Trump advancing (not retreating) to a forward command post. He says we won’t be seeing him for a while. Whirlpool. And so on, covered thoroughly by you all on Friday.
I dunno, I’ve been disappointed so many times in the past…but this might really be IT.
You all have been analyzing and speculating on this quite a bit, so I’ll just add an editorial statement:
Bring it on!!! We’re not tired of winning. Far from it:
We haven’t even begun to win!
And so we could well, this very weekend and upcoming week, begin to see THIS last big item finally be addressed.
Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American People...Our campaign represents a true existential threat, like they’ve never seen before.Then-Candidate Donald J. Trump
Lawyer Appeasement Section
OK now for the fine print.
This is the WQTH Daily Thread. You know the drill. There’s no Poltical correctness, but civility is a requirement. There are Important Guidelines, here, with an addendum on 20191110.
We have a new board – called The U Tree – where people can take each other to the woodshed without fear of censorship or moderation.
And remember Wheatie’s Rules:
1. No food fights
2. No running with scissors.
3. If you bring snacks, bring enough for everyone.
4. The gun is always loaded.
4a. If you actually want the gun to be loaded, like because you’re checking out a bump in the night, then it’s empty.
5. Never point the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
6. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
7. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.
(Hmm a few extras seem to have crept in.)
Now it wouldn’t be one of my posts without a coin, would it?
But first I’m going to address the current situation with precious metals–the best basis ever found for real money. Well, maybe I will, somewhere in the ramble you’re about to read or skip.
I am involved in coin collecting, and there is a branch of the hobby that concerns itself with “primitive” money, except that’s not PC, so it’s now called other things, including “traditional” money. I’m talking about things people used for money before coins were invented (or before they had become aware of coins), such as cowrie shells, beads, obsidian, wampum, elephant tails (really!), Yapstones, and on and on.
Before there was money there was barter. I could trade you two chickens that I had raised for an arrowhead that you had made. The problem was getting both you and me to agree that an arrowhead was worth two chickens. Actually, it had to be worth less than two chickens to you (or you’d not want to give up your arrowhead for two chickens) and more than two chickens to me (or I’d not want to give up my chickens for an arrowhead).
What if we both think it’s more appropriate to trade one and a half chickens for an arrowhead? So basically a chicken is worth about 2/3rds of an arrowhead?
Then we’re stuck, because two thirds of a physical arrowhead isn’t worth a damn thing to anyone, neither is half a chicken to you if you want to use it for laying eggs, and even if you want to eat it, you’re going to have to eat that half a chicken tonight, and I’ll have to eat my half tonight too, rather than feeding it until next week.
If there were something we could use to represent half a chicken, I could pay you a chicken and that item, and we’d be square. You could come back to me later–next week, a month from now, and cash in two of those tokens for half a chicken each, and get a whole chicken.
That’s the function money serves. And, honestly, anything that serves that function is money. Gold and silver in pre-sized lumps can do it. Gold and silver not in convenient standard lumps can do it too. A “talent” of gold, or silver, in the Bible is not a coin–coins hadn’t been invented yet by the time of the Old Testament–but a talent was roughly seventy pounds, so the Bible was talking about a very substantial weight of gold or silver. But so can cowrie shells and wampum under the right circumstances. Our colonial forebears even resorted to using tobacco leaves since Mama England didn’t want us to have coins. And of course that elaborately printed paper in our wallets, backed by nothing other than the willingness of the government to accept it as a tax payment, is also money.
Here’s a definition of money, from one of those books on
primitive traditional money (improving on a definition put forth by none other than Alan Greenspan): Anything used to make a payment that the recipient trusts can be reused to make another payment.
Using this, you may think you paid an arrowhead for two chickens, but if I am thinking I can’t buy something with this arrowhead, but I accepted it because I think I will find it useful, then the arrowhead is not money.
But then the Scythians, in the seventh to fifth century BCE, seem to have actually used arrowheads for money. Other cultures used ax heads, both stone and metal.
Metal works well as money, because it can be broken up into smaller and smaller pieces, which can be readily valuated (by weighing them). It will last a long time in storage, and it can’t just be produced without limit, especially if it’s gold, silver, or copper (or in ancient times…tin–very scarce, available in only a few places far from civilization, and absolutely essential to make bronze). And metals have uses in their own right, so they are valuable on their own. So it tends to hold its value.
The kingdom of Lydia took the next step at about the time Scythians were making arrowheads, making standardized metal lumps and stamping them; people could be assured that those lumps had a specific amount of gold and silver in them because they had the king’s emblem on them, and were interchangeable. That was the birth of coinage and modern money that came in denominations.
And those first coins were made of a mixture of gold and silver (electrum), though later on there were gold issues, and silver issues.
The Lydian coins are available today, but it was Athens in the 400s BCE that really took this and ran with it, producing drachm coinage, most famously the four drachma piece, the tetradrachm. (Collectors of ancient money in the US pronounce drachm “dram” but it’s likely more like drakh-m, where the kh is like the ch in Bach. But we’re lazy and don’t pronounce the ch.)
Athens became incredibly rich as a result of owning a silver mine in Attica, and also collecting tribute from the Athenian League. This started out as a defensive alliance against the Persians–member city-states could contribute either ships (with crews) or money for their upkeep. But it turned into an empire when those ships were turned against city states that decided to quit paying.
Centuries passed, empires rose and fell, and during the Renaissance, bankers started accumulating vast amounts of coinage in silver (heavy) and gold (very heavy, more so than lead). They’d have to make payments to each other, and have to ship heavy, valuable crates of coins at great expense and risk, but…if they trusted each other, they could do things on paper. The paper came to represent the coins, in particular the metal in the coins, and this eventually developed into paper money. Which, if honest, can be good stuff…silver certificates being one example of an honest paper money.
The Chinese actually had paper money first…on arrival in China, you had to deposit your silver, you got a paper certificate that stood for the silver, and could be spent as though it were silver. You could get your silver back, when you left China. The system worked well, as long as you could trust the government not to just print up certificates in excess of the silver. And that is a hazard with bank notes (actually issued by banks) too, where they are supposed to be backed by something valuable (assets of the bank, be they coinage or loans), but might not be.
The United States, in the days of the gold standard, had paper money and actual coins (known as “specie”); before 1862 the paper money was issued and backed (or not!) by banks, after 1862, it was a combination of banks (heavily supervised and regulated) and the US government. As for the money–a gold coin was unadulterated money. Because a certain weight of gold was by definition a dollar. At the mint, even before the design had been stamped on, say, a $5 gold piece, it wasn’t just worth five dollars, it was five dollars. Great care was taken to ensure the proper weight of each individual piece. A room full of workers (women, because they were believed to have better attention to detail) would handle each blank coin, weigh it, and spin the edge against a file if it was overweight, or reject it if it were underweight–back to the melting pot. They got to be so good they could tell if the piece were over or underweight before they weighed it. Some tolerance was allowed–a little extra or a little under was OK, the government would treat it as being exact. Bags of coins were adjusted with the slightly under or overweight finished coins so the bag would average out precisely (and too much correction needed would condemn the whole bag). The precision of the scales that had to weigh heavy bags of coins was remarkable, the weight of a single scrap of paper could throw them off. (Very precise mechanical engineering and craftsmanship like this is becoming a lost art.)
The silver in, say, a dime, wasn’t worth as much as ten cents; it didn’t become ten cents until it was stamped. (After 1853, that is.)
Which finally, and most circuitously, brings me to the price of gold.
Between 1834 and 1933 the gold coinage was such that a troy ounce of gold either equaled (before we went on a full gold standard) or was $20.67. And a couple of days ago, when I looked at the price of gold, it was $2067.10 per ounce…a hundred times higher.
I’ve heard in the past, statements that gold holds its value, with the implication that gold is of constant value.
Bullshit. At least with regard to the constant part.
It’s just as subject to supply and demand as eggs, beef, cars, and beanie babies. In 1979-1980, gold skyrocketed from the low $300s to $850 in a few weeks, and most of that happening in the last few days (it went up sixty bucks in one day), and then it dropped again, just about as quickly as it had gone up.
Are you going to tell me that what was happening was that the dollar was plummeting (which I could and did believe)…but then it turned around and zoomed back upwards? Come on, this was the Carter administration; the dollar was in no way capable of skyrocketing under his (mis)management!
So no, gold is not of constant value, but it will always have great value, and the long-term average is fairly–though not perfectly–stable. A $20 gold piece would buy you a nice suit in the 1920s. Today, it still will, though today you’d certainly get change.
And even in the days of the gold standard, of specie being regarded as “real” money, gold could rise and fall, and so could silver, and they could rise and fall relative to each other. In the 1700s silver slipped from being 1/14th as valuable as gold, to 1/15; it slipped some more during the early 1800s and messed up our money supply; we had to remove some gold from the gold coinage in 1834 to compensate. Then gold was found in California, and it dropped relative to silver, silver started disappearing from commerce…until in 1853 we lessened the weight of silver coins (and from that point forward, silver coinage became worth less than face value, and was strictly controlled in quantity, since it was freely exchangeable for gold, which was worth its face value). Not a month ago, there was a day when it took 100 ounces of silver to equal an ounce of gold; and I remember that happening a couple of times in the late 90s too. Silver lately has gone up faster than gold, so it’s worth well over 1/100th as much as gold today. In fact, right now: Gold 2,017.70 and silver 27.58, ratio 73.158+ to 1. (Imagine if we had a bimetallic standard this last month, what chaos there would be as people dumped their gold dollars for silver dollars, or vice versa; you’d be going into shops and be offered a discount for paying in gold instead of silver, or vice versa, depending.)
In any case, sometimes people trying to buy some gold buy it in the form of old $20 gold pieces. These contain almost an ounce of gold. Some of them are common enough (especially in slightly circulated condition) that their price is basically today’s price of gold plus a small constant. Nevertheless, there are people who collect them, and they’re seeing the prices go up and up, not because they’re becoming rare, but because gold is becoming pricier.
Of course some gold coins are genuine rarities (or in top condition) and will sell for quite a bit more than the gold that’s in them–those prices aren’t affected much by the price of gold.
If memory serves, I’ve shown you both of the major designs of $20 gold pieces in the past. But why not a repeat? (You got your coin of the week twice over with the stater and the tetradrachm.)
OK…well, I’m not done yet. You’ll get a third coin today, in honor of Shitstorm Saturday.
What about platinum?
You can buy, today, platinum “eagles” in ounce, half ounce, quarter ounce, and tenth ounce sizes, just as you can with gold. This is what we call non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) because even though there’s a face value and the coin is legal tender, you’d have to be an idiot to spend an ounce of gold or platinum at the face value given on the coins ($50 and $100, respectively). There’s generally very little collector value in such coins; their value is tied to their content, much like in the good old days.
In the past, gold and silver were used as money, straight across, at face value, close to intrinsic or “melt” value. Was platinum ever used as money?
The answer, just barely, is “Yes.”
Platinum wasn’t even known to Europeans until close to 1700, when it was found during gold panning on the Rio del Pinto in South America. Gold panning exploits the density of gold to separate it from the other bits of sand in stream beds. Platinum, being slightly denser than gold, even, would also pan out, and since no one really understood what it was, and no one considered it valuable, the platinum particles had to be painstakingly separated from the gold. It was a nuisance! It was called “Pinto silver” for a while, and even today the name “platinum,” or especially the slightly older “platina” is cognate with “plata”–silver in Spanish.
(No one went screaming “Platinum! I’m rich!!!” It was more like “What the hell is this caca blanca doing in my oro?”)
Eventually some industrial uses–like sulfuric acid boiler tanks–were found for the stuff, even though we couldn’t build a furnace to melt it, and it became more valuable than silver, and less so than gold. [Any other metal besides gold would dissolve in the acid, gold was way too expensive and soft, and glass tended to shatter under pressure, which when dealing with sulfuric acid was really, really bad–shards of glass flying everywhere, with boiling sulfuric acid spraying with it to boot.]
Another deposit was discovered in the Ural mountains in Russia. Peasants had been finding the nuggets for years and using them for shot (!!!), blasting what today would be hundreds of dollars’ worth of platinum into waterfowl for dinner. Miners moved in, and started producing the metal, as well as the other allied platinum-group metals (rhodium, palladium, osmium, and iridium–ruthenium had not been discovered yet).
Russia’s monetary system was a bit of a mess. There were paper rubles, backed by the full faith and credit of the Tsar’s government…but they traded at four paper rubles to the silver ruble. In 1826, Nicholas I, newly on the throne, decided to do something about this. Part of this was to temporarily produce high denomination silver, but a silver five ruble piece would be unwieldy. But the Demidov family, a powerful family, owned the platinum mines, platinum was worth a bit more than silver so…the three ruble platinum coin was born. It was the size of a quarter ruble piece…but weighed twice as much. It was made out of platinum sponge (we still couldn’t melt the stuff)–in itself the coin is a technical acheivement. They tended to look kind of ugly because of it being sponge platinum…but some DID circulate.
The coins were guaranteed convertible into silver at face value, so they could take the place of paper money in “small” denominations (a ruble was a lot of money back then).
The same search I used to find this also showed images of ones that are worn and have undoubtedly been used in commerce. So yes, these DID circulate, a bit.
That coin appeared in 1828. It saw just enough use to encourage the Russian government to come out with a six ruble piece in 1829 and a 12 ruble piece in 1830, but those never got any traction. Russia would send them out to settle trade accounts and eventually get them right back again, so they just piled up in the treasury. (I guess you could say that outside of Russia, they were not money.)
The whole series was discontinued in 1845. Paper money was now on par with silver, so there was no need for these coins–and besides, they contained somewhat less than their face value in platinum, so they were targets for counterfeiters. The coins in the treasury were then sold for scrap, in fact the entire world demand for platinum was satisfied for years by these scrapped coins. Today, the 6 and 12 ruble pieces are all rarities, some excruciatingly so. Three ruble coins are expensive, but at least they’re much less than half as expensive as the six ruble pieces.
Platinum itself was eventually found to have many, many better uses than sulfuric acid boilers, and industrial demand made it more valuable, ounce per ounce, than gold by the early 20th century–at which point, then people wanted it for jewelry. Even today, it’s rarer. All the platinum ever mined would fit in a 26 foot cube–my house could handle it–while all the gold ever mined would need a 60 foot cube. But as of today, it’s less valuable. Supply and demand.
[End note: As much as counterfeiters are loathed, they did function back then to keep governments honest about the money they issued. Issue an undervalued coin, and it will be counterfeited. If it’s actually worth what it says its worth in precious metal, the counterfeiters have no reason to bother–unless they can fake the metal itself, which they did try to do…sometimes with the use of platinum, but that’s a very interesting story for another day.]
Disclaimer: Neither these, nor any other coins I post, are mine. With older coins, I’m going to find the best pic of one on the internet, so even if I should happen to have one, it’s not the nicest one on earth and I’ll show another…and some coins are worth more than my net worth so I certainly won’t have those!
To conclude: My standard Public Service Announcement. We don’t want to forget this!!!
Remember Hong Kong!!!
Zhōngguò shì gè hùndàn !!!
China is asshoe !!!