a fiat currency might be convenient, a better way is to think of a gold holding in terms of weight.
23. Coins and Bars - Build a Collection
Buying investment gold bars and bullion gold coins allows you to build a diverse collection of bars and coins that are at the same time a fascinating pastime and a form of investment and saving.
Bullion gold coins from the world’s major mints are beautifully illustrated and often have a connection to history. Investment gold bars from the world's major gold refineries are distinctively different from each other and you can vary a collection by cast or minted bars, and a selection of weights.
24. Physical Gold Feels like Real Wealth
Physical gold feels like real wealth. When you hold ten 1 ounce gold coins in your hand, you intrinsically know that you are holding real wealth, gold that is scarce and that has been costly to produce.
25. Gold as Loan Collateral
Gold can be used as loan collateral. Since gold is highly liquid and valuable, it can be lent and used as a form of financing, and as a way of generating interest. The wholesale gold lending market between central banks and bullion banks is highly active. Likewise, retail gold holders can also in various ways lend their gold to receive financing or interest, with new innovations to do this arising all the time.
26. Central Banks hold Gold
Although the world’s central banks like to downplay the importance of gold because it competes with their fiat currencies, most central banks continue to hold substantial amounts of physical gold bars and gold coins in vaults around the world. They hold this gold as a reserve asset on their balance sheets, and they value this gold at market prices.
Like private gold investors, central banks hold physical gold because it is highly liquid, it lacks counterparty risk, and because gold is a safe haven or ‘war chest’ asset that acts as a financial insurance in times of crisis. Central banks also hold gold for the unpublished reason that if and when gold re-emerges at the centre of a new monetary system, these very same central banks will not be caught out having no gold.
27. Gold for Gifting
Gold coins and small gold bars make great gifts and presents, and gold is a traditional form of gifting in many societies around the world. Gifting a gold coin or small gold bar to mark a birth, or anniversary, or a wedding or other special occasion, is an ideal present that will be highly appreciated by the recipient.
28. Gold for Inheritance
Gold bars and gold coins are a great form of inheritance for your children and family members. Because gold is real, tangible, valuable, and has a highly liquid trading market, it is an ideal asset for inter-generational wealth transfers. Because physical gold is fabricated in convenient weight denominations, such as troy ounces and kilograms, it can be distributed equitably among recipients, and specified equitably in wills and trusts.
When a nation adopts a foreign currency it will typically face significant hurdles when it tries to rid itself of that currency, or de-dollarize. But Zimbabwe’s autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe has appeared to have done the impossible. After dollarizing ten years ago, over the course of the last year or two he and his cronies have managed to throw off the U.S. dollar and re-introduce a Zimbabwean replacement.
We can see evidence of this new currency in Zimbabwe's stock market. Below I've charted the country's main equity index, the Zimbabwe Industrial Index, going back to 2011. What an incredible rise over the last year, right? Beware; these returns have nothing to do with real economic growth. Zimbabwean equities have switched from being claim on an a stream of cash flows denominated in U.S. dollars to a stream denominated in Zimbabwe's new currency. Because investors expect inflation of the new currency to drive up future cash flows, they have responded by bidding stock prices up. In real terms (i.e. U.S. dollar terms), stock prices are probably flat–and may have even declined.
Dollarization and de-dollarization
Let's back up a bit. For those countries that mismanage their currency, the penalty box has typically been some form of dollarization. The citizens of a nation grow so tired of the hyperinflating currency that they opt for an alternative, whether that is euros, dollars, or some other medium of exchange.
Dollarization is usually only partial, the mismanaged currency continuing to circulate–albeit to a lesser extent–in conjunction with a stable alternative. Zimbabwe is unique in being one of the few countries to fully dollarize. By late 2008 the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwe dollar had become such a burden that Zimbabweans–without the permission of the Mugabe regime–threw their local currency notes into the gutters and adopted the U.S. dollar as their sole medium of exchange and unit of account.
In 2016-17, the reverse has happened. Before I go into how the new Zimbabwean currency was introduced, it should be emphasized how difficult it is to replace an existing currency with a new one. Currency usage is locked in place by tradition and broad acceptance. Even when a national currency is doing very poorly, any single individual will be loath to be the first to desert it for a more stable alternative. Money is only useful when many people are using it, and since any new money lacks a base of users, it faces the paradox that it cannot ever get jumpstarted. In the case of modern Zimbabwe, the communal benefits of using the U.S. dollar as the "language of trade" are significant, so any alternative should have faced a huge hurdle in gaining acceptance.
The birth of Zimbabwe’s new currency
That the new Zimbabwean currency managed to make it past this hurdle is a testament to the powerful combination of subterfuge, brute force, and good old Gresham's law that overpowered the staying power of the U.S. dollar. What follows are the steps that led to this switch.
After the 2008 dollarization rendered it useless, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) sneakily got back into the money printing game in 2012 or 2013. Creating a new national currency from scratch would have been politically impossible; the population was still furious with its leaders' previous monetary mistakes. So instead the central bank began issuing a U.S. look-alike. Domestic banks had the option–and later were required–to open U.S. dollar accounts at the RBZ. These accounts weren't available to the public but could be used between banks to settle domestic payments flows. At first, the RBZ's U.S. dollar deposits were as good as the real thing. Banks could easily convert them into U.S. paper currency.
As time passed, Robert Mugabe's government drew down on the RBZ's resources in order to fund a massive spending campaign. This depletion of the RBZ's hard currency reserves eventually forced it to renege on its promise to commercial banks to redeem in dollars. Regular Zimbabweans only got their first sign of trouble in early 2016. Since commercial banks could no longer rely on the RBZ to convert its U.S. deposits into real U.S. cash, the banks had no choice but to pass their inability to get cash on to their customers. The ability of the public to withdraw cash from U.S. dollar accounts was steadily cut back until they could only take out $50 per day, leading to massive lineups at banks across the nation. With the convertibility promise having been betrayed, dollars held in the banking system ceased to be equivalent to U.S. dollars. They began to trade at a 5-20% discount to genuine U.S. cash in the black market.
In November 2016 the RBZ introduced the bond note, its first issue of paper money since the old Zimbabwe dollar had expired worthless in 2008. (For more details, read my post on the topic here). As in the case of the accounts at the central bank, bond notes were supposed to be redeemable on demand into U.S. dollars. But this redemption promise proved to be a sham–and bond notes quickly began to trade at a discount to U.S. paper money.
Gresham’s law makes an appearance in Zimbabwe
Having duped the population into accepting RBZ-issued dollar notes and deposits, the government proceeded to declare its new currency legal tender. This meant that any creditor who had lent out U.S. dollars was obligated by law to accept payment in bond notes at par. At the same time, the authorities required retailers to treat all payments media as equivalents–they could neither discount the inferior currency nor accept the superior currency at a premium, the penalty being seven years in jail.
Which gets us to Gresham's law. A rule going back to medieval times, Gresham's law tells us that when a government dictates the exchange rate between different types of money, the 'good', or undervalued money will be chased out by the 'bad', or overvalued money.
To see how Gresham's law has played out in Zimbabwe, consider a Zimbabwean street hawker who prior to 2016 had been selling oranges for $1 per bag. The new Zimbabwean currency is introduced. Because this new currency is inferior to the U.S. dollar, the street hawker continues to charge $1 per bag for those paying with genuine dollars but requires everyone paying with new currency to pay an extra 50 cents, or $1.50. With this new dual-pricing scheme, some customers will continue to pay with U.S. dollars, others will pay with bond notes. Both types of money circulate together.
When the government announces that all currencies must be treated as equals, the street hawker can no longer charge an extra 50 cents to those paying with Zimbabwean currency. To meet the letter of the law, he sets his price at a flat $1.50 per bag of oranges, irrespective of the type of currency used. However, this undervalues the U.S. dollar. After all, $1.50 in U.S. cash should be capable of buying a bag-and-half of oranges, not just one bag. The result is that none of the street hawker's customers will ever pay with U.S. dollars, preferring to hoard them and proffer Zimbabwean currency as payment instead.
This parable of the street seller has occurred all over Zimbabwe over the last twelve months. Thanks to the government's edict that all currencies be treated as equals, U.S. dollars have been driven entirely from circulation. No one wants to use them because they are undervalued. As a result, bank money and bond notes have become the main media of exchange in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has dedollarized.
Prices are on the rise. I used the stock market as an illustration of this in my introduction. Consumer goods have been slower to adjust, but earlier this month Equity Axis–a local financial research firm–reported that the prices of basic goods have gone up by between 50- 100% over the past eight weeks. On the streets, illegal currency traders will buy $1 worth of bank money for just 54 cents in genuine cash, according to recent reports.
Comparing the price of bitcoin in Zimbabwe against its international price also gives some clues into how far the new currency has tumbled. Last week bitcoin traded at $13,185 on the Golix, a Zimbabwean bitcoin exchange, but only $7190 on U.S. exchanges. We need to take the price of $13,185 with a grain of salt, because Golix is a very illiquid exchange. In any case, the ratio between the two bitcoin prices implies that a Zimbabwean bank dollar is only worth 54 cents in genuine U.S. dollars ($13185/7190), confirming the unofficial street price in the previous paragraph. Put differently, in just one year Zimbabwe's new currency has lost almost half its value.
Economist Steve Hanke, who helps maintain the Hanke-Krus World Inflation Table, has used interlisted stocks on the Harare and London stock exchanges to infer that Zimbabwe’s inflation rate has soared to 77%. (I described this technique in more detail here). When inflation exceeds 50% per month and lasts for at least thirty consecutive days it qualifies as hyperinflation, which means that Zimbabwe’s current currency collapse will be added to the Hanke-Krus table.
Given that Mugabe and his cronies have already shown a penchant for destroying currencies, as long as they are in power it seems unlikely that the current inflation will stop. As I was writing this post, however, the situation in Zimbabwe has dramatically changed. On November 14, the army announced that it had placed Mugabe under house arrest. We don’t know if he will be permanently removed from power or if the situation is just a temporary one. If a new government can be established, and the international community mobilized to support it, it is possible that the collapse in the new currency will be halted, perhaps even reversing back to par. For instance, a large enough IMF loan might allow the RBZ to uphold its original promise to convert bond notes and deposits into genuine dollars on a 1:1 basis.
The market may already be pricing in an improvement in the odds of the Zimbabwean currency being stabilized. Over the two days the Zimbabwe Industrial Index has plunged by over 100 points or 20%, as the chart at top illustrates. This correction may be partly due to operating uncertainties faced by listed firms given the lack of visibility surrounding future leadership. But the largest chunk of the decline is surely a pure monetary phenomenon. Since all stock prices are quoted in Zimbabwean money, a massive increase in the purchasing power of money will cause stock prices to fall.
Many outside the country have no doubt been anxiously watching Zimbabwe's monetary experiment, especially in Europe. In the same way that Zimbabwe was part of the U.S. dollar-zone, most European nations are part of the Eurozone, in some cases reluctantly so. Zimbabwe offers these nations a blueprint for quickly exiting the monetary union. That may be one reason why the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, was so quick to shoot down Estonia's recently mooted state-backed cryptocurrency, the Estcoin. By nipping it off at the bud, he ensured he wouldn't have a home-grown bond note problem.
This blog post is the first in a series of guest posts on BullionStar's Blog by the renowned blogger JP Koning who will be writing about monetary economics, central banking and gold .
“Degussa Singapore will cease its retail operation at 22 Orchard on the 31 October 2017.”
A Singapore branch of Degussa was opened by German company Degussa GoldHandel in October 2015 as part of its international expansion strategy, wherein it saw Singapore as a location that it regarded “as having a high growth potential for Degussa.” Degussa Goldhandel is a shortened version of Degussa Sonne / Mond Goldhandel GmbH, the full name of the German corporate parent.
Degussa operates in Singapore as “Degussa Precious Metals Asia Pte Ltd”, and is known as Degussa Singapore. Degussa Singapore had offered Degussa branded precious metals bars, a range of precious metals coins and collectibles, and storage facilities in the form of safety deposit boxes and other secure storage facilities.
Degussa GoldHandel also operates 10 bullion product stores in Germany as well as branches in Switzerland (Zurich and Geneva) and Spain (Madrid). Degussa GoldHandel also fully owns London bullion dealer Sharps Pixley in central London.
Degussa’s exit from Singapore so soon after committing to the Singaporean and wider Asian market is surprising, but may be related to its loss-making financial position. For the full year ended 31 December 2016, Degussa Precious Metal Asia Pte Ltd registered a net loss of SGD 2.8 million on revenues of SGD 59 million. At the same time, Degussa Singapore’s total liabilities exceeded total assets by SGD 4.35 million. This followed its first full financial year which ran from its date of incorporation on 20 November 2014 to 31 December 2015, a period in which Degussa Singapore made a net loss of SGD 2.05 million.
Although Degussa Singapore’s 2017 financial year results are yet to be published, it’s possible that continued financial losses at Degussa Singapore during 2017 were influential in the parent company’s decision to close its Singapore branch. Degussa Precious Metals Asia Pte Ltd (Degussa Singapore) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Degussa Sonne/Mond Goldhandel AG, incorporated in the Canton of Zug in Switzerland, which in turn is owned by Clair AG, a holding company also incorporated in the Canton of Zug in Switzerland.
Existing Degussa Singapore customers who may be concerned about where in Singapore to purchase their bullion products in future will be interested in learning that BullionStar’s precious metals store and showroom in central Singapore offers a full range of investment grade bullion bars and coins from the world’s most prestigious precious metals refineries and mints. BullionStar also buys all forms of investment grade bullion bars and bullion coins from the public, including Degussa branded precious metals bars.
Degussa Singapore customers who currently use Degussa’s safety deposit boxes or offsite storage facilities in Singapore to store their precious metals may also be interested in now considering BullionStar’s secure vaulting service as a future alternative for continued storage of their precious metals within the Singapore jurisdiction.
BullionStar's Financial Strength
In Singapore, BullionStar (BullionStar Pte Ltd) remains in a very strong financial position, and the company continues to grow strongly in terms of revenues, customer base and corporate presence. For the financial year ending 30 June 2017 (FY 2017), BullionStar recorded sales revenues totaling SGD 186.2 million, which was a 38.7% increase over corresponding revenues of SGD 134.2 million in FY 2016. BullionStar has also been profitable since inception.
BullionStar operates its precious metals shop, showroom and vault in central Singapore at 45 New Bridge Road, a convenient location adjacent to Singapore's Central Business District (CBD) and next to Clarke Quay MRT Station. BullionStar also operates a sophisticated online transactional platform and now has customers from 101 countries around the world.
Bullion Product Range and Depth
One of the peculiarities of the Degussa Singapore bullion bar range was that it only offered a limited selection of gold, silver and platinum bars, all of which were branded with the Degussa logo.
In contrast, BullionStar offers a full range / very wide selection of investment grade gold bars from the world’s most prestigious LBMA accredited refineries and mints including Swiss PAMP, Heraeus in Germany, the Perth Mint, and the Royal Canadian Mint, a full range of investment grade silver bars from leading refineries including Heraeus, PAMP, and the Royal Canadian Mint, and investment grade platinum bars from such well-known refineries as Heraeus in Germany and Valcambi in Switzerland.
In addition, customers can purchase BullionStar’s own branded 100 gram gold bars (produced by Argor-Heraeus in Switzerland), and 1 kilogram silver bars (fabricated by Heraeus in Germany). These BullionStar gold bars and silver bars have no spread between the buy and sell price.
BullionStar also stocks a very extensive precious metals coin range spanning investment grade gold coins, silver coins, and platinum coins from the world’s major mints including the Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Mint, Perth Mint, US Mint, and Austrian Mint among others.
Nearly all precious metals bars and coins in the BullionStar bullion product range are exempt from Singapore’s Goods & Services Tax (GST) since they qualify for GST exemption under the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) exemptions on Investment Precious Metals (IPMs).
BullionStar also stocks a very wide range of precious metals coins and gifts in the form of numismatics, collectibles, and gold bullion jewellery.
BullionStar's Online Store
Degussa Singapore online store users will also be interested to know that BullionStar operates a sophisticated online transactional platform for buying and selling precious metals online.
This platform transparently quotes bullion product prices in Singapore Dollars, Euros, US Dollars, and Bitcoin. Opening an online account with BullionStar is a short and simple process. and payment can be made in SGD, EUR, USD and Bitcoin. Payment mechanisms are flexible, including bank transfer, cash, NETS (in Singapore Dollars), and cheque, and of course, Bitcoin. For each product on the BullionStar website, the product's price premium compared to the world gold price is displayed, as well as the product's spread between buy and sell price.
Precious metals purchased online on the BullionStar site can be delivered to a customer's home address, picked up at the BullionStar store, or else stored in BullionStar's secure vault storage facility, using the BullionStar "My Vault" storage option. As always, customers in Singapore can walk into the BullionStar shop and showroom and buy investment precious metals bars and coins, and also sell precious metals bars and coins and scrap gold to BullionStar.
BullionStar's Secure Storage Vault
Degussa Singapore had offered its customers safety deposit boxes facilities on site at its 22 Orchard Road location in Singapore, as well as other offsite storage facilities in Singapore.
A primary motivation for storing physical precious metals in Singapore is safety and security. There is a strong rule of law in Singapore and virtually no crime. There are strong property rights in the Singapore jurisdiction, and no reporting requirements on buying, selling, or storing precious metals. Additionally, there are no sales taxes or GST on transacting in investment grade precious metals in Singapore, nor are there any capital gains taxes. All of this means that investors currently storing their bullion in Singapore should continue to do so, and not need to face the prospect of having to have their bullion transferred for storage outside Singapore.
Customers of Degussa Singapore who currently avail of a safe deposit box at Degussa in which to store their precious metals may be interested in now availing of BullionStar's secure storage vaulting service which utilises a high security vault integrated into BullionStar's New Bridge Road facility in downtown Singapore.
All customer bullion bars and coins stored in BullionStar's secure vault are held in allocated storage, with customers at all times holding full unencumbered legal title to all their stored bullion. All BullionStar customer bullion products are handled under camera surveillance and this handling is meticulously documented. BullionStar is insured by insurance underwriter XL Insurance against all risks at full replacement value for all precious metals stored in the vault.
BullionStar employs no less than 5 levels of auditing to verify and confirm the existence of all bullion products under secure storage in its vault facilities. This includes a Live Audit Report which lists all customer owned bullion stored in the BullionStar vault, with which a customer can verify online his/her bullion in the vault by vault account number. BullionStar vault customers are also welcome to inspect their bullion via a personal customer audit on site at BullionStar's Singapore shop and showroom. BullionStar's vault auditing furthermore includes twice yearly physical auditing of all customer owned bullion by LBMA approved independent auditor Bureau Veritas.
Singapore's Retail Bullion Sector
Overall, BullionStar is a key player in the retail gold bullion sector in Singapore and has a growing presence. According to data from the World Gold Council (WGC), overall gold demand in Singapore in 2017 totalled 17.1 tonnes, slightly lower than overall gold demand of 18.1 tonnes in 2016. WGC figures also show that demand for gold bullion in Singapore in 2017 totalled 5 tonnes, down from 5.9 tonnes in 2016.
With BullionStar having sold approximately 2.3 tonnes of gold in 2016, this represents 46% of all gold bullion sold in Singapore, and 13.5% of all gold sold in Singapore over the same period.
During financial year 2017 (FY 2017), of BullionStar's total sales of SGD 186.2 million, 60.3% by value represented gold bar sales, the lion's share of which comprised 100 gram gold bars and 1 kg gold bars. By value, 12.6% represented gold coin sales, the majority of which were Gold Maples from the Royal Canadian Mint and Gold Kangaroos from the Perth Mint. Silver bar sales represented 21% of FY 2017 revenues, the majority of which were 1 kg silver bars, followed by 100 gram silver bars. Silver coins sales represented 4.6% of FY 2017 revenues, with Canadian Silver Maples being the top seller followed by Perth Mint Silver Kangaroo coins.
The retail bullion market in Singapore remains in robust shape despite the recent surprising closure announcement from Degussa. Clients of Degussa Singapore who have previously transacted in bullion products can rest assured that they can now access a full range of the world's foremost bullion bars and coins from BullionStar's shop and showroom in Singapore and through the BullionStar online transaction platform. Degussa storage customers who wish to retain precious metals storage facilities in Singapore can also have future piece of mind by considering the use of BullionStar's secure precious metals vaulting facilities in central Singapore.
Across the border of Singapore, a ferry-ride away, a fire broke out on Saturday, 8 July 2017 in a slum in Muka Kuning, Batam, Indonesia. The slum houses around 160 people and around 50 families, on an uneven plot of land smaller than the size of a football field. Given the concentration of huts built in close proximity to each other, at least 10 of these huts were ravaged by the fire, tragically affecting the lives of 10 families who struggle daily to make ends meet. Towards the center of the slum, the community center that was used for feeding and tutoring children in the slum was destroyed by the fire, devastating the whole community.
Within our sphere of influence, we are given a choice - whether to help or whether to stand aside and let things be as they are. We decided to take a small step towards making a difference in this community. We wanted to make it personal and direct to make an impact on the ground. We visited the community and in speaking with the locals there, decided that it would bring hope and restoration to the community by rebuilding their community center. Also, in speaking with the locals, we were thankful to find out that there were no casualties from the fire.
Today, around 3 months after the incident, the new community center has been rebuilt, restocked and revitalized. Tuition has now resumed in the community center and feeding is provided for the children in the community center - much to the joy of the community in Muka Kuning as well as to us.
A series of eight articles covering the Chinese Gold Market has recently been added to BullionStar’s Gold University portal. This series is titled “Chinese Gold Market Essentials”. Links to all 8 articles can be found on the left-hand frame of the Gold University pages under Research on the BullionStar desktop site, and under the “Chinese Gold Essentials” section of the Gold University, under Research on the BullionStar mobile site.
These new Gold University articles draw on both information from BullionStar analyst Koos Jansen’s Chinese gold market blogs as well as new material. The eight articles in the series follow the style and format of all other articles within the BullionStar Gold University pages. i.e. to be a reference resource for all who are interested in the global gold markets, be they industry participants, reporters and journalists, precious metals investors, or indeed general readers.
The framework for the “Chinese Gold Market Essentials” series centres around the Supply - Demand equation of the Chinese Gold Market and the infrastructure of this market.
The article “Mechanics of the Chinese Domestic Gold Market” explains the core concepts of the Chinese gold market and the central function that the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) plays as the market allocation mechanism within the Chinese gold market. By design, nearly all gold in China flows through the SGE trading and vaulting network, and gold withdrawals from the SGE are therefore a suitable proxy for Chinese wholesale gold demand. This wholesale gold demand includes consumer gold demand and direct purchases of gold on the SGE (institutional gold demand). Wholesale gold demand is therefore a far broader measure of gold demand than just the consumer demand which precious metals consultancies such as GFMS and the World Gold Council report on.
There is therefore a simple and elegant gold supply-demand equation at the heart of the Chinese gold market.
Two other articles in the series address the supply side of the Chinese gold market, each of which focuses on one of the two large components of gold supply in China, namely gold imports and gold mining production.
In 2016, China net imported about 1300 tonnes of gold, making gold imports the largest single source of supply to the Chinese gold market. The article “Chinese Cross-Border Trade Rules on Gold” discusses these gold imports, and the rules around importing gold into and exporting gold from China.
Although Chinese cross-border trade rules on gold apply to both gold imports and gold exports, gold flows mostly into China, and not out again, due to the general prohibition on gold exports. Rules on gold imports are also strict and are administered by the People’s Bank of China, which issues gold import licences to the small number of authorised domestic and foreign banks. Some Chinese mining companies now also import their own gold directly into China.
As regards mining, China is also the world’s top gold producing country, with Chinese mines producing over 450 tonnes of gold output during 2016. Gold mining output is therefore the second largest source of gold flowing into the Chinese gold market. The article “Chinese Gold Mining as a Source of Gold Supply” provides an overview of the Chinese gold mining industry, and profiles some of the larger domestic gold mining companies in this sector.
The gold mining supply article also looks at the fact that China now claims to have over 12,100 tonnes of in-ground identified gold reserves that can be mined in future, and that there are even regiments of the Chinese army which specialise in surveying and exploring for gold across China.
“Gold Demand within the Chinese Gold Market” expands on the idea that Chinese gold demand is not just consumer gold demand (jewellery demand, coin and bar demand, and industrial demand) but includes substantial direct purchases of gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange. Chinese commercial banks also hold gold on their balance sheets to cover a number of activities such as gold accumulation plans, gold leasing etc.
The article “Infrastructure of the Shanghai Gold Exchange” looks at the trading mechanisms and contracts of the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The SGE is the world’s largest physical gold exchange, an exchange in which real physical gold stored in the exchange’s vaults changes hands between trading participants via exchange traded contracts. All trading is conducted on an electronic trading platform, and counterparties are required to have the full amount of gold and cash before trading. Gold contracts traded and cleared on the SGE are known as the SGE’s ‘Price matching’ market.
Gold contracts traded bilaterally off Exchange (i.e. traded Over-the-Counter between counterparties) can also be entered into the SGE trading platform and then cleared through the SGE’s clearing and vaulting system. This is known as the SGE’s “Price Inquiry” market. Additionally, a twice daily gold price auction, known as the Shanghai Gold Price Benchmark auction, is a distinct third spoke of trading on the SGE.
There are 8 physical gold product contracts traded on the SGE representing gold bars and gold ingots ranging in weight from 50 grams through 1 kg and up to 12.5 kgs. Five of these products trade on the Main Board of the Exchange (domestic), and a further 3 trade on the Shanghai International Gold Exchange ( International Board).
A specific article in the series covers the "Shanghai International Gold Exchange". Sometimes known as the SGE International Board or SGEI, this international board is an internationally focused physical gold trading platform launched by the SGE in September 2014. This platform offers 3 Renminbi-denominated physical gold contracts, one of which, the iAu99.99, sees significant trading volume. The aims of the International Board include boosting internationalization of the Chinese Yuan, introduction of offshore Yuan to SGE trading, and internationalizing the membership of the SGE.
The SGEI also has a designated gold vault in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Gold imported to this vault remains outside the domestic Chinese gold market. Both domestic and international members of the SGE can trade the International Board contracts in either onshore or offshore Yuan, which as a stated aim of the Chinese authorities, supports the internationalization of the Chinese currency.
The official gold reserves of the Chinese State (monetary gold) are held by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China. Currently, these gold reserves are claimed (by the Chinese State) to be in the region of 1840 tonnes. However, the real level of Chinese State gold holdings may be significantly higher than official published figures suggest. The article “PBoC Gold Purchases: Secretive Accumulation on the International Market” presents evidence that the Chinese State purchases monetary gold on the international market including in the London gold market, and ships this gold back to Beijing. It also looks at the possibility that the Chinese central bank may be buying up to 500 tonnes of gold per year and that it may have in the region of 4000 tonnes to 5000 tonnes of gold in its 'real' gold reserves.
The Value Added Tax (VAT) system in the Chinese gold market exerts an important influence on both gold imports and the types of gold that flow to and through the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The article "Value Added Tax (VAT) in the Chinese Gold Market" looks at the general VAT system in China and on gold specifically, and the types of VAT receipts generated on gold transactions. It also explains when imported gold is exempt from VAT and how 'Standard' gold sold on the SGE is VAT exempt. Standard gold is gold bars or gold ingots of 50 gram, 100 gram, 1 kilogram, 3 kilogram or 12.5 kilogram form, with a fineness (gold purity) of 9999, 9995, 999 or 995.
It's that time of the year again where the Perth Mint unveils its' lineup for the year ahead. Today, we will be focusing on the latest release of the much loved Lunar Series – the 2018 Australian Lunar Series Year of the Dog. This release is part of the second lunar series released by the Perth Mint, which consists of lunar coins minted from 2008 to 2019. We are excited to bring in these coins and they are available for ordering now.
The Chinese Zodiac series, or the “Sheng Xiao”, is a circle of 12 animals that links each year to a particular animal. Each animal is thought to possess different character and personality traits that are often seen in individuals born that year. Those who are born in the Year of the Dog are said to be honest, friendly and have a strong sense of responsibility. People born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018 are said to be born in the Year of the Dog.
First Look: Gold
The Lunar Dog coins have continued the tradition of “less is more” and we think it looks great! The gold coins feature a Labrador retriever proudly standing on rocks with a stylized pine tree in the background. The design also incorporates the Chinese character for "Dog", the inscription "Year of the Dog", and The Perth Mint's traditional "P" mintmark. Kudos to the Perth Mint for going with a classic interpretation of the animal. The designer portrayed the animal in its’ natural surroundings with a clean and simple background. By continuing with the classic design seen in the previous editions, the Lunar Dog coins should perform well in terms of sales.
As with previous editions, the one ounce denomination has a limited mintage of just 30,000 globally and is expected to sell out quickly like the previous years. For the other denominations, the mintage is unlimited. That means that the Perth Mint will mint the coins for the entire of 2018 and will declare the final mintage at the end of the year. Mintages for fractionals are usually low. For example, the 2016 Year of the Monkey ½ oz gold coin had a mintage of only 11,947.
First Look: Silver
The silver edition is equally stunning. As with previous editions, The Perth Mint has created two different interpretations for the gold and silver editions. The silver coin depicts a German shepherd dog and its’ puppy lying on grass with Chinese peony flowers in the background. The design also incorporates the Chinese character for Dog, the inscription "Year of the Dog" and The Perth Mint's traditional "P" mintmark.
As with previous editions, the one ounce denomination has a limited mintage of 300,000 that is guaranteed to sell out. For the other denominations, the mintage is unlimited. This means that the Perth Mint will mint the coins for the entire of 2018 and will declare the final mintage at the end of the year. Mintages for other denominations are usually low. For example, the 2016 Year of the Monkey 2 oz silver coin had a mintage of only 34,368.
Our first shipment of lunar gold and silver coins will be arriving soon and the following denominations are ready for ordering:
Collectors always lament how the prices for previous editions are much higher after the year has passed. It is noteworthy how the high premiums of past editions are resilient even during periods of lower spot prices. Hence, if you are looking to collect yearly and complete your set, don't wait! For the Perth Mint Lunar Series coins, waiting is not a good idea if you want to get the coins at a reasonable price as they tend to trade at a higher premium above spot compared to other coins due to their relative rarity.
We only have a limited quantity for each denomination available so place your orders now before the coins sell out!
The following topics were covered in Mr. Persson's speech:
1) Money System of Today
How does our monetary system work - or doesn't work? Do fiat currencies like the US Dollar have any real intrinsic value?
Mr. Persson describes the purposes and characteristics of money and explains why fiat currencies are not true money per definition. Mr. Persson educates about how money is created and how most money of today only exists in electronic form.
2) Gold Manipulation - Gold Price
Is the price of gold dictated and artificially suppressed? What happens if the current system for gold price discovery fails? Is a gold price of USD 65,000/oz in 5 years realistic?
Mr. Persson discusses how the price of gold is set/discovered on the gold marketplace and how it is vulnerable to manipulation.
Why is Singapore the best country in the world for asset preservation and wealth protection?
Mr. Persson presents the advantages of Singapore as a safe jurisdiction for buying and storing bullion. No taxes on bullion in Singapore, no reporting requirements, strong property ownership rights and safety are some of the properties that makes Singapore uniquely positioned as the best country in the world for asset and wealth protection and preservation.
In the month of August 2017, we launched a competition in collaboration with The Royal Mint. The competition invited customers of The Royal Mint and BullionStar to promote the Royal Mint Brand in Singapore through any medium! We received numerous top quality submissions and after much deliberation, we present to you the two winners of the competition, Ms. Joanne Chim and Mr. Daniel Yap!
Treasure for Life - By Joanne Chim
In an interview, Joanne mentioned that when she first saw the Queen's Beast silver coins from the Royal Mint, she felt a sense of intrigue due to the minute details that were very skilfully stamped onto each coin. Subsequently, as Joanne discovered the process behind the design and the value of the coins, she began to feel even more inspired by the creative designs and the story behind this series. The coins have enabled her to have an idea of the intrinsic value behind precious metals.
As a designer herself, Joanne is naturally fascinated with artwork and what made her fall in love with the Queen's Beasts coins were the level of detail and the effort put into designing each creature. Be it the Griffin, Lion or Dragon, the intricate details of each figurine translated into a deep sense of appreciation for the value that these coins bring.
Hence, when producing her video for the competition, Joanne wanted to convey the idea that The Royal Mint coins are just as valuable a gift as hand written letters, due to the intricate nature put into designing each coin, yet each holding a lasting significance allowing one to treasure for life. The calligraph in Joanne's video submission was a quote from Henry Hazlitt which says, "The great merit of gold is precisely that it is scarce; that its quantity is limited by nature; that it is costly to discover, to mine, and to process; and that it cannot be created by political fiat or caprice."
Check out Joanne's winning video submission below!
Mothers - By Daniel Yap
Daniel wanted to tell the story that inspired the sculptor, Philip Nathan, to create the Britannia design, which now celebrates it's 30th anniversary and is a true modern masterpiece.
It is a story often misunderstood. Many interpretations of the Britannia reflect ancient Greek mythology, but Philip Nathan hoped to create a more realistic and raw character inspired by Boudicca, commonly known as Boadicea. "I was moved by the fact that a lady beaten down would hit back with 100,000 tribesmen behind her—and win for awhile," Daniel said, "It's the sort of thing that can inspire generations. I especially appreciated the chance to convey this theme to a segment of the population whose struggles aren't usually seen as screenworthy—mothers."