Gold a Ponzi scheme?

I thought gold was topping, but this story ran by the WSJ might be a good contrarian indicator and contradict my hypothesis. The writer shows a complete lack of knowledge of the real sense of money and the role of gold in that sense. At this moment, I think gold is overbought, but not extremely. I would expect a correction, but wouldn't be surprised if nothing happens. If a substantial correction occurs, I will consider going long again futures or ETFs.
(Full disclosure: I do not hold any position on the exchanges, but I'm hoarding coins and bars in a safe hidden somewhere far from home).
[...] even though I think gold might be about to take off, I don't recommend you rush out and put all your money into gold bars or exchange-traded funds that hold bullion.

And this is for one simple reason: At some levels, gold, as an investment, is absolutely ridiculous.

Warren Buffett put it well. "Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace," he said. "Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head."

And that's not the half of it.
Gold is volatile. It's hard to value. It generates no income.

Yes, it's a "hard asset," but so are lots of other things—like land, bags of rice, even bottled water.

It's a currency "substitute," but it's useless. In prison, at least, they use cigarettes: If all else fails, they can smoke them. Imagine a bunch of health nuts in a nonsmoking "facility" still trying to settle their debts with cigarettes. That's gold. It doesn't make sense.

As for being a "store of value," anyone who bought gold in the late 1970s and held on lost nearly all their purchasing power over the next 20 years.
So if supply has consistently exceeded user demand, how come the price of gold has still been rising?
In a word, hoarding.

Gold investors, or hoarders, have made up all the difference. They are the only reason total "demand" has exceeded supply.

Lots of people have been buying gold in the hope it would rise. But the only way it can rise is if still more people buy it, hoping it will rise still further. And so on.

What do we call an investment scheme where current members' returns depend entirely on new money brought in by new members?

A Ponzi scheme. Yes, as I wrote earlier, gold may well be the next big bubble. And that may mean there is big money to be made in speculation. But I don't trust it as an investment.


Dave Narby said...

I look at articles like that, and then I look at the *three new "Cash 4 Gold!"* offices that opened up in my neighborhood (and the constant littering of windshields and doorknobs with their adverts) and I start to wonder...

Nah, I don't wonder at all. It's pretty clear what they are up to.

PEJ said...

Haha, yes these cash 4 gold stores are quite interesting. Bear in mind that it doesn't mean they will be a profitable venture though.