Thinking about gold investments
Many investors believe the financial system is a ponzi scheme.
At some level, I can’t disagree.
But how does one protect against total meltdown of the financial system?
The typical answer is “buy gold.”
I have no problem with the idea that owning gold might work as a doomsday insurance asset. There is a caveat: the gold can’t be owned via registered or “official” means.
Enter government decree.
Here is the text of the document (emphasis mine):
By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5 (b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled “An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes,” in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section do hereby prohibit the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations and hereby prescribe the following regulations for carrying out the purposes of this order:
Section 1. For the purposes of this regulation, the term “hoarding” means the withdrawal and withholding of gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates from the recognized and customary channels of trade. The term “person” means any individual, partnership, association or corporation.
Section 2. All persons are hereby required to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, to a Federal Reserve Bank or a branch or agency thereof or to any member bank of the Federal Reserve System all gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates now owned by them or coming into their ownership on or before April 28, 1933, except the following:
(a) Such amount of gold as may be required for legitimate and customary use in industry, profession or art within a reasonable time, including gold prior to refining and stocks of gold in reasonable amounts for the usual trade requirements of owners mining and refining such gold.
(b) Gold coin and gold certificates in an amount not exceeding in the aggregate $100 belonging to any one person; and gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins.
(c) Gold coin and bullion earmarked or held in trust for a recognized foreign Government or foreign central bank or the Bank for International Settlements.
(d) Gold coin and bullion licensed for other proper transactions (not involving hoarding) including gold coin and bullion imported for reexport or held pending action on applications for export licenses.
Section 3. Until otherwise ordered any person becoming the owner of any gold coin, gold bullion, or gold certificates after April 28, 1933, shall, within three days after receipt thereof, deliver the same in the manner prescribed in Section 2; unless such gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates are held for any of the purposes specified in paragraphs (a), (b), or (c) of Section 2; or unless such gold coin or gold bullion is held for purposes specified in paragraph (d) of Section 2 and the person holding it is, with respect to such gold coin or bullion, a licensee or applicant for license pending action thereon.
Section 4. Upon receipt of gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates delivered to it in accordance with Sections 2 or 3, the Federal Reserve Bank or member bank will pay therefor an equivalent amount of any other form of coin or currency coined or issued under the laws of the United States.
Section 5. Member banks shall deliver all gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates owned or received by them (other than as exempted under the provisions of Section 2) to the Federal Reserve Banks of their respective districts and receive credit or payment therefor.
Section 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, out of the sum made available to the President by Section 501 of the Act of March 9, 1933, will in all proper cases pay the reasonable costs of transportation of gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates delivered to a member bank or Federal Reserve Bank in accordance with Section 2, 3, or 5 hereof, including the cost of insurance, protection, and such other incidental costs as may be necessary, upon production of satisfactory evidence of such costs. Voucher forms for this purpose may be procured from Federal Reserve Banks.
Section 7. In cases where the delivery of gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates by the owners thereof within the time set forth above will involve extraordinary hardship or difficulty, the Secretary of the Treasury may, in his discretion, extend the time within which such delivery must be made. Applications for such extensions must be made in writing under oath, addressed to the Secretary of the Treasury and filed with a Federal Reserve Bank. Each application must state the date to which the extension is desired, the amount and location of the gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates in respect of which such application is made and the facts showing extension to be necessary to avoid extraordinary hardship or difficulty.
Section 8. The Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and empowered to issue such further regulations as he may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this order and to issue licenses thereunder, through such officers or agencies as he may designate, including licenses permitting the Federal Reserve Banks and member banks of the Federal Reserve System, in return for an equivalent amount of other coin, currency or credit, to deliver, earmark or hold in trust gold coin and bullion to or for persons showing the need for the same for any of the purposes specified in paragraphs (a), (c) and (d) of Section 2 of these regulations.
Section 9. Whoever willfully violates any provision of this Executive Order or of these regulations or of any rule, regulation or license issued thereunder may be fined not more than $10,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both; and any officer, director, or agent of any corporation who knowingly participates in any such violation may be punished by a like fine, imprisonment, or both.
This order and these regulations may be modified or revoked at any time.
So this executive order never actually held in the court of law, but the legislation that followed held muster!
Enter the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 (http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ355/choi/1934jan30.html):
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the short title of this Act shall be the “Gold Reserve Act of 1934″SEC. 2. (a) Upon the approval of this Act all right, title, and interest, and every claim of the Federal Reserve Board, of every Federal Reserve hank, and of every Federal Reserve agent, in and to any and all gold coin and gold bullion shall pass to and are hereby vested in the United States; and in payment therefor credits in equivalent amounts in dollars are hereby established in the Treasury in the accounts authorized under the sixteenth paragraph of section 16 of the Federal Reserve Act, as heretofore and by this Act amended (U.S.C., title 12, sec. 467). Balances in such accounts shall be payable in gold certificates, which shall be in such form and in such denominations as the Secretary of the Treasury may determine. All gold so transferred, not in the possession of the United States, shall be held in custody for the United States and delivered upon the order of the Secretary of the Treasury; and the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Reserve banks, and the Federal Reserve agents shall give such instructions and shall take such action as may be necessary to assure that such gold shall be so held and delivered.(b) Section 16 of the Federal Reserve Act, as amended, is further amended in the following respects:(1) The third sentence of the first paragraph is amended to read as follows: “They shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank.”
(2) So much of the third sentence of the second paragraph as precedes the proviso is amended to read as follows: “The collateral security thus offered shall be notes, drafts, bills of exchange, or acceptances acquired under the provisions of section 13 of this Act, or bills of exchange endorsed by a member bank of any Federal Reserve district and purchased under the provisions of section 14 of this Act, or bankers acceptances purchased under the provisions of said section 14, or gold certificates:”.
(3) The first sentence of the third paragraph is amended to read as follows: “Every Federal Reserve bank shall maintain reserves in gold certificates or lawful money of not less than 35 per centum against its deposits and reserves in gold certificates of not less than 40 per centum against its Federal Reserve notes in actual circulation: Provided, however, That when the Federal Reserve agent holds gold certificates as collateral for Federal Reserve notes issued to the bank such gold certificates shall be counted as part of the reserve which such bank is required to maintain against its Federal Reserve notes in actual circulation.”
(4) The fifth and sixth sentences of the third paragraph are amended to read as follows: “Notes presented for redemption at the Treasury of the United States shall be paid out of the redemption fund and returned to the Federal Reserve banks through which they were originally issued, and thereupon such Federal Reserve bank shall, upon demand of the Secretary of the Treasury, reimburse such redemption fund in lawful money or, if such Federal Reserve notes have been redeemed by the Treasurer in gold certificates, then such funds shall be reimbursed to the extent deemed necessary by the Secretary of the Treasury in gold certificates, and such Federal Reserve bank shall, so long as any of its Federal Reserve notes remain outstanding, maintain with, the Treasurer in gold certificates an amount sufficient in the judgment of the Secretary to provide for all redemptions to be made by the Treasurer. Federal Reserve notes received by the Treasurer otherwise than for redemption may be exchanged for gold certificates out of the redemption fund hereinafter provided and returned to the Reserve bank through which they were originally issued, or they may be returned to such bank for the credit of the United States.”
(5) The fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs are amended to read as follows:
“The Federal Reserve Board shall require each Federal Reserve bank to maintain on deposit in the Treasury of the United States a sum in gold certificates sufficient in the judgment of the Secretary of the Treasury for the redemption of the Federal Reserve notes issued to such bank, but in no event less than 5 per centum of the total amount of notes issued less the amount of gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve agent as collateral security; but such deposit of gold certificates shall be counted and included as part of the 40 per centum reserve hereinbefore required. The Board shall have the right, acting through the Federal Reserve agent, to grant in whole or in part, or to reject entirely the application of any Federal Reserve bank for Federal Reserve notes; but to the extent that such application may be granted the Federal Reserve Board shall, through its local Federal Reserve agent, supply Federal Reserve notes to the banks so applying, and such bank shall be charged with the amount of the notes issued to it and shall pay such rate of interest as may be established by the Federal Reserve Board on only that amount of such notes which equals the total amount of its outstanding Federal Reserve notes less the amount of gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve agent as collateral security. Federal Reserve notes issued to any such bank shall, upon delivery, together with such notes of such Federal Reserve bank as may be issued under section 18 of this Act upon security of United States 2 per centum Government bonds, become a first and paramount lien on all the assets of such bank.
“Any Federal Reserve bank may at any time reduce its liability for outstanding Federal Reserve notes by depositing with the Federal Reserve agent its Federal Reserve notes, gold certificates, or lawful money of the United States. Federal Reserve notes so deposited shall not be reissued, except upon compliance with the conditions of an original issue.
“The Federal Reserve agent shall hold such gold certificates or lawful money available exclusively for exchange for the outstanding Federal Reserve notes when offered by the Reserve bank of which he is a director. Upon the request of the Secretary of the Treasury the Federal Reserve Board shall require the Federal Reserve agent to transmit to the Treasurer of the United States so much of the gold certificates held by him as collateral security for Federal Reserve notes as may be required for the exclusive purpose of the redemption of such Federal Reserve notes, but such gold certificates when deposited with the Treasurer shall be counted and considered as if collateral security on deposit with the Federal Reserve agent.”
(6) The eighth paragraph is amended to read as follows:
“All Federal Reserve notes and all gold certificates and lawful money issued to or deposited with any Federal Reserve agent under the provisions of the Federal Reserve Act shall hereafter be held for such agent, under such rules and regulations as the Federal Reserve Board may prescribe, in the joint custody of himself and the Federal Reserve bank to which he is accredited. Such agent and such Federal Reserve bank shall be jointly liable for the safekeeping of such Federal Reserve notes, gold certificates, and lawful money. Nothing herein contained, however, shall be construed to prohibit a Federal Reserve agent from depositing gold certificates with the Federal Reserve Board, to be held by such Board subject to his order, or with the Treasurer of the United States for the purposes authorized by law.” (7) The sixteenth paragraph is amended to read as follows:
“The Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and directed to receive deposits of gold or of gold certificates with the Treasurer or any Assistant Treasurer of the United States when tendered by any Federal Reserve bank or Federal Reserve agent for credit to its or his account with the Federal Reserve Board. The Secretary shall prescribe by regulation the form of receipt to be issued by the Treasurer or Assistant Treasurer to the Federal Reserve bank or Federal Reserve agent making the deposit, and a duplicate of such receipt shall be delivered to the Federal Reserve Board by the Treasurer at Washington upon proper advices from any Assistant Treasurer that such deposit has been made. Deposits so made shall be held subject to the orders of the Federal Reserve Board and shall be payable in gold certificates on the order of the Federal Reserve Board to any Federal Reserve bank or Federal Reserve agent at the Treasury or at the Subtreasury of the United States nearest the place of business of such Federal Reserve bank or such Federal Reserve agent. The order used by the Federal Reserve Board in making such payments shall be signed by the governor or vice governor, or such other officers or members as the Board may by regulation prescribe. The form of such order shall be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury,”
(8) The eighteenth paragraph is amended to read as follows:
“Deposits made under this section standing to the credit of any Federal Reserve bank with the Federal Reserve Board shall, at the option of said bank, be counted as part of the lawful reserve which it is required to maintain against outstanding Federal Reserve notes, or as a part of the reserve it is required to maintain against deposits.”
SEC. 3. The Secretary of the Treasury shall, by regulations issued hereunder, with the approval of the President, prescribe the conditions under which gold may be acquired and held, transported, melted or treated, imported, exported, or earmarked: (a) for industrial, professional, and artistic use; (b) by the Federal Reserve banks for the purpose of settling international balances; and, (c) for such, other purposes as in his judgment are not inconsistent with the purposes of this Act. Gold in any form may be acquired, transported, melted or treated, imported, exported, or earmarked or held in custody for foreign or domestic account (except on behalf of the United States) only to the extent permitted by, and subject to the conditions prescribed in, or pursuant to, such regulations. Such regulations may exempt from the provisions of this section, in whole or in part, gold situated in the Philippine Islands or other places beyond the limits of the continental United States.
SEC. 4. Any gold withheld, acquired, transported, melted or treated, imported, exported, or earmarked or held in custody, in violation of this Act or of any regulations issued hereunder, or licenses issued pursuant thereto, shall be forfeited to the United States, and may be seized and condemned by like proceedings as those provided by law for the forfeiture, seizure, and condemnation of property imported into the United States contrary to law; and in addition any person failing to comply with the provisions of this Act or of any such regulations or licenses, shall be subject to a penalty equal to twice the value of the gold in respect of which such failure occurred.
SEC. 5. No gold shall hereafter be coined, and no gold coin shall hereafter be paid out or delivered by the United States: Provided however, That coinage may continue to be executed by the mints of the United States for foreign countries in accordance with the Act of January 29, 1874 (U.S.C., title 31, sec. 367). All gold coin of the United States shall be withdrawn from circulation, and, together with all other gold owned by the United States, shall be formed into bars of such weights and degrees of fineness as the Secretary of the Treasury may direct.
SEC. 6. Except to the extent permitted in regulations which may be issued hereunder by the Secretary of the Treasury with the approval of the President, no currency of the United States shall be redeemed in gold: Provided, however, That gold certificates owned by the Federal Reserve banks shall be redeemed at such times and in such amounts as, in the judgment of the Secretary of the Treasury, are necessary to maintain the equal purchasing power of every kind of currency of the United States: And provided further, That the reserve for United States notes and for Treasury notes of 1890, and the security for gold certificates (including the gold certificates held in the Treasury for credits payable therein) shall be maintained in gold bullion equal to the dollar amounts required by law, and the reserve for Federal Reserve notes shall be maintained in gold certificates, or in credits payable in gold certificates maintained with the Treasurer of the United States under section 16 of the Federal Reserve Act, as heretofore and by this Act amended.
No redemptions in gold shall be made except in gold bullion bearing the stamp of a United States mint or assay office in an amount equivalent at the time of redemption to the currency surrendered for such purpose.
SEC. 7. In the event that the weight of the gold dollar shall at any time be reduced, the resulting increase in value of the gold held by the United States (including the gold held as security for gold certificates and as a reserve for any United States notes and for Treasury notes of 1890) shall be covered into the Treasury as a miscellaneous receipt; and, in the event that the weight of the gold dollar shall at any time be increased, the resulting decrease in value of the gold held as a reserve for any United States notes and for Treasury notes of 1890, and as security for gold certificates shall be compensated by transfers of gold bullion from the general fund, and there is hereby appropriated an amount sufficient to provide for such transfers and to cover the decrease in value of the gold in the general fund.
SEC. 8. Section 3700 of the Revised Statutes (U.S.C., title 31, sec. 734) is amended to read as follows:
“SEC. 3700. With the approval of the President, the Secretary of the Treasury may purchase gold in any amounts, at home or abroad, with any direct obligations, coin, or currency of the United States, authorized by law, or with any funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, at such rates and upon such terms and conditions as he may deem most advantageous to the public interest; any provision of law relating to the maintenance of parity, or limiting the purposes for which any of such obligations, coin, or currency, may be issued, or requiring any such obligations to be offered as a popular loan or on a competitive basis, or to be offered or issued at not less than par, to the contrary notwithstanding. All gold so purchased shall be included as an asset of the general fund of the Treasury.”
SEC. 9. Section 3699 of the Revised Statutes (U.S.C., title 31, sec. 733) is amended to read as follows:
“SEC. 3699. The Secretary of the Treasury may anticipate the payment of interest on the public debt, by a period not exceeding one year, from time to time, either with or without a rebate of interest upon the coupons, as to him may seem expedient; and he may sell gold in any amounts, at home or abroad, in such manner and at such rates and upon such terms and conditions as he may deem most advantageous to the public interest, and the proceeds of any gold so sold shall be covered into the general fund of the Treasury: Provided, however, That the Secretary of the Treasury may sell the gold which is required to be maintained as a reserve or as security for currency issued by the United States, only to the extent necessary to maintain such currency at a parity with the gold dollar.”
SEC. 10. (a) For the purpose of stabilizing the exchange value of the dollar, the Secretary of the Treasury, with the approval of the President, directly or through such agencies as he may designate, is authorized, for the account of the fund established in this section, to deal in gold and foreign exchange and such other instruments of credit and securities as he may deem necessary to carry out the purpose of this section. An annual audit of such fund shall be made and a report thereof submitted to the President.
(b) To enable the Secretary of the Treasury to carry out the provisions of this section there is hereby appropriated, out of the receipts which are directed to be covered into the Treasury under section 7 hereof, the sum of $2,000,000,000, which sum when available shall be deposited with the Treasurer of the United States in a stabilization fund (hereinafter called the “fund”) under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Treasury, with the approval of the President, whose decisions shall be final and not be subject to review by any other officer of the United States. The fund shall be available for expenditure, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury and in his discretion, for any purpose in connection with carrying out the provisions of this section, including the investment and reinvestment in direct obligations or the United States of any portions of the fund which the Secretary of the Treasury, with the approval of the President, may from time to time determine are not currently required for stabilizing the exchange value of the dollar. The proceeds of all sales and investments and all earnings and interest accruing under the operations of this section shall be paid into the fund and shall be available for the purposes of the fund.
(c) All the powers conferred by this section shall expire two years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President shall sooner declare the existing emergency ended and the operation of the stabilization fund terminated; but the President may extend such period for not more than one additional year after such date by proclamation recognizing the continuance of such emergency.
SEC. 11. The Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to issue, with the approval of the President, such rules and regulations as the Secretary may deem necessary or proper to carry out the purposes of this Act.
SEC. 12. Paragraph (b) (2), of section 43, title III, of the Act approved May 12, 1933 (Public, Numbered 10, Seventy-third Congress), is amended by adding two new sentences at the end thereof, reading as follows:
“Nor shall the weight of the gold dollar be fixed in any event at more than 60 per centum of its present weight. The powers of the President specified in this paragraph shall be deemed to be separate, distinct, and continuing powers, and may be exercised by him, from time to time, severally or together, whenever and as the expressed objects of this section in his judgment may require; except that such powers shall expire two years after the date of enactment of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 unless the President shall sooner declare the existing emergency ended, but the President may extend such period for not more than one additional year after such date by proclamation recognizing the continuance of such emergency.”
(c) The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to issue gold certificates in such form and in such denominations as he may determine, against any gold held by the Treasurer of the United States, except the gold fund held as a reserve for any United States notes and Treasury notes of 1890. The amount of gold certificates issued and outstanding shall at no time exceed the value, at the legal standard, of the gold so held against gold certificates.
SEC. 15. As used in this Act the term “United States” means the Government of the United States; the term “the continental United States “means the States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Alaska; the term “currency of the United States “means currency which is legal tender in the United States, and includes United States notes, Treasury notes of 1890, gold certificates, silver certificates, Federal Reserve notes, and circulating notes of Federal Reserve banks and national banking associations; and the term “person” means any individual, partnership, association, or corporation, including the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Reserve banks, and Federal Reserve agents. Wherever reference is made in this Act to equivalents as between dollars or currency of the United States and gold, one dollar or one dollar face amount of any currency of the United States equals such a number of grains of gold, nine tenths fine, as, at the time referred to, are contained in the standard unit of value, that is, so long as the President shall not have altered by proclamation the weight of the gold dollar under the authority of section 43, title III, of the Act approved May 12, 1933, as heretofore and by this Act amended, twenty-five and eight tenths grains of gold, nine tenths fine, and thereafter such a number of grains of gold, nine tenths fine, as the President shall have fixed under such authority.
* * *
Source: Statutes at Large of the United States of America from March 1933 to June 1934, Vol. 48, Part 1, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1934), pp. 337-344.
I’m not a professional historian, but there is certainly precedent for the government taking over gold at the exact time when gold should have the greatest payoff.
If you are going to own gold for doomsday purposes, you might want to think a little bit more like a free citizen under social contract to abide by the US constitution, and a little bit less like Mayor Bloomberg.
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