Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Has Scrooge McDuck Stashed All The Gold?

     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?


  1. One of my favorite lines is from Treasure of Sierra Madre. "We don' got to show you no stinking badges."

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  2. Nope, sorry. I'm not a hoarder. I remember as a kid my grandmother gave me a stamp and a coin "collector" starter set, complete with a couple of each to get me started. When I later gave it up I believe I had......a couple of each. ;)


  3. No I'm not hording gold. Can't afford it in the first place. I've not noticed this trend, but I'm going to pay attention and get back to you on this.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  4. "It takes money to make money," and all of my money is currently invested in "buying cheap stuff for my boys at the Dollar Store" and Eggnog milkshakes. Neither of which has long-term potential, so I'm glad I hung onto my comic book collection because someday that first issue of "Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew" is going to set me up with a private island.

    Current price for said issue: Going for $2.52 on eBay, so, *fingers crossed* come on, Hyperinflation!

    Anyway, you might be seeing the effects of gold being too expensive for people to buy: the high price of gold has made it possible to extract gold that used to be considered economically unfeasible to get -- NPR's Planet Money did a fascinating story on Elko, Nevada, which is a boomtown right now because of a gold rush:

    So if I COULD hoard gold, I would buy enough of it to get a time machine to go back to 2005 and buy gold at a not-peak-of-market price, because the people who are buying gold right now, I think, are going to lose a bundle.

    (Although, if you're inclined to take financial advice from me, go back and reread that Captain Carrot part.)

  5. I don't see the point in hoarding it. If the world economy collapses, who's going to want gold? Hoard canned goods and toilet paper and the like; that's what people will need when everything goes to Hell.

  6. No hoarding gold here because of an old maxim: what goes up also goes down.

  7. The lack of gold in jewelry is something I hadn't noticed, but I'll be watching for it now. Interesting post.

  8. Gold? What would I do with it when the world collapses, eat it?

    Two years ago, when gold was quite high, I came across the wedding rings from my first marriage and a bracelet I had gotten from an old boyfriend. I took it to a jeweler and got money toward a flat-screen TV (our family Christmas present that year).

    And I did not know that gold was marked up so much here (I had gotten mine in Germany).

  9. I have noticed more and more stores going up that "Buy Gold" - I do also notice (myself included) that women are wearing more Sterling silver and White gold. Back in the day, it was always yellow gold- I rarely see that anymore.

  10. No gold here either. We have 'stick your gold in an envelope and send it us for CASH' things going on here. I would never post gold like that. Not really notice the decline in gold jewelry ads, but will be looking out for it now.

  11. The only gold I own is on my ring finger.

  12. I've noticed the same thing about jewlery ads. There lots of silver and diamond jewelery and I'm not at all interested in silver, but the gold is just too expensive. Guess I'll do without a new Christmas sparkler this year.

  13. Hey, you're a writer-y guy, so I'm going to continue my unsolicited solicitation of people to enter Heather's contest:

    If you like winning, here's an easy one for you: Heather is having a contest:

    To write a Xmas story in 500 words or less. You can enter until the 31st. Right now I'm winning, which isn't fair because I didn't even follow the rules. Which means pretty much any story you write is going to win. You could write "Christmas" 500 times in a row and beat me, and probably that would win some sort of literary award because we live in a stupid postmodern age. But I'm serious: Go enter! When people hold contests, we should enter, and everyone's got one Christmas story in them. Here, I'll get you started:

    1. An elderly woman finds a mysterious package under her Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. She lives alone, and it's signed "From Santa."

    2. A spaceship lands in Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas.

    3. Two boxers in the locker room talk about the fight they just had and their plans for Christmas.

    Come on, get writing!

  14. very interesting--maybe gold is so expensive that no one can afford it--or someone's hoarding...Koch brothers perhaps?

  15. I'm with Grumpy (and a few others) -- hoard canned goods, not gold. Tastes better.

  16. I wish! I had an economics professor back in the day who advised everyone to buy gold or silver, but particularly gold in that it would always be valuable...


  17. " 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."

    Hey Stephen, how about you giving me all your money and I'll let it rest in my bank account!