I recently received a question from a client regarding
my three point staged approach to choosing a storage method, as per the Perth Mint website:
“1. While the world environment is benign, they hold unallocated. They
do not incur ongoing storage costs and fabrication charges.
2. When the environment becomes uncertain and risky, they convert to allocated.
3. When the world is at a crisis point, they take delivery of their physical
By the way, I wrote that webpage text many years ago, well before the gold
bull market and when the world environment was benign.
His question was “At a crisis point why would investors opt to take
delivery of their metal, rather than sell it? Isn't that the whole idea of holding
I found it a very interesting question, because it indicated that the
investor saw only one scenario developing, what I would call “Repeat of
1980”. This scenario sees the 1970s repeating with a bubble in metal
prices driven by high inflation, recession and a “mild” financial
This exit strategy assumes that just like the 1970s, the current economic
environment is just a cyclical phase and we will return to
“normal” at some point, in which case you can deploy your
increased wealth into other (hopefully) cheap productive assets. Selling your
metal for cash certainly could be profitable in such a scenario.
However, my third point was addressing another scenario, one I call “End
of the Debt Bubble”. This scenario in simple terms (and probably do the
complex issues involved a disservice), is that we are at an “end of
cycles” as the debt levels most Governments and individuals have
accumulated will not be able to be paid back. The only acceptable political
solution, it is argued, will be for Governments to inflate debts away, which
given the scale of the problem, will lead to hyperinflation as people lose
confidence in fiat currency’s ability to hold its value. Some consider
this scenario will also involve confiscation. In the case of Australia I
personally think this is unlikely and have covered it in detail in this post.
This is a completely different sort of crisis, possibly also involving societal
breakdown, in which case investors would be looking to take delivery (in coin
form) with the purpose of using their gold and silver as money to buy goods
and services or simply because they feel more secure having the physical
metal in their possession in such a situation. Selling your metal for cash in
such a scenario could be disastrous unless you quickly convert that cash into
some other wealth preserving asset.
This is the single most important issue precious metal investors must have a
view on, because if you get it wrong it will potentially do significant
damage to your wealth. You do not want to have held on to your metal if we
will experience a “Repeat of 1980” as you will end up selling at
a much reduced post-peak price. Alternatively you do not want to have sold
your metal if we experience the “End of the Debt Bubble” as you
will be left with worthless cash.
Whichever scenario you favour, I suggest you read
this post of mine on Deflation or Inflation
For those who believe in “Repeat of 1980”, this post summarises the key arguments why the US won’t be
able to paper over its debt problems. For those believing in the “End
of the Debt Bubble”, keep in mind that the text of the post was written
20 years ago. At the time the writer was sure that it was “the
End” – how sure are you that it really is different this time?
It is not something you have to work out right now as you can wait for more
"data" as economic events unfold, but unlike my questioner, at
least be aware that there are alternative "futures".
As the gold price increases, you will also start to see a "civil
war" developing in the gold internet community on this issue. All gold
commentators you read have a view on this issue. It may seem that everyone is
in the “End of the Debt Bubble” but a careful reading of many
commentators tells me many hold a “Repeat of 1980” view. At the
moment all gold advocates are united against conventional economists and investments
advisers as they have been proven right with a 10 year bull market.
But once the gold price starts to get really high, you will see commentators
who believe in the “Repeat of 1980” scenario start to recommend
selling your gold. This is likely to result in “End of the Debt
Bubble” commentators calling them "traitors" or
"incompetent" for recommending holding soon-to-be worthless cash.
The passion of the current debates in our little gold internet community will
be nothing compared to this.
The key will be to keep your emotion out of it, weigh up the claims, and
hopefully make the right decision.