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Gold As It Is Today
(November 8, 2008) Now in the sixth week of 2008's Great Gold Rush, gold bullion product remains scarce, demand for physical gold continues to be off the charts, while prices remain moribund. What’s a gold buyer to do?
Accelerated business continues to be the norm in US physical gold markets. The U.S. Mint turned out 90,000 1-ounce gold Eagles in October, and another 37,500 the first week of November. Yet it hasn’t been enough. We offered up some 1,000 1-ounce gold Eagles early this week, only to sell them all in six hours of trading. It was bad enough to have to turn away subsequent customer inquiries for gold Eagles for the rest of the week – it turned worse when we learned that next week’s gold Eagle release from the Mint will be even smaller. The US Mint will turn out 1-ounce and some tenth-ounce Eagles in the next few weeks, but quarter- and half-ounce size gold Eagles will not be newly available until they release 2009-dated product in January. Platinum Eagles are no longer available this year in the 1-ounce size. Silver Eagles are still being produced, but in such small numbers that the distributors are charging $4.75-$5.50 over spot - and getting it.

. As we reported here a few weeks ago, the production bottleneck for the US Mint is the supply of gold (and silver) blanks from which to strike their popular Eagle coins. The Mint announced last week that bid proposals are out seeking new planchet suppliers to help increase production even more. We hope it happens soon.

The Rand refinery in South Africa has put on extra shifts to strike additional quantities of the world-famous Krugerrand, now being exported to Europe and the US in numbers not seen this century. Yet still production is not enough to meet demand. Barring some miracle, we will be offering only 100 Krugerrands this week.

Up in Canada, the royal Canadian Mint has ceased production of the limited edition 5-9s gold Maple Leaf, suspended production of 100- gram and kilogram bars, and postponed the change-over to 2009-dated coins, in a so-far unsuccessful effort to meet today’s demand for the regular gold Maple Leaf coin, a demand I would estimate at somewhere between five and ten times what prevailed in the more ‘normal’ times of 2007.

We are happy to report that the Pamp Suisse company continues to come through with ample supplies of their bullion bar products. We introduced 100-gram .9999 pure gold bars right before Halloween, and have now sold most of a thousand bars to gold-starved customers. And for larger purchasers, increasingly the .9999 gold kilogram bar has become the gold unit of choice.

Supplies have been tighter for Pamp Suisse’s more time-and-labor-intensive die-struck 1-ounce and ten- ounce, factory sealed Fortuna bars. Nevertheless, it has been a wise business decision by Pamp to aggressively respond to today’s record demand by emphasizing quantity over fancy packaging while this gold rush is on.

Over the next few weeks, there is at least some hope that we will be able to broaden our offerings of gold bullion products, as traditionally the Thanksgiving to New Years season is normally a time of lessened bullion demand.

However, these times are far from normal. As Eric Sprott of Sprott Asset Management calls it, in his October commentary, “Cash or Gold?:”

“We are in the midst of a financial crisis – not just any financial crisis mind you, but arguably the worst and most pervasive the world has seen in almost a century (second only to the Great Depression… thus far). In the sea of financial assets and currencies that are being decimated the world over, the one true safe haven continues to be gold."


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