This week BullionStar is attending and exhibiting at a unique conference called FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nevada. FreedomFest is the largest pro-liberty conference in the world and it has taken place annually in Las Vegas since 2002. The event was founded and is still organized by Mark Skousen. This year's FreedomFest event runs from Wednesday 13 July to Saturday July 16 at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, and is expected to attract a few thousand attendees.
FreedomFest is grounded in the Libertarian philosophy and the celebration of free thinking, and the event hosts a huge range of high-profile speakers as well as debates, panel discussions and a film festival. Attendees include representatives of free market think-tanks, those involved in the fields of politics and economics, the investment sector, the media, and the publishing industry. Themes celebrated in the conference include liberty, limited government, economic freedom and free market capitalism.
Topics covered in FreedomFest range from economics, philosophy, technology, finance and investing, to law, geo-politics, art and literature, public policy, science and religion. In the run-up to FreedomFest, an associated event called the Atlas Summit has just wrapped up which focused on the Ayn Rand philosophy of Objectivism – the pursuit of happiness and productive achievement. The film festival integrated within FreedomFest is a libertarian film festival called Anthem Film Festival.
The speaker list at FreedomFest this year is large and varied and includes such well-known names as Senator Rand Paul, Steve Forbes, Judge Andrew Napolitano and George Foreman.
BullionStar's CEO, Torgny Persson, CEO of BullionStar will also be speaking at the FreedomFest conference on Thursday afternoon, 14 July, at 4:20pm local time on the topic of 'How Safe is your Gold?"
There is an extensive exhibition at FreedomFest and BullionStar is exhibiting from today Wednesday 14 July, to Saturday 16 July. Initial tasks for the BullionStar team last night and this morning involved setting up the display booth on the exhibition floor complete with display cases and audio-visual monitor equipment which had been shipped in for the event.
The BullionStar booth contains product displays and a unique and timely interactive game highlighting the perils of the quantitative easing currently being pursued by the world's largest central banks.
BullionStar will be providing regular updates during the FreedomFest conference via this blog, which will highlight interesting speakers, visitors to our booth, and any other topics which we find noteworthy from the conference. So please check back for updates. If you happen to be at the conference, please drop by the BullionStar exhibition booth to meet us, and to find out why Singapore is the best place in the world for storing precious metals. Likewise, if you are in the Las Vegas area, why not drop into the conference or exhibition area to meet us.
Many topics in the world of gold are opaque and secretive, none more so than the famed gold vaults of the world’s major central banks and their bullion banking counterparts. BullionStar Gold University is now bringing transparency to this intriguing yet under-reported area by profiling the largest and most important of these gold vaults.
According to the vault owners and the information that they divulge, these gold vaults officially store over 16,500 tonnes of gold, which is approximately half of all reported central bank gold reserve holdings. That’s also nearly 10% of all the gold ever mined in the world. This in itself makes knowledge of these vaults important.
From the labyrinthine Bank of England gold vaults storing nearly 5,000 tonnes of gold in custody for over 70 central bank customers, to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's subterranean gold vaults housing nearly 6,000 tonnes of gold on behalf of 36 foreign central banks and the US Treasury, this BullionStar series brings together information about these vaults that has never before been documented in one place.
Where are the vaults located? Who are their customers? What type of gold bars are stored there? How are the vaults laid out? When were they constructed? These are just some of the questions covered in BullionStar’s Gold Vault series. Only on rare occasions have reporters, camera crews or other observers been allowed to access these vaults and document their layouts and contents. We have included a media section in the profiles where possible to point you to these sources.
Witnessing such large quantities of gold bars stored in one single place seems to create a profound and similar impact on the observers regardless of which vault they have visited.
“I’m speechless when exploring the Sacristy, , … you don’t see this every day” - Alberto Angel, reporter RAI, Italy
”It’s quite extraordinary” - Professor Martyn Poliakoff, visiting the Bank of England vaults
“you never get sick of the gold… it even puts a smile on our faces when we’re down there working with it” - Fed Vault Custodian, New York
“from a purely human perspective, we could see with our own eyes a quantity of precious metal that goes beyond an ordinary perception … I must say that it arouses feelings that are difficult to explain” - Senator Giuseppe Vacciano, Italy
Why the observers have these powerful reactions to seeing such vast quantities of gold, we can’t say for sure, perhaps it’s because gold is money par excellence and the ultimate store of wealth, and that being close to this powerful and aesthetically pleasing element invokes a timeless sense of respect and wonder.
The BullionStar Gold University vault profiles series also covers the deep underground Banque de France gold vaults in Paris. Known as ‘La Souterraine’, home to over 90% of France’s 2,435 tonnes of gold, the Paris vaults also store gold bars on behalf of the Bundesbank and the International Monetary Fund. The series also visits the Banca d’Italia’s gold vaults, "La Sacrestia Oro", under the Banca d'Italia's Palazzo Koch headquarters in Rome which hold 1,200 tonnes, or approximately half of Italy’s gold.
A knowledge of where these central bank and commercial vaults are located and their operating details is also critical, since, if there was ever a physical gold shortage or a crisis in the gold market, these central bank and LBMA bullion bank institutions owe it to the global financial community to prove that they are storing the gold they claim to store, in the locations they profess to store it in.
In early February, I visited the World Money Fair in Berlin with a number of BullionStar executives, namely, Torgny Persson, CEO of BullionStar, Luke Chua, COO of BullionStar, and also Michael From, CEO of Liberty Silver in Sweden, a company founded by Mr Persson.
The World Money Fair is the world’s leading numismatic and precious metals convention, and is now in its 45th year. Held each year in the Estrel Convention Centre, part of the Estrel Hotel (Germany’s largest hotel), about 9 kilometers south-east of central Berlin, the 3 day event attracts a crowd of between 10,000 – 15,000 precious metals enthusiasts, as well as hundreds of precious metals exhibitors from all over the world, with a strong representation from the German gold market. The exhibitors range from precious metals refineries and mints, to precious metals dealers, to precious metals manufacturers of technical machinery and equipment for the minting and refining industry (such as coin presses), and finally many precious metals numismatics, coin and bank-note dealers. Hence, lots of bullion and numismatic coin collectors also attend the fair. The World Money Fair was previously held in Basel, Switzerland, up until 2006, at which point it moved to Berlin.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the convention is that apart from the individual attendees, literally hundreds of precious metals dealers and precious metals suppliers also attend the Fair, primarily to hold meetings and discussions with each other, and also to catch up on the latest offerings from the convention exhibitors. Most of these face-to-face meetings take place within the hotel lobby at the numerous seating areas, cafés, and restaurants that are positioned within the Estrel’s expansive open plan atrium. While most of the meetings are pre-planned, there is an air of spontaneity as customers and suppliers rush around trying to keep to their previously agreed schedules, while bumping into old acquaintances. Some suppliers seemed to literally have numerous back-to-back meetings in the lobby for a good part of the first two days.
I sat in on some of BullionStar’s meetings which included a large German gold and silver refinery, one of Switzerland's biggest gold refineries, and some of the largest worldwide precious metals wholesalers. I found these meetings fascinating as the format was a combination of an informal catch-up, and a more formal discussion of product pricing, business conditions, inventory requirements, bar premiums, and supply channels etc. We also attended dinners on different evenings with a variety of large precious metals suppliers from markets such as Germany, the US and Singapore. I considered it a privilege that during these meetings and dinners I was able to meet some of the top names from the worldwide gold refining and wholesaling sector.
On the first day I took a tour of the exhibition floor. This space consists of an immense series of halls about the size of a few football pitches. There were about 50 national and private gold and silver mints and central banks exhibiting, as well as approximately 250 dealers in precious metals, bullion and numismatics, and about 60 technical suppliers including some large gold refineries. It might seem surprising that central banks, such as Banco de México, would attend such a gathering, but given that many central banks regularly produce their own precious metals coins, it actually makes perfect sense, as they too are in the business of marketing their own coins.
While there were plenty of new releases of limited edition numismatic gold and silver proof coins, I was most interested in the investment bullion gold and silver bar and coin displays, but the vast number of displays (under protective glass) was extensive and varied and would easily take an entire day to see properly. A lot of well-known names were exhibiting, including the Perth Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Mint, South Africa's Rand Refinery, the Austrian Mint, PAMP, as well as MDM Deutsche Munze (Germany), Schoeller (Austria), and China Gold Coin Incorporation. As it's not every day one gets all of these mints in and refineries in the same room, I made sure to chat to staff on the various stands just to get an idea of their views on the precious metals market and their product offerings.
Some of the larger investment gold bar displays in the exhibition were laid on by German precious metals refinery Heirmerle + Meule along with its Spanish subsidiary Sempsa JP, as well as an extensive selection of gold and silver bars from German / Belgian refinery Agosi (Umicore). Agosi even had a display of base metal investment bars which it calls AgosiBase, covering titanium, aluminium, copper, bronze, and brass bars, as well as Sparkasse gold bars which it produces on behalf of the German Sparkasse (Savings Banks).
Britain’s Royal Mint also had a relatively large gold bar display of recently launched gold bars which use the former Royal Mint Refinery (RMR) logo. At the Royal Mint stand I also learned that its precious metals vault at its headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales, is built to the security specifications of the Bank of England. Hmmm, could this mean that the Bank of England holds some of its gold not in London, but in the more remote Royal Mint vault, which after all is guarded by Britain's Ministry of Defence police force? The Royal Mint also points out on its vault page that customers can 'rest assured' that it operates "outside of the banking and London clearance systems", which doesn't really inspire confidence in the London precious metals vaulting system.
Each year, a different country is the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the Fair. This year, it was the turn of The Republic of Korea, and so KOMSCO (Korea Minting, Security Printing & ID Card Operating Corp), Poongsan (producer of coin blanks for 60 countries around the world) and Poongsan-Hwadong (an official distributor in South Korea for a lot of international mints), had large exhibit stands. While attempting to find out some lesser known facts about South Korea's gold market, I was surrounded by helpful representatives from KOMSCO and Poongsan, but a lot seemed to be lost in translation, although I did manage to learn that they are exporting gold bars to Indonesia, which was news to me.
There were also a lot of other mints exhibiting at the Fair but which were focusing on their 'mint coin' collections, such as Japan Mint, Czech Mint, Royal Dutch Mint, Portuguese State Mint etc. Mints usually use the World Money Fair to launch new coins or announce updates to existing gold and silver coins in their range. Surprisingly, the huge US Mint did not have a stand at this year's exhibition, although I understand that it did in previous years.
BullionStar also brought video recording equipment to Berlin and conducted short interviews with various exhibitors about their views on gold. We also recorded some interviews of our own views on the gold market, material which will be used in forthcoming BullionStar audio-visual releases. Finally, at one of the many banknote dealer stands, I purchased a very new looking 100 billion Zimbabwe Dollar note for the knockdown price of €10, which I think is the highest denomination Zim Dollar hyper-inflationary note ever issued.
Next Year, South Africa is the Guest of Honour country at the World Money Fair, and Rand Refinery and South African Mint will be ‘guest of honour’ companies representing the South African gold market. The year 2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the launch of the famous Krugerrand gold coin, which undoubtedly explains the timing of South Africa receiving this accolade.
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