Precious Metals

2011 year of bullion – silver, gold, beef, chicken,

“Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold” — remember that song? That’s Sam the Snowman from the 1964 classic animated special Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer voiced by the late, great Burl Ives. For fluffy holiday tunes, nobody, but nobody, could lay it out like Burl Ives!

Silver was on the rise back then, prompting the government to eliminate it from our circulating coinage. The following year, Ives came out with “Copper and Clad,” which failed to make the holiday pop charts.

Silver and gold pretty much dominated the headlines in 2011. Not only because of the market activity, but also because there were some strange happenings as well.

The first weird silver story was the release of the America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver “quarters,” which unfolded before us in all of their convoluted glory. I think only about a half dozen people in the United States actually know what happened. Beth Deisher tried explaining it to me. I responded with a blank stare and a systematic series of banging my head against a concrete block wall. Somehow, some people reportedly paid in excess of $200 an ounce for bullion silver! You may find your own wall and start banging.

People are bullion crazy. Silver, gold, beef, chicken, palladium — I guess they must be profiting from it. Don’t ask me how. I am the antithesis of a successful bullion investor. The only way I could make any money in the bullion market is if I would market myself as a bell-weather of what not to do. My great intellect and instincts never fail to buy high and sell low; it has become my mantra. So cling to me, investors, like a barnacle on the belly of a blue whale, and when I make my move, swiftly do the contrary, and you shall reap riches from my personal financial calamities.

2011 marks the 25th (silver) anniversary of American Eagle bullion coins. (Seems like a great opportunity for the U.S. Mint to reward its loyal patrons. How about 0 percent premiums across the board!)

Here’s the lineup of anniversary metals:

Seven years = Copper. I guess copper soothes the seven-year itch.

10 years = Tin. I can’t wait to give my wife a nice tin necklace with matching tin earrings.

25 years = Silver. A good time to replace the rusted tin jewelry.

50 years = Gold. By the time American Eagle gold bullion coins reach their golden anniversary, gold will be $40,000 an ounce.

70 years = Platinum. Why 70? Only Dr. Sheldon knows.

In April we read the story of a giant gold nugget found in California. In June we read that the same nugget came from Australia. Experts are fairly certain the 7-pound chunk of gold was mined here on planet Earth, but the precise coordinates of the excavation are still in question. Gold nuggets are rarely this humongous. Put into perspective, if this nugget was a chicken, it would yield 252 chicken nuggets or 63 Happy Meals. That is one meaty bird.

Conversely, researchers at the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee are studying gold for biomedical applications. The “nano-gold” particles hold promise for treating diseases such as cancer and diabetes. These infinitesimal gold particles measure 1/80,000 the diameter of a human hair. Ironically, one of these particles is the exact equivalent of my entire gold portfolio. Therefore, I intend to donate all of my gold holdings for the advancement of science.

As for the “numismatic trial of the century,” there is something I think attorneys on both sides have overlooked that may open the doors for a retrial or at least another appeal. Have you noticed that the new Mint deputy director has a cavernous, tricornered cleft chin? He could easily walk out of the Mint with a couple double eagles concealed in there without any chance of detection. Investigators need to search Mint employee records to see who may have had a similar cleft chin in 1933. Find that chin and you have found the proverbial smoking gun. Case closed!

Have a Holly Jolly everybody!

Jeff Reichenberger, of Wisconsin, collects U.S. coins, ancient coins, medals, paper money and numismatic literature. He enjoys history, research and writing. His “Low Relief” column is dedicated to low-stress discussions of insignificant numismatic subjects, written from the angle of a “regular guy.” Comments are welcomed at

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