THE CONFISCATION CON
If you’ve spent enough time in the gold community, you might be under the impression that the most imminent threat to the average American isn’t terrorism or unemployment, but rather gold confiscation. Starting with the fact that FDR confiscated gold during the last Great Depression, and continuing to the quite accurate forecast that we are headed into an even Greater Depression, unscrupulous coin dealers have been pushing investors to buy expensive “numismatic” or “collectible” coins that they claim would be protected from government seizure. The only problems are that the original motive for confiscation no longer applies and the “protection” offered by major coin dealers wouldn’t actually help you keep your gold.
THE TYRANT’S ORDER
In 1933, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, prohibiting the private holding of gold and requiring US citizens to turn over their gold bullion or face a $10,000 fine ($167,700 in today’s dollars) or 10 years imprisonment.
Gold coin and gold certificates in an amount not exceeding in the aggregate $100 [about 5 troy ounces at that time] belonging to any one person; and gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins.
CALL THE MYTHBUSTERS
The reality is that almost all coins sold as “numismatic” or “collectible” by our competitors are really quite ordinary coins sold at high mark-ups to make these dealers extra profits. If we were in 1933, these coins would absolutely not fall under the definition of “rare and unusual.”
WHY WAS GOLD CONFISCATED?
In 1933, when Roosevelt issued his infamous order, the United States was still on a gold standard, meaning every 20.67 paper dollars could have been “redeemed by the bearer on demand” for a troy ounce of gold. Since Roosevelt had many public works projects to finance and also may have wanted to quietly lower real wages to drive employment, he confiscated gold and then devalued the exchange rate to $35/oz (at this point, the only people who could “exchange” were foreign governments). Thus, Americans instantly saw a 40% drop in value for the dollars they held, and the government’s profit was sequestered in something called the Exchange Stabilization Fund, which could be used by the President at whim without Congressional approval. Pretty nifty trick, huh?
It’s important to note that confiscation was necessary to Roosevelt’s plan because we were under a gold standard. Gold at that time was widely held throughout the population. If Roosevelt had devalued the dollar without confiscation, then whatever savings Americans held in gold would have been immune from this hidden tax. Furthermore, many Americans likely would have redeemed whatever paper dollars they held in fear of another devaluation. This could have wrecked the dollar’s viability as a currency.
These rationales no longer apply. In the aftermath of Roosevelt and Nixon’s dismantling of the gold standard, gold is no longer currency. Most Americans hold their savings in dollars and it is the only legal tender (which means it must be accepted in payment of all debts). Thus, President Obama and his buddy Bernanke don’t need to confiscate gold to devalue the dollar and finance excessive spending. In fact, the Fed has more than doubled the monetary base since the financial crisis started.
WHAT, ME WORRY?
The only reason to fear confiscation is in the case that the federal government is in default and needs the gold in order to pay off its creditors. But if it comes to Washington simply stealing our assets at whim, then why would gold be the only target? At that point, real estate, stock and bond certificates, and vehicles would be much easier to seize. Gold has been prized throughout history for its high value-to-weight, making it easy to conceal and trade under tough political conditions. Consider: you could store enough gold to care for a small family for six months (approx. 9 ounces) on the inside of a belt buckle.
Remember, if Washington chooses the confiscation route, we’re talking about a situation of pure pandemonium. When governments begin abrogating property rights in that fashion, the entire market mechanism ceases to function. We saw this in the Great Depression as Hoover and then Roosevelt relentlessly attacked private property and contracts.
Even in the heat of Roosevelt’s confiscation scheme, government troops did not break into people’s homes. The singular (failed) prosecution under the order took place when a New York lawyer tried to withdraw 5,000 troy ounces from Chase Bank. Ironically, all the gold actually collected by the Treasury was willfully surrendered in a wave of misguided patriotism, while many “law-breakers” simply kept their gold – which is why some old coins escaped the Treasury’s furnaces and are still around today.
As a matter of business ethics and fair dealing to our customers, I decided early on that Euro Pacific Precious Metals would not offer numismatic coins. To put it simply, I think they are a poor investment option.
Peter Schiff is CEO of Euro Pacific Precious Metals. Having spent years encouraging his brokerage clients to buy physical gold, he grew concerned about the growing number of unscrupulous dealers that tried to “up-sell” customers to rare or collectible coins with high markups. Peter Schiff’s gold coin buying philosophy is to buy for the coin’s metal value, not its claimed “numismatic” value. He decided to open his own firm to sell investment-grade bullion products at competitive prices. Euro Pacific only sells reputable, well-known coins that trade on the open market, such as American Gold Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs, and Australian Kangaroos. To find out more, please visit www.europacmetals.com or call us at (888) GOLD-160.