FOFOA On Gold's "Focal Point", Or Is Silver Money Too?

Tyler Durden's picture

All those who believe there is sentiment of complacency within the precious metals camp may be forgiven. After all if one likes gold, one should like silver, and/or vice versa. Today FOFOA presents a counterargument. "I don't write about silver very much. Just like I don't write about copper or pork bellies. But, in fact, I have addressed many of the standard arguments for silver over gold in various comments on this blog and others. I'm sure someone will dig them out again and post links as people pose these arguments once again in the comments. But here's a new one. One of the argument for silver that we hear often is that it is "the poor man's gold." So I guess gold is "the rich man's gold." Well, what is the main difference between rich men and poor men? Is it that the rich have an excess of wealth beyond their daily expenses? In fact, the really rich have "inter-generational wealth," that is, wealth that lies very still through generations. The poor do not have this. So what do you think is going to come of all that "poor man's gold" that the silverbugs have hoarded up? Is it going to lie very still for generations? Or will it circulate, to meet daily needs? Note that circulation velocity is the market's way of controlling the value of any currency. Faster circulation = lower value. Lying still for generations = very slow circulation." Thus, today's question - is silver money too?


Focal Point: Gold

In game theory, a focal point (also called Schelling point) is a
solution that people will tend to use in the absence of communication,
because it seems natural, special or relevant to them. The concept was
introduced by the Nobel Prize winning American economist Thomas
Schelling in his book The Strategy of Conflict (1960). In this book (at
p. 57), Schelling describes "focal point[s] for each person’s
expectation of what the other expects him to expect to be expected to
do." This type of focal point later was named after Schelling.

a simple example: two people unable to communicate with each other are
each shown a panel of four squares and asked to select one; if and only
if they both select the same one, they will each receive a prize. Three
of the squares are blue and one is red. Assuming they each know nothing
about the other player, but that they each do want to win the prize,
then they will, reasonably, both choose the red square. Of course, the
red square is not in a sense a better square; they could win by both
choosing any square. And it is the "right" square to select only if a
player can be sure that the other player has selected it; but by
hypothesis neither can. It is the most salient, the most notable square,
though, and lacking any other one most people will choose it, and this
will in fact (often) work.

Schelling himself illustrated this
concept with the following problem: Tomorrow you have to meet a stranger
in NYC. Where and when do you meet them? This is a Coordination game,
where any place in time in the city could be an equilibrium solution.
Schelling asked a group of students this question, and found the most
common answer was "noon at (the information booth at) Grand Central
Station." There is nothing that makes "Grand Central Station" a location
with a higher payoff (you could just as easily meet someone at a bar,
or the public library reading room), but its tradition as a meeting
place raises its salience, and therefore makes it a natural "focal
point." [1]

Salience: the state or quality of an item that stands out relative to neighboring items.

There are two simple, but seemingly, apparently impossible-to-comprehend concepts. The first concept is why money not only can
be split into separate units for separate roles, one as the store of
value and the other to be used as a medium of exchange and unit of
account, but why it absolutely must and WILL split at this point
in the long evolution of the money concept. This means no fixed gold
standard, or any system that attempts to combine these units/roles into
one, making easy money "less easy" and hard money "less hard." And by
"must" I do not mean that we must do this, I mean that it is happening
today whether we recognize it or not.

And the second concept,
once the first is understood, is how and why gold and only gold will
fill the monetary store of value role. Not gold and silver. Not precious
metals. Just gold. People often ask why I don't mention silver. They
assume that when I say gold I really must mean gold and silver, or
precious metals. So let me be clear. When I say gold, I mean gold and
only gold.

Money's most vital function in our modern world is
lubricating commerce, or more specifically, keeping the essential supply
lines flowing – supply lines that bring goods and services to where
they are needed. Without it we would be reduced to a barter economy,
eternally facing the intractable "double coincidence of wants." This is
the problem whereby you must coincidentally find someone that not only
wants what you have to trade, but also, coincidentally, has what you
want in return. And in the modern world of near-infinite division of
labor, this would be a disaster. [2]

So we need money, and lots
of it. In fact, we need money in unrestricted amounts! (I'll bet you are
surprised to see me write this!) Yes, I said it, we need unrestricted
money in order to fulfill this most vital function in our modern society
– lubrication! But here's the catch: we need the right money in order to perform this seemingly impossible task. Let me try to explain.

is debt, by its very nature, whether it is gold, paper, sea shells,
tally sticks or lines drawn in the sand. (Another shocking statement?)
Yes, even gold used as money represents debt. More on this in a moment.

this reason, the money used as a store of value must be something
completely separate and different from the medium of exchange. It must
be so, so that the store of value unit can expand in value while
the medium of exchange unit expands in quantity and/or velocity. You may
be starting to encounter my thrust. Expand… and expand. Unrestricted by
artificial constraints.

Compare this concept to a gold standard
in which you fix the value of gold to the dollar at, say, $5,000 per
ounce. The assumption is that this is where the price of gold will stay
for a long time, if you manage the system properly. So what is the
result? You artificially constrain the expansion of the medium of
exchange fiat currency while also restricting the value expansion of the
store of value. You are locking the two together. Do you think this
works and makes sense?

I said we need unrestricted money in order
to ensure the lubrication of the vital supply lines in our modern
world. This is it. This is what really matters. If we have a major
monetary and financial breakdown, what do you think will be the worst
consequence? Do you grow all of your own food? Do you make – or know
someone who does – all of your own stuff? How long could you survive
without any stores? Do you trust your government to be sufficiently
prepared to take care of you with no supply lines flowing?

you ever stretched a rubber band until it breaks? You can feel the
resistance grow gradually and observe the smooth thinning of the band
until finally it loses its continuity and the two parts snap back
stinging your fingers. A tiny observer of this exercise, perhaps a flea
resting on your thumb (or an economist), one who doesn't really
understand rubber bands, might swear that it could be stretched forever.
The smooth change in the stretching rubber gives little warning of the
abrupt (sometimes painful) deformation that is coming.

This is
where we are today. The dollar standard is like a stretched rubber band.
It has been stretched and stretched, but it cannot provide the
unrestricted money that we need today. They think it can. And that's why
they are spewing it out in quantitative easy money boatloads. But it's
not the right money. As I said above, we need the right money in order to perform this seemingly impossible task.

resistance you feel is the artificial restraint built into the dollar
system. It appears to be infinitely expandable, but it is not. It is
just like the rubber band. Oh sure, you can print all the dollars you
can imagine, to infinity and beyond! But it won't work. It won't do the
most vital job, beyond a certain point. And yes, we are beyond that

I want you to imagine a tiny micro economy. Just two guys
stranded on a tiny island. Let's call the guys Ben and Chen. They have
divided the island in half and each owns his half. They each have a tree
which bears fruit and three tools for fishing, a spear, a net and a
fishing pole. For a while they both fished often. Fish were the main
trade item between Ben and Chen. Sometimes Ben would take a vacation
from fishing and Chen would provide him with fish to eat. Other times
Chen would take a break.

But after a while Ben got lazy, and Chen
got tired of giving Ben free fish to eat. At first they used sea shells
as money to keep track of how many fish Ben owed Chen. Then they
switched to leaves from the tree. Finally they just broke a stick off
the tree and drew little lines in the sand. If Chen gave Ben a fish, Ben
drew (issued) a line in the sand on Chen's side of the island. There
were only two of them, so it was easy to avoid cheating.

lines sort of became Chen's bank account. Each one represented the debt
of one fish that Ben owed to Chen. But after a while they started adding
up, and Chen worried that he would never get that many fish back from
Lazy Ben. So Chen cut a deal with Ben. Chen said he would keep accepting
lines drawn in the sand for fish, but he wanted to be able to use them
to purchase some of Ben's other stuff (since Ben didn't like to fish).

first he used them to purchase fruit from Ben's tree. But after a while
the pile of fruit just rotted on Chen's beach. Next he started
purchasing Ben's tools. First the spear, then the net and lastly the
fishing pole. But at this point Chen realized that Ben would NEVER be
able to repay those fish without his fishing tools. So Chen rented them
back to Lazy Ben.

Of course Ben was still lazy, and now he owed
rent on top of the fish he already owed. The lines in the sand grew even
more rapidly as lines were added to pay for rent even when Chen hadn't
given Ben a fish. Then Ben had a great idea. Why even go through the
charade of selling the fishing pole and then renting it? Ben could just
sell Chen some "special lines" which had a "yield." For ten one-fish
lines, Chen could buy a special "bond" that would mature into 11 lines
in a year's time. They tried this for a while, but all that happened
were more lines in the sand. So many lines! Nowhere to walk. Chen's
"bank account" was taking up all of his real estate!

Finally Chen
had had enough. He called Ben over and said, "Okay, since you refuse to
fish for yourself, let alone to pay me back, I want to use these lines
to buy some of your gold coins." Oh, did I mention that Ben had a
treasure chest of gold coins that had washed ashore? Of course these
gold coins were the last thing that Chen wanted, because what good are
gold coins on a tiny island with only two inhabitants?

actually, they turned out to be an excellent record of the debt Lazy Ben
owed to Chen the fisherman. You see, at first, Chen bought half of
Ben's gold with the lines he had already accumulated, transferring his
"bank account" over to Ben's side of the island and consolidating his
"wealth" into gold. It worked out to 100 lines for one gold coin, or 100
fish per ounce.

But after a while, Ben realized that he was
running out of gold. He knew it would only be a short matter of time
until he ran out, so he closed the gold window. And once again, Chen
started accumulating lines and special yielding "bond" lines. Finally,
they agreed that the value of the gold coins had to be raised higher
than 100 fish per ounce. Ben suggested 500/oz., but Chen saw the
short-sighted flaw in his thinking. So Chen said that the value of
ounces should float against the number of lines issued by Ben. This way,
Ben would never run out of gold, and his lines would always and forever
be exchangeable for gold coins. Finally, a sustainable accounting

Now I do realize the glaring flaws in this analogy I
cobbled together. So spare me the critique. It is far, FAR from perfect.
But it does help with a few good observations.

First, the lines
in the sand and the gold coins are both money on this island. One is the
medium of exchange/unit of account and the other is the store of value.
The store of value is quoted at any given time in units of lines, but
its value floats, it is not fixed, so it never runs out. This
method of accounting forces Lazy Ben to part with something more
substantial than simply issuing more lines via line-yielding "special
bond lines."

In this case it was the accounting of transactions
between a consumer and a producer. But it works just as well between any
two actors with unequal levels of production and consumption. Some
people just produce more while others can't stop consuming. I'm sure you
know a few of each type.

Also, notice that gold coins and lines
in the sand both represent the debt owed from Ben to Chen. And with
gold, Chen can wait forever to be paid back (which, on this island, is
quite likely). The gold doesn't spoil, and Chen's possession of it
doesn't interfere with Ben's ability to fish or eat fruit. But notice
also that the more lines in the sand that Ben issues, the more the value
of the gold (representing a debt of fish) rises. So the longer Ben runs
his trade deficit, the more debt he owes for each ounce of gold that
Chen holds.

This is not so dissimilar to the special bond lines,
with a few notable differences. The bond values are not only quoted in
lines, they are also denominated in lines. So the principle amount paid
for the bonds drops in value as more lines are issued to lubricate the
vital trade. To counteract this "inflation," interest is paid by drawing
more lines without the reciprocal delivery of fresh fish. But these
additional "free" lines also dilute the value of lines, which leads
ultimately to infinity (or zero value) in a loop that feeds back on

The more fish Chen supplies to Ben, the more lines he
receives, the more bonds he buys, and the more lines he receives in
service to interest. Eventually Chen will be receiving two lines for
each fish, one for the fish and one for the interest. And then three,
and then four. And so on. Wouldn't you rather just have one gold coin
that floats in value? I know Chen would.

Another observation is
that the medium of exchange on our island devolved into the most
insignificant and easy to produce item. A simple notation in Chen's
"account." Is that so different from what we have today? And Ben could
issue them with ease as long as Chen let him. Once Chen had so many
lines, he wasn't about to just abandon the system, was he? Wipe the
(beach) slate clean? No, Chen wanted to get something for his lines.
Something compact that didn't interfere with Ben's ability to work off
his debt should he ever decide to do so. Something durable. Something
physical from Ben's side of the island. Something… anything other than those damn-stupid lines!

hope that this little analogy helps you visualize the separation of
monetary roles, because those talking about a new gold standard are not
talking about this. I understand that sometimes you have to speak in
terms familiar to your audience in order to not be tuned out, but I also
hope that my readers come to understand how and why a new gold standard
with a fixed price of gold, no matter how high, will simply not work

The full explanation of why it will not work is quite
involved, and I'm not going to do it here. But the short answer is that
the very act of defending a fixed price of gold in your currency ensures
the failure of your currency. And it won't take 30 or 40 years this
time. It'll happen fast. It wouldn't matter if Ben decided to defend a
price of $5,000 per ounce, $50,000 per ounce or $5 million per ounce. It
is the act of defending your currency against gold that kills your currency.

You can defend your currency against other currencies… using
gold! Yes! This is the very essence of Freegold. But you cannot defend
it against gold. You will fail. Your currency will fail. Slowly in the
past, quickly today. If you set the price too high you will first
hyperinflate your currency buying gold, but you won't get much real gold
in exchange for collapsing the global confidence in your currency, and
then you will have to empty your gold vaults selling gold (to defend
your price) as your currency heads to zero. And do you think the world
trusts the US to ever empty its vaults? Nope. Fool me once…

you set the price too low, like, say, $5,000/ounce, you will first
expose your own currency folly with such an act and have little
opportunity to buy any of the real stuff as the world quickly
understands what has gone wrong and empties your gold vaults with all
those easy dollars floating around. You will sell, sell, sell trying to
defend your price, but in the end, the price will be higher and you'll
be out of gold. Either that, or you'll close the gold window (once
again), sigh, and finally admit that Freegold it is.

Yes, the
gold price must… WILL go much higher. The world needs MONEY! And by
that, I mean recapitalization. Unfortunately the dollar is not the right
money. And printing boatloads of it will no longer recapitalize
anything. Today we are getting a negative real return on every dollar
printed. That means, the more you print, the more you DEcapitalize the
very system you are trying to save. Less printing, decapitalized. More
printing, decapitalized. Freegold… RECAPITALIZED. Yes, it's a Catch-22,
until you understand Freegold.

There Can Only Be One

"focal point" is the obvious, salient champion. But for many reasons,
some things are not as obvious as we would think they should be. Mish
ended his recent post, Still More Hype Regarding Silver; Just the Math Maam, with the following disclosure:

As a deflationist who believes Gold is Money (see Misconceptions about Gold for a discussion), I am long both silver and gold and have been for years.

Now is it just me, or did he say that because gold is money, he is long both silver and gold?

Here's another one from a recent article on Zero Hedge:

Part 3. People lie…..

“…I want to make it equally clear that this nation will maintain the dollar as good as gold, freely interchangeable with gold at $35 an ounce, the foundation-stone of the free world’s trade and payments system.”
-John F. Kennedy, July 18, 1963

“That we stand ready to use our gold to meet our international obligations–down to the last bar of gold, if that be necessary–should be crystal clear to all.”
-William McChesney Martin, Jr. (Federal Reserve Chairman) December 9, 1963

Lesson: When someone says you can exchange paper for precious metals – make the swap before they change the rules.

Wait. Did he just take two quotes about monetary gold and extend the
lesson to all precious metals? Is this right? Should we all be assuming
that "gold" always means "precious metals?"

According to Wikipedia:

precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element
of high economic value, which is not radioactive… Historically,
precious metals were important as currency, but are now regarded mainly
as investment and industrial commodities…

The best-known precious
metals are the coinage metals gold and silver. While both have
industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in art, jewellery
and coinage. Other precious metals include the platinum group metals:
ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum, of which
platinum is the most widely traded.

The demand for precious
metals is driven not only by their practical use, but also by their role
as investments and a store of value. Historically, precious metals have
commanded much higher prices than common industrial metals.

Here's how I read the above description. Precious metals have a high economic
value. But because of investment demand, they also tend to have a price
higher than it would be on its industrial merits alone. Gold and silver
carry some additional sentimentality for their past coinage. In other
words, precious metals are industrial commodities with an elevated price
due to levitation from investment demand. Fair enough?

Now to
understand Freegold, I think there are two issues that need to be
addressed. The first is the difference between money, or a monetary
store of value, and an industrial commodity levitated by investment
demand. And the second, once the first is understood, is whether silver
belongs in category with gold as money, or with platinum as an elevated
commodity. You see, the very key to understanding Freegold may actually
lie in understanding the difference between gold and silver with regard
to their commodity versus monetary wealth reserve functions.

from here, I will explore the valuation fundamentals of money versus
levitated commodities. And then I will explore the history of silver as
money and ask the question: Is silver money today?

First, money.
Money is always an overvalued something. Usually a commodity of some
sort. But it can be as simple as an overvalued line in the sand, or a
digital entry in a computer database. But the key is, it is always
overvalued relative to its industrial uses! That's what makes it money!
If it was undervalued as money, it would go into hiding, just like
Gresham's law says, be melted down, and sold for whatever use valued it
higher than its monetary use.

It is fair to also say that
commodities levitated by investment demand are overvalued in a similar
way. But there are a couple of important differences. First is that all
of our experience with commodity markets during currency turmoil
happened while the two naturally-divergent monetary functions (the spur
and the brake) were rolled into one unit, namely the dollar. This left
only the commodity markets as an escape. Second is that monetary
overvaluation usually has official support while commodity overvaluation
often has government disdain.

There is this idea out there that
if you have a paper investment market for a commodity that is larger
than the physical units backing it (fractionally reserved, so to speak),
that the commodity's price must automatically be suppressed by the
market. This is simply not true unless we are talking about money
masquerading as a commodity.

A paper market brings in investment
demand and leverage (borrowed money), two levitating factors that would
simply not be present if the paper market disappeared. And these two
factors, "the speculators," can take a commodity's price well into
overvalued territory. Just look at oil for an example. Even the sellers
of the physical stuff say they prefer a lower price than right now, not
to mention during the all-time high in 2008.

You'd think the
sellers of a physical commodity would love a higher price driven by
speculators. But they don't, because it is only a real price if all the
investment participants have a real use for, and ability to take
possession of, your physical commodity. Otherwise it's just a casino.

Back to the Zero Hedge piece:

today’s prices, a million dollars in gold weighs less than fifty
pounds, but a million dollars in silver weighs more than 2,300 pounds!
So ask yourself, how many rich people are storing their own silver? How
many hedge funds hold physical silver in their own storage facility?

So a million in gold only weighs 50 lbs.? Sounds like low storage fees
and easy delivery! 2,300 lbs. for silver? Wow, that sucks. How many rich
people are taking possession of their silver? Not many, I'd guess.

be honest, I really don't know if silver is overvalued or undervalued
today at $30/ounce. But if you are counting on the industrial
fundamentals of silver for your moonshot like the Zero Hedge article is,
or on a busted paper market like the "vigilantes," you may be in for an
unpleasant surprise. The same fundamental arguments that are used today
were also used back in 1982. [3] In gold, at least, we know that
jewelry demand rises and falls opposite the price of gold. [4] But then
again, gold is money, right? So, is silver still money?

Easy Money

was certainly used as money in the past. So why not again today? Maybe
the people will rise up and demand silver money! Maybe China, or
somebody else, will remonetize silver and start a new silver standard,
right? After all, China was the last to use a silver standard.

don't mean to pick a fight with silver. In fact, I write this post with
a heavy heart. But there is so much silver hype right now that I feel I
owe it to my readers to at least try to spell out Another perspective.
And China is certainly on the minds of the silverbugs these days. How
often have we heard about China encouraging its citizens to buy gold and
silver lately? (There's that "gold and silver" again.)

But did
you know that China was practically dumping its silver a decade ago? And
to this day it is still a large exporter of silver. Not gold. Just
silver. In 2009 China exported 3,500 tonnes of silver. That amount will
probably be cut in half for 2010. The drop is due to increases in both
industrial and investor demand, but also due to China's recent move to
stem the shipment of all natural resources leaving its shores.

sure many of you know that China was the last country on Earth to end
its silver standard back in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression.
But do you know why? And would China ever want to start a new
silver standard? Does it make any sense now that they've sold most of
their silver? And what has changed since 1935 that would make them want
to go back?

Something very interesting happened after Jan. 30,
1934 when Roosevelt devalued the dollar against gold. The price of gold
went up 70%. What do you think happened to silver? Did it go up more
than gold? Did it shoot the moon? Was it leveraged to gold? No, it
dropped like an unwanted rock.

In response to the falling price
of silver, on June 19, 1934 (four and a half months later) the U.S.
Congress approved the Silver Purchase Act of 1934 which authorized
President Roosevelt to nationalize silver holdings (to buy silver). This
decision resulted in an increase in the world price of silver, which
forced China to abandon the silver standard in November 1935.

US Silver Purchase Act created an intolerable demand on China's silver
coins, and so in the end the silver standard was officially abandoned in
1935 in favor of the four Chinese national banks "legal note" issues.

Remember what Mundell wrote (See Mundell in The Value of Gold).
The use of a commodity as money is the overvaluing of that commodity
for profit by the monetary authority. When the US started buying
commodity silver on the open market (to prop up the price artificially)
the Chinese people found it was better to sell their silver coins for
melt value than to use them in commerce for face value (which was lower
than melt).

This effect to China's base money (silver) in 1934
was similar to what the US felt in 1933 and 1971 with gold. The main
difference being that the demand for silver in 1934 was artificial (from
one single entity, the US govt.) while the demand for gold has always
been real, global and market-driven. This price supporting move (not
unlike the Agriculture Adjustment Act and other destructive price
control measures) by the US caused the "Shanghai Financial Crisis" which
lasted from June 1934 until November 1935, finally ending in Currency
Reform on Nov. 4, 1935.

So, in 1934, the US govt. wanted to
devalue (set the price of) the dollar against gold and silver. In order
to do so, it had to influence the market of each. For gold, it had to
inflict capital controls internally and sell gold externally at the new
higher price. For silver, it had to BUY silver at the new higher price.
Sell gold, buy silver. The same exact thing that happened 45 years
earlier with the Sherman Silver Purchase act of 1890.

Pushed by
the Silverites, the Sherman Silver Purchase act of 1890 increased the
amount of silver the government was required to purchase every month. It
was passed in response to the growing complaints of farmers and mining
interests. Farmers had immense debts that could not be paid off due to
deflation caused by overproduction, and they urged the government to
pass the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in order to boost the economy and
cause inflation, allowing them to pay their debts with cheaper dollars.
Mining companies, meanwhile, had extracted vast quantities of silver
from western mines; the resulting oversupply drove down the price of
their product, often to below the point where it was profitable to mine
it. They hoped to enlist the government to artificially increase demand
for, and thus the price of, silver.

Under the Act, the federal
government purchased millions of ounces of silver, with issues of paper
currency; it became the second-largest buyer in the world. In addition
to the $2 million to $4 million that had been required by the
Bland-Allison Act of 1878, the U.S. government was now required to
purchase an additional 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion every month.
The law required the Treasury to buy the silver with a special issue of
Treasury Notes that could be redeemed for either silver or gold.

plan backfired, as people turned in the new coin notes for gold
dollars, thus depleting the government's gold reserves. After the Panic
of 1893 broke, President Grover Cleveland repealed the Act in 1893 to
prevent the depletion of the country's gold reserves. [5]

To "set
the price" of anything, you must either buy or sell that thing.
Governments cannot just "set" prices. Whenever they try, the items just
disappear or go into hiding. If the price you set is lower than the
value, then you will have to sell. If the price is too high, you will
have to buy. More from Mundell:

"[In the 1870s] France
pondered the idea of returning to a bimetallic monetary standard, but
with American production of silver going up and Germany dumping silver
as the new German Empire shifted to gold, France realized it would have
to buy up all the excess silver in the world on its own."

if your standard is going to overvalue something, you must buy it. If
you undervalue something, you must sell it. And what was the US doing
with gold throughout the entire Bretton Woods system? That's right, it
was SELLING gold through the gold window. So it wasn't the gold that the
US monetary authority was overvaluing for profit. It was the
cotton-pulp paper in the FRNs! Cotton pulp! That's the overvalued
commodity today!

Remember what Another wrote? "Any
nation/state can put its economy/currency on a gold standard. They only
have two requirements. Own a stockpile of gold and raise the price very

Why do you think you need a stockpile of gold to
start a gold standard? In the case of France in 1870 above, they
realized they would have to buy all the excess silver in the
world to keep a silver monetary standard. You don't need a stockpile to
do that! Yet you don't need to worry about buying all the gold to have a
gold standard. You need to be prepared to SELL! That's why you need a
stockpile. So what's the difference?

Could it be that silver is
only a commodity today (and for the last 150 years at least) and because
of this, any monetary use is not backed by the free market? Any silver
standard is an unnatural levitation requiring BUYING of silver by the
monetary authority. While a gold standard gives the free market what it
really wants, gold, requiring SELLING of gold by the monetary authority.

you find an example where the opposite occurred? Can you show me where a
government ever had to buy gold and sell silver (at whatever price or
ratio) in order to maintain its system?

The US quit bimetallism
during the Civil War, prior to the Silverite movement. [6] This ended
the government's "overvaluing" of all silver for use in money. After the
Civil War, there was a difference between commodity silver (what the
miners dug up) and monetary silver (overvalued silver in US coins)
because in order for the US to sustain bimetallism (or a silver
standard) it would have had to value (buy) ALL the excess silver in the
world at the overvalued price of the coins.

This meant it would
have to BUY any and all commodity silver that was offered for sale (to
prop up the price). You see, silver needs its price propped up (huh?
why?) while gold appears to need its price suppressed (see: The London
Gold Pool). So rather than actually "valuing" silver, the government
compromised with the Silverites and agreed to buy a specified quota of
commodity silver. At least it did until it ran out of gold in 1893.
Something must have been wrong with that 16:1 ratio in the 1800s, huh?

70 years later, when the price of commodity silver finally
overran the value of the coins in 1964, it was because of cotton-pulp
printing (inflation) only, not global monetary demand! This is exactly
how commodities act. They respond directly to monetary inflation until
the commodity value overruns the face value.

So it seems that the
free market wants to exchange its "money" for gold. But "the people"
(at least in the late 1800s) wanted silver to be money. They wanted to
SELL their silver to the government while the government SOLD its gold
to the market. This is a one-way flow that tends to end in a vault full
of silver with no gold. So why did the US Government intervene in the
silver market and support this folly?

The government caved
primarily because of politics (pressure from the Silverites – the
farmers and miners out west), and tradition secondarily (past use of
silver as money, the US Constitution, etc.). Politically, "the people"
will always want easy money. And silver was their easy money of the day.

deflation in the late 1800s was hurting the farmers. The farmer
business cycle is seasonal. Borrow money for equipment and seeds to
plant in the spring. Then grow your product. Then harvest and sell in
the fall and pay off your debt with the proceeds.

The effect of
causing an inflationary environment through "easy money" means that it
is A) easier to pay off your debt in the fall than it was in the spring
(or the year before), and B) you get more money for your crop than you
did last year. The effect of a deflationary environment is the opposite.
Your debt gets harder to pay and you get less money for your crop. It's
the same for all businesses actually. But farmers were a big political
group in the 1800s that were all roughly on the same business cycle.

bears repeating: "The people" wanted silver back then (late 1800s)
because it was the "easy money" of the time. "The people" NEVER
want harder money. Today silver would be harder money, so it will never
have the support of "the people" (other than the silverbugs). 16:1 was
quite obviously an artificial monetary ratio, because whenever
they maintained it, there was a run on the gold. The market wanted to
push the ratio much wider, and the government, in service to "the
people," fought that market force.

Today silver would be "harder" money than cotton-pulp. This is why there will NEVER be a big enough political movement of the people that will bring back a silver standard. We have now discovered easier money than silver!!!

you want harder money, it's gold. If you want easier money, it's
cotton-pulp. So where does silver fit in? Well, it's just another
industrial commodity with a lingering sentimental mystique as the old
"easy money."

And where does gold fit in? Freegold of course! The monetary wealth reserve as demonstrated by the Central Banks of the world!

what if gold really is the wealth reserve of choice for the giants that
A/FOA said it was? That means silver is nothing but an industrial
commodity today, being somewhat levitated by the lingering hype. What if
silver is just a commodity, like copper or oil?

Monetary value is a self-supporting, self-sustaining levitation. Money is the bubble that doesn't pop. The price of money is arbitrary. Not so with commodities.

So... is silver really money today? I know gold is. Here's the evidence:

Does anyone have any evidence that silver is still money today?

I am aware that the stock of silver is disappearing into our landfills.
These "properties" of silver have been with the metal since the early
80s, through decades of single-digit prices. [3] So, is jacking the raw
materials from industry and holding them hostage for ransom at a higher
price the real play today? (Hint: this tactic often ends badly for the
speculator.) Or is the real play front running the new global monetary
wealth reserve during a transition in our international monetary system?

one silverbug who is starting to put two and two together! I think he
might also be reading FOFOA. ;) (Hi Joe. I think you are confusing me
with FOA in your video. But that's okay, it's a wonderful compliment to
me! Tip to others: If you mention me in a video include a link in the
description and I might just find your video.)

Did you hear him at 6:35? "Only one metal in the world that fits the
bill for money, and that's gold!" That's right Joe! Good job from the
"Silverfuturist". There can be only one! Did you see my subheading? And
please read the description of a "Focal Point" again. It's the first
thing in this post. Can you put two and two together like Joe?

don't write about silver very much. Just like I don't write about copper
or pork bellies. But, in fact, I have addressed many of the standard
arguments for silver over gold in various comments on this blog and
others. I'm sure someone will dig them out again and post links as
people pose these arguments once again in the comments. But here's a new

One of the argument for silver that we hear often is that
it is "the poor man's gold." So I guess gold is "the rich man's gold."
Well, what is the main difference between rich men and poor men? Is it
that the rich have an excess of wealth beyond their daily expenses? In
fact, the really rich have "inter-generational wealth," that is, wealth
that lies very still through generations. The poor do not have this.

what do you think is going to come of all that "poor man's gold" that
the silverbugs have hoarded up? Is it going to lie very still for
generations? Or will it circulate, to meet daily needs? Note that
circulation velocity is the market's way of controlling the value of any
currency. Faster circulation = lower value. Lying still for generations
= very slow circulation.

So as you contemplate which commodity
will be the monetary focal point of the future, I'll leave you, as I
often do, with a little music.


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living on the edge's picture

9)  You ALL forgot 52100 carbon steel in highly engineered components, the Bearing hopes this will not happen again!


If memory serves me correctly grade 52100 is an alloy grade. Anyways at one time I made a lot of money from 52100 and the mod 1 and mod 2 varieties. I turned a fair amount of that into gold. Sure glad I did. 

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Indeed 52100 alloy steel (something like 1% carbon and 1% chromium -- meaning NOT enough chromium to make it stainless steel) is what most rolling bearings are made of.  Stainless steel (perhaps 10% chromium) is too weak to serve as rolling bearings, who, sigh, have a rough and boring life, just going around in circles, under pressure even...

52100 is damn special to us rolling bearings, precious even.

The Bearing is pleased that you were able to turn your 52100 earnings into Au.  A great trade!

living on the edge's picture

A great trade but I miss those days. I also participated in the carburizing grades of 5120, 8620, 4320, 9310 and the rarest of all 3310. Some were even vacuum arc remelt. Sold my business in 2001.

Be well my bearing friend! 

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Perhaps I should have included lead delivery devices as well?

Like the 7x39 mm AK-47 and the 9 mm Beretta I own?

Glad you liked the humor, but you have to admit: it's true!

bobboberson's picture

Is that weirdo in the youtube video the best he could come up with to support his point?

Zerohedge fan's picture


In spite of your both negative feedback, at that time on silver, I recommended to my mother to buy in Oct. 2008, 97 000 oz of silver through

Presently, in my country, I can sell this silver at $42/oz. My mother paid about 9oz an ounce, then.

The return is phenomenal 466%, today. And that in 2 years.

With due respect, swimming against the current (Mish, FOFOA), provided my mother with this respectable return.

Is silver money? I guess it is.

Is it better money? I guess it is.

Can it be confiscated. I guess it can not.

Can it be forbidden to use. I guess it can not.

I drink to all of us Silverbugs, we suffer like nobody else, but:

Buy Silver Kill JP Morgan.



nuinut's picture


FOFOA is speaking of gold and silver in respect of an event which has not yet happened, in which gold will massively outperform everything, including silver.

The exchange of some of that high performance (so far) silver for some gold as the ratio falls may be a very good hedge. As The Bearing commented above, no one can know the future. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance etc etc. 

I believe a number of investments have performed well when benchmarked from Oct 08, so using your criteria I guess they are all money too?

Zerohedge fan's picture

Yeah, you are right.

When gold to Dow will hit 1:1 and later Gold to Silver will get parity, then I will recommend mama to confiscate some gold from goldbags.

Now, back to booring 466% return every 2 years.

I like FOFOA and Mish. Read them a lot. But later, we are all  on our own.

On the long enough timeline the survival rate of any shenanigan drops to zero

bobboberson's picture

"Presently, in my country, I can sell this silver at $42/oz. My mother paid about 9oz an ounce, then."

Really? What country is that? I have a whole bunch of silver I want to sell you for ~40% over market!

Zerohedge fan's picture

here you go:

From time to time, I sell few of my own coins to buy food.

In Poland $1 =3 polish Zloty.

124.70/3=$42 US, and that was when silver was $27

Prices are even higher in other Eu countries.

Remember, flying to Eu bring few coins, we need SILVER.

Silver @ $500, EASY!!!!!


IQ 145's picture

 Don't disturb the sheep; they're pretending that "dollars" are okay. And; correct, silver is the most underpriced thing on the planet; today. not yesterday. today.

Gunther's picture

A bit west of you are bullion dealers who will sell silver few percent over spot plus 7% VAT for coins and 19% VAT for bars.

eg. or


Zerohedge fan's picture

you can buy silver wholesale in Poland at close to spot.

Min 300kg from KGHM

Thats where most silver sold in Germany is.

Retail, much cheaper is silver from Swiss. Only 8% Vat

BigDuke6's picture

He looks Belgian to me.

Goldenballs's picture

The real trick of any decent economy is to get money to circulate.The problem today is to get it to circulate at all especially amongst people who will actually spend it instead of hoarding it abroad.Large corporations paying more and more workers less and less as they make bigger profits and invest them anywhere but where they make their money is an impending disaster for all western economies.The time bomb has been going on long enough and it certainly appears as if the fuse is nearing detenation,time for governments to act,forced investment in home industries,import controls,cut down on tax havens and tax avoidance,cut down on migration and immigration and this should just be the start.

IQ 145's picture

 I don't give a shit whether it circulates or not; I just want to be filthy rich and pass that on to my grandchildren, like my ancestors did.

Duffminster's picture

The article fails to recognize that silver is substantially more rare than gold. There is is less of the stuff every day and much less than in the days when the Hunts cornered the market.

Silver is money.  This year the US mint pretty much used up all of the silver mined in the United States.  The world over mints are selling out of silver coins as well.

Paper dollars have no value other than the value people perceive them to have and the same goes for silver.   The argument that silver weighs too much falls apart as soon as you realize that silver should actually being trading at or above the value of gold given the demand and supply situation and the fact that silver is not only money but an irreplacable technological metal and it is even more the object of supression by the various monetary authorities and their bullion banking minions.  

Silver is money and to me it already has a lot more intrinsic and perceived value that Bernanke Bucks and Bonds, which have only each other to back themselves up.  BBB = Bernanke Bucks and Bonds.  I give them a BBB- rating.

akak's picture

To be honest, it must be recognized that silver is only "substantially more rare than gold" when it comes to above-ground, refined bullion form.  In terms of annual mining production, silver is still, and always likely to be, multiple times (roughly 10 times) more common than gold.  That takes nothing away from the arguments in favor of holding silver.

IQ 145's picture

 Waiting patiently for the day when Silver doubles in price; and no, I'm no joking.

Windemup's picture

Fundamentals now are not as they were in the past. I think someone is blowing smoke in our eyes. Silver is money if you want it to be.

IQ 145's picture

 Yeah, well I want it to be. And 240,000 Indians want it to be; and 800,000 Chinese, and 140,000 Europeans, and what the fuck are you gonna do about it?

living on the edge's picture

I think FOFOA assumes the complete destruction of the financial system and thus the Freegold concept unleashed. Until such time the elitists and TPTB are destroyed and the world truly cries out for a more equitable system, we are doomed to this existence dominated by the big banks and their masters the central banking system. 

DoChenRollingBearing's picture


I have read little or no FOFOA postulating a TEOTWAWKI, and I have even read that gold could reach its $55,000 without horrible consequences (at least to the general economy under certain circumstances, certain parties of course could be in a world of pain).

He does speculate on a hyperinflation...  Which many of us could agree on.  But, he says, and I agree, that gold's value would increase FASTER than such inflation.

living on the edge's picture

I have postulated that TEOTWAWKI is assumed in FOFOA's assumptions because until such occurs the Freegold concept is impossible. He never describes such a scenario but the likes of Bernanke and Geithner would make such a scenario impossible. If Freegold should occur it will be late and the situation shall be dire. 

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

living, I know it is very late and that you probably will not see this, but the Master himself (FOFOA) said in an email to me that TEOTWAWKI is NOT necessary for Freegold.

That was comforting!

I'll mention this again in a future thread.

Windemup's picture

When I was five years old, glass marbles were like money to me. I could trade them for anything my friends had and vice versa.

Selah's picture


"Gold is Money and Nothing Else"...

JP Morgan understood this simple fact.

Silver has played an important role next to its big brother throughout history. Remember the Spainish Empire, Comstock Lode, Jesus' betrayal, etc...

However, Silver's value is measured against Gold, just like oil, wheat, and diamonds. The author is not claiming that Silver has no value, just that it is not "money".


gloomboomdoom's picture

are you people actually serious about Gold and Silver? I can never tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

I see a huge bubble just months away from bursting.

Rates are moving up! Cash is king!

living on the edge's picture

I see a huge bubble just months away from bursting.

Are you sure the bond market can last that long? Perhaps you are talking about IR swaps?

Goldenballs's picture

I don,t think you really understand the problem is not with Gold and Silver it is with paper money and debt driven economies.Silver and Gold are intrinsic the inherent value or wealth is in the finite supply as well as the industrial process of thos metals.You talk about rates,lets be brutally honest about this shit here there are 2 short term options, hyperinflation or default,either one is a lack of confidence in a joke situation but until either one happens there is no short term way out,deflation and bouncing along the bottom will take decades and the political,social and economic fallout for this is unthinkable.You talk as if the system is not broken,let me tell you the system is totally and absolutely f**ked.Paper fiat money is a bet without knowing the odds,the idea is you are never supposed to know the odds,but more truth drips out everyday,knowledge is power.The days of bank vaults stuffed with silver dollars no-one wants are history,how much is out there,probably a lot less than people think,whats the true price,probably not been seen for maybe 50 or 100 years.Debt has killed the self sustaining economy,banks,central banks,governments are bankrupt,they have to take more to give less everyday,you buy Gold and Silver to protect yourself because once the dominoes start falling the paper is worth less and less everyday.Don,t think the mega rich have safes full of banknotes anymore,they have more sense its all in bars the real wealth,look at what the banks don,t tell you and do it,buy G & S while you can because WTSHTF it won,t be for sale.So if rates are going higher put your cash in it but remember when it goes wrong no one will touch the stuff at any price.Paper fiat crap is for the everyday shit,Gold and Silver is Insurance against legalised theft of wealth.

delacroix's picture

U.S. constitution article 1  section 10

penisouraus erecti's picture

Long. Boring, yet fascinating. And, almost convincing......until you think it throuh a little bit.

Locksmith's picture

FOFOA sounds a lot like Gary North's perspective. We will find out soon enough.


Silver rocks!

Zerohedge fan's picture


"At today’s prices, a million dollars in gold weighs less than fifty pounds, but a million dollars in silver weighs more than 2,300 pounds! So ask yourself, how many rich people are storing their own silver? How many hedge funds hold physical silver in their own storage facility?"

Milion dollars in October 2008 would buy you 7619 pound of silver and 96 pounds of gold.

Silver as money wins, I quess


akak's picture

A million dollars will also buy one some milligram-quantity of californium.  Is californium therefore the better form of currency, or wealth storage, than gold?

fiftybagger's picture

Methinks FOFOA has an agenda.  The guy is so wrong, dead wrong, it really makes you wonder.....


Find out what's really going on and come watch my new video, The Silver Conspiracy:


JohnG's picture

Blah, blah, blah....

My plan:

Hold what metals I have now.  Buy equal amounts silver and gold, in dollar terms.

Wait. (That's where the profit is after all....)

The Gold/Silver price ratio will begin to compress shortly.)

At 20:1, convert 1/2 silver to gold.

At 15:1 convert 1/3 silver to gold.


Take delivery at first sign of serious! problems, civil unrest, etc.  Keep checking ZeroHedge.

Adjust accordingly to your individual risk profile.


And buy as much gear as you need to prevent being carted off to FEMA camps.


eaglefalcon's picture

$42 for 1oz silver round in Poland is not exaggeration.  It's the fair market price there. Latest silver price in China:


1) 1oz 2010 Silver Panda Coin Version 1: RMB 390 = $ 58.56 per oz

2) 1oz 2010 Silver Panda Coin Version 2: Sold Out

3) 1oz Pre-2010 Silver Panda Coins: RMB 450 - RMB 600 = $67.57 ~ $90.09 per oz

4) 1kg (32.15 oz) ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) Silver Bar Year of Tiger: RMB 12,300/kg or $57.43 per oz

Wait time in a crowded coinshop or jewelers: 1 hour


Source: I actually went to ICBC Shanghai Branch, as well as a retail outlet of China Gold Coin Corp., a subsidiary of the official government Mint.  Silver is traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange ( at a price slightly higher than the US spot.  However, anybody who wants to buy physical silver pays a hefty (90%-100%) premium above spot, ostensibly because of the "artistic", "collection" or "memorial" value of these silver products.  China is the worlds third largest silver producer after Mexico and Peru, and the government has determined to reduce export by 60%


In the US, the 2010 1oz Silver Panda Version #1 sells for about $39.00, and a similar American Eagle sells for $33.00.  The bottom line is this.  Count it an absolute blessing that you can still buy silver at $30.00 an ounce.  And if you still think there is a silver or gold bubble (in China, gold is RMB 400/gram on street = $1,867/oz), think again and think harder.  1.5 billion Chinese folks would gladly pay $60 an ounce to buy all the silver on earth, on Moon and on Mars.

Sean7k's picture

People here fail to realize the great value of Eagles, Maple Leafs, Koalas, Libertads and Kookaburras. They are cheap at 33.00. 

eaglefalcon's picture

People here fail to realize the great value of Eagles, Maple Leafs, Koalas, Libertads and Kookaburras. They are cheap at 33.00. 


Silver is grossly undervalued.  In ancient Roman Empire, a manual laborer received a daily wage of 0.1 ounce of silver.  Judas betrayed Jesus for 33 pieces of silver, which (assuming each piece weighed 2-3 ounces) equals 2-3 years of salary.  He even bought a piece of real estate with it.


Assuming the minimum wage worker makes $64.00 a day.  0.1 oz of silver = $64.00, silver is worth $640.00 an ounce!


The United States is absolutely not in better financial shape than Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus (Octavius) 

StychoKiller's picture

Judas didn't buy the real estate, the Jewish authorities did:  "Field of Blood"

eaglefalcon's picture

Interesting.  The Bible tells two versions of the story: you are referring to Matthew chapter 27, in which Judas returned the silver to the Jewish authority out of remorse and then hanged himself.  Afterwards the Jewish authority bought the field.


I am referring to Acts chapter 1, which says Judas bought the field with the silver, and one day fell to the ground with his abdomen burst open and guts spilled all over.


In either case, 30 pieces of silver (100 oz?) could have bought some real estate back then.  I don't know if a farm, a house or an empty lot was bought.  According Matthew chapter 27, the Jewish authority appeared to have bought an empty lot ("potter's field", doesn't sound like arable land), which they converted into a cemetery.  In Acts chapter 1, Judas appeared to have purchased a farm ("a field").  Moreover, Judas appeared to live on that farm, according to the prophecy:

Act 1:20  For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his HABITATION be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. 

Sounds like a farm with a house on it.


IQ 145's picture

 You're goddam right; and you dollar worshipping retards better get with the program.

Black Friday's picture

I think many are missing the point about silver as a currency. Because of its rarity and usefullness, it will most likely be used up in industrial aplications in current and in developing countries. Its sad but there are so many uses for such a rare metal, to squander it for monetary purposes would be a crime.

You cannot really have a circulating currency that is in deflation because of industrial demand, the results would be catastrophic. Imagine if fed notes were also of limited supply but needed for heating homes or as insulation because there was no alternative. This is the case of silver, we NEED its industrial applications, and there is only so much of it.

That being said, its relative "value" should only increase with demand and new applications, so it's still a great investment.


eaglefalcon's picture

Why not let the free market be the judge?  You need silver for big-screen TV and cell phone production; and I want to hoard silver for investment.  Let's just bid on a fair market, whoever willing to pay more money gets more silver, that sounds like a fair game.  I don't see anything wrong about $2,000 i-phones.  Why do we have to upgrade the stupid gadgets every 6 months and destroy the earth at the same time.  If big screen TV costs $40,000 apiece, the world will become a much better place.  The brainwash junk on the idiot box poses a grave threat to a free People