One of my favorite movies is Treasure of the Sierra Madre with Humphrey Bogart. It isn’t hard for me to conjure Bogie’s eyes burning with greed and feverish lust, his mind unhinged by the lure of gold.
For centuries alchemists have labored to create a philosopher’s stone capable of turning dross into this precious metal, so far without success. Conquistadors and pirates have braved hostile elements and vast distances for it. Closer to home, Mike Geller in my senior high school class was considered a dork until he got a gold cap on a chipped front tooth and girls suddenly couldn’t keep their hands off him. I can’t help wondering if Lord of the Rings would have been as interesting if the one ring with the power to “… bring them all and in the darkness bind them,” was made of tin, or plastic, or aluminum foil.
But have you noticed that gold seems to be disappearing from sight? I’m currently reading a magazine with half a dozen ads for jewelry and only one shows the precious yellow metal. The fine print describes this as “gold-colored” metal. It’s not even listed as gold plated.
Usually at this time of year my mailbox is overflowing with jewelry store catalogs
featuring all sorts of baubles set in glinting yellow gold. This year there are only a few. TV programming is choked with commercials for Ben Bridge, Jared and Zales, but they’re mostly pushing silver colored jewelry.
The jewelry store ads I notice most during these hard times are those offering to buy old or unused gold, as if there’s such a thing as new gold. As I write this, gold is selling at just under $1600.00 per troy ounce. Folks like Glenn Beck advertise the lasting value of gold and encourage people to hoard it as a hedge against economic collapse. Some of these companies even claim that after you buy their gold coins or bullion they’ll permit you to store your purchase in THEIR vault. Folks actually fall for this?
When I managed jewelry stores in the ‘80s, gold was selling for just under $300.00 per troy ounce but the buying public had no idea how high the mark-up was. Twenty percent? Forty? Seventy-five? No, the markup was in keys (short for keystone) and a key was a hundred percent. Most gold and diamond jewelry was sold at a 7-10 key markup—that’s a markup of up to a thousand percent. It used to be cheaper to fly to Italy, party hearty and buy your gold jewelry there. Admittedly this was back in the day when high tech meant an electric typewriter, airlines didn’t charge luggage fees and cold duck was something you drank rather than plucked.
So has gold become too valuable for the middle classes to own? Is this why we’re seeing so little of it? Has Scrooge McDuck locked it all away in his vault?
Are you hoarding gold?