A few days ago, in "Hands down, the cheapest place in the world to buy gold coins" we presented Simon Black's thoughts on an interesting physical gold arbitrage (buy cheap physical in Hong Kong, sell it where it is expensive) which created quite a stir. Today, the "Sovereign Man" provides some additional information, and answers some of the most frequent questions he received in response to his article, with a particular focus on the question of whether taking gold out of Hong Kong or bringing it into the US is considered smuggling. The answers may surprise you...
Google is the Black Hole of Accurate Information
From Simon Black of Sovereign Man
I had a rather interesting meeting last night with a notable Chilean attorney who is the chief legal counsel of one of the country’s largest telecom firms. We talked about the growth of the local economy and the lengths to which the government here is trying to attract foreign investors and entrepreneurs.
We’ve discussed before in our daily conversations what I see as a new trend: governments competing for residents. Some countries– Chile, Latvia, Singapore, Panama, Estonia, etc. understand that their economic future depends on attracting the brightest minds possible.
(note: we covered unique residency options in two of these countries in our most recent edition of Sovereign Man: Confidential)
Other countries go out of their way to repel or even prevent talented foreigners from settling, as if the fundamental freedom to work hard and prosper is somehow derived from irrelevant, invisible lines on a map.
I’ll have much more to say about this next week; for now, I want to move on to our weekly q&a.
Earlier this week, I wrote to you about banks in Hong Kong such as Hang Seng bank which sell Canadian Maple Leaf coins for just 0.5% above spot price, and Chinese Panda coins as 4.9% above spot price.
This article triggered a host of questions that I’d like to address today:
1. “I googled gold prices in Hong Kong and noticed different prices than what you mentioned in your article. Why the discrepancy?”
Google is the black hole of accurate information. The intelligence on the ground always trumps the ether of the Internet, and my partner Tim was actually standing at the bank in Hong Kong speaking to the cashiers.
It’s common to see significant inaccuracies online, especially considering the banks don’t sell their gold over the Internet or the phone… only to walk-in customers. So naturally the most accurate pricing will be at the branch.
2. “Once I buy gold coins in Hong Kong, is there any restriction to taking them out of the country?”
No, there are no restrictions for transporting gold out of Hong Kong as precious metals are not a controlled or prohibited item listed by Hong Kong Customs (rough, uncut diamonds are).
We have transported gold out of Hong Kong numerous times in our carry-on luggage without so much as a glance from security.
3. “Are there restrictions on bringing in gold coins when I return home?”
It depends on where you are flying to and what you purchase. If you are flying to North America, neither the Canadian nor US government considers gold to be a monetary instrument.
Maple Leaf and Eagle coins are technically deemed legal tender in each country, so you would have to raise your hand if the aggregate face value of the coins plus whatever other cash you have on hand exceeds $10,000.
Bear in mind, customs officials in North America have unlimited authority to do whatever they want, even if you are well within the law. As such, it may be advisable to have a receipt for the coin purchase in Hong Kong, as well as evidence for your source of funds (bank statement is sufficient).
If you’re ever in doubt about the regulation, ASK.
4. “Are there any countries that I should avoid for transporting bullion?”
Yes, absolutely. To name a few: Mexico. Thailand. Most of Africa. Russia. Uruguay.
I would also generally avoid Panama as well– the country’s customs regulations value gold based on its market value, not face value… and anyone who brings more than a trivial amount of gold into the country could end up paying an unnecessary import duty.