Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.China Crash, Greece Collapse, Harbingers of Stock Market Apocalypse Forecast 2015? - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold Price Awaiting Outcome of Greece Crisis - Clive_Maund
3.Gold Price Peculiar 6 Month Cycles - Rambus_Chartology
4.Gold Price Just a Little Bit More - Bob_Loukas
5.8 Unprecedented Extremes Indicate a Stock Market Bubble in Trouble - EWI
6.Gold And Silver – Without Either, You Will Be Greeced - Michael_Noonan
7.Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics - James_Quinn
8.China Crash, Greece Crisis Harbingers of Stocks Bear Market? Video - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Gold and Silver Record Shorting - Zeal_LLC
10.Markets Big Deflationary Downwave Quick Reference Guide... - Clive_Maund
Last 5 days
Ibuprofen Warning - The Pain Killer that can Kill You! - 29th July 15
More Ritholtz on Gold, and Another Response - 29th July 15
Crude Oil Price Is Lower – and You’re Richer - 29th July 15
U.S. Home Sales Market Is Dead – This Chart Proves It - 29th July 15
Greece- What Happens When Economists Talk Politics - 29th July 15
The Gold - U.S. House Prices Ratio As A Valuation Indicator - 29th July 15
Will Crude Oil Price Decline Continue? -Video - 28th July 15
Gold & Silver Money Has Devolved Into Debt and Plastic - 28th July 15
Buy and "Own Gold Krugerrands" Says Money Expert Jim Grant, Very Bullish on Gold - 28th July 15
How to Protect Yourself from China's Crashing Stock Market - 28th July 15
Quantum Geopolitics - 28th July 15
Gold Mining Stocks to Weather the Storm - 28th July 15
Stock Market Bulls Beware! - 28th July 15
Will Chinese Stock Market Crash Affect the US? - 27th July 15
Crude Oil Price Under $48! - 27th July 15
Are We Seeing a Trend Reversal with U.S. Interest Rates? - 27th July 15
How to Know When the Gold Bear Market is Over - 27th July 15
Gold Bear Market Phase III - 27th July 15
Silver Bull Hammer Buy Signal - 27th July 15
Gold Cracks Support and Plunges to New Lows - How Low Will Price Go? - 27th July 15
Commodity Markets Breakdown Of 2015 Is Now A Fact - 26th July 15
Gold Price at a Five-Year Low: Here’s What to Do - 26th July 15
Stock Market Primary III Inflection Point - 26th July 15
Central Banks and Our Dysfunctional Gold Markets - 25th July 15
Gold And Silver - The US Dollar Does Not Exist, Part II - 25th July 15
How Wall Street Put Apple Stock in Animal House - 25th July 15
How to Trade Markets Using the Stochastic Oscillator - Video - 24th July 15
A Bond Market Crisis Is Coming... Here's What to Do - 24th July 15
Why There's Resistance to the Iran Nuclear Deal - 24th July 15
Absurd Gold Stock Levels - 24th July 15
Gold Mining Stocks Nearing Rebound - 24th July 15
Misperceptions Create Significant Bond Market Value - 24th July 15
Commodities Distressed Investing - 24th July 15
OPEC Shorts Are Driving Down the Crude Oil Price - 24th July 15
USD Index Rebounds - 24th July 15
If You’re Worried About a Tech Bubble, You’re Focusing on the Wrong Thing - 24th July 15
Gold Stocks Bear Market Bottom Buying Opportunity? - Video
The Stealth War on the United States - 23rd July 15
Commodity Prices, Gold and Silver Stocks Next Leg Down - 23rd July 15
The ‘Real’ Reason the Fed Wants to Raise Interest Rates - 23rd July 15
Crude Oil Price Slump is a Once in a Decade Opportunity to Make Money, Guaranteed - 23rd July 15
Gold Price Hits a 5-Year Low: How to Time the Next MAJOR Bottom - 22nd July 15
Silver and the Deflation Thesis - 22nd July 15
Gold Price Crash - Trend Forecast 2015, Gold Stocks Buying Opportunity? - 22nd July 15
The Three Reasons Behind Iran’s Resistance to the Nuclear Deal - 22nd July 15
Winning the Hunger Games - How to Choose Successful Agriculture Investments - 22nd July 15
Are Free Markets The Solution? - 22nd July 15
Gold Hammered “Unprecedented Attack” - 21st July 15
The Turkish Enigma - 21st July 15
Gold and Silver: The Final Capitulation Commences - 21st July 15
Greater Israel Setback from Iranian Nuclear Agreement - 21st July 15
U.S. Housing Market: Is the Roof About to Cave In (Again)? - 21st July 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Stock Market Bubble in Trouble

Gold Confiscation Lessons from the 20th Century

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2012 Dec 08, 2012 - 07:09 AM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Commodities

Three nasty examples of how people lost the gold they owned...

TODAY'S chatter in the trading rooms says some gold owners fear a punitive US tax hike in New Year 2013, with the Obama government targeting precious-metal investors.

Hence this month's sell-off (or so the tittle-tattle says) – akin to the move by Japanese households to sell gold in late 2011 ahead of new reporting rules for precious-metals dealers.



In truth, such a US move looks very unlikely. Ahead of needing cross-party support to fix both the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling disaster, it would be clearly partisan. (Not all US gold investors are Republicans, but very few are Democrats in our experience.) And besides, gold already attracts the higher 28% rate of capital-gains tax in the US, since it is deemed a "collectible". Easier to raise CGT rates across the board, and whack anyone trying to grow their savings in fair measure. It would raise far more revenue, too.

Still, this chit-chat does highlight a key point about gold – the fact that, within living memory, it got special ill-treatment from government everywhere. Western households were blocked from owning gold bullion for 30 years and more after the end of WWII. Over the 20 years previous, their gold had been variously nationalized, compulsorily purchased and stolen.

Not just investment-grade bullion. And not just gold belonging to private citizens either.

1935: Mussolini nabs 35 tonnes of gold wedding rings
The United States "confiscation" of 1933 is well-known (in fact a compulsory purchase, made at the then-price of $28 per ounce before the price was raised to $35.) But with gold still central to the monetary system, many governments were looking to acquire more. With a smile, of course.

December 1935 saw popular Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appeal to the patriotism of Italy's wives, urging them to swap their gold wedding bands for steel rings instead. Yes, really. On Wednesday the 18th, La Stampa gave over its entire front page to this financing drive:

  • "The most noble rite of 'faith' joins all women in Italy in one heroic will" ('fede' meaning both 'wedding ring' and 'faith' – clever, eh?)
  • "The Queen lays down her wedding ring upon the Altar of the Homeland"
  • "The proud and moving offer of the women in Turin"

Italian women were so "encouraged" by this popular show of patriotism that, fifty years later, they were still ashamed at being forced to part with their wedding rings. Mussolini got 35 tonnes all told. He ended upside down, hung on a meat hook from the roof of a petrol station.

1939: Nazi Germany steals Czech gold in London
You didn't need to be a private individual, nor keep your gold at home, to lose precious metals in the 1930s. Little-recalled today, the Nazis' theft of Czechoslovakian gold reserves caused such fuss in the British press in mid-1939 that the public was fully prepared for war by the time Germany invaded Poland in September.

The Bank for International Settlement had been established in 1930 to try and manage the fast-collapsing international Gold Standard. Based in neutral Switzerland, it was supposed to be above politics, and although its senior staff were all senior central bankers in their home countries, they played by a "gentlemanly" code of mutual support and respect. Unelected both then and now, central bankers held themselves to be noble and independent from the dirty business of democracy or dictatorship.

So when, on 20 March 1939, just after the Nazis marched into Prague, a message was sent to the BIS apparently by the Czech National Bank, the BIS duly passed the message on. It asked the Bank of England (then, as now, the world's premier clearing point for physical gold) to move the metal held in BIS account No.2 to a new BIS account, No.17.

Never mind that the Czechs had already sent word that any instructions would come "under duress" and must be ignored. Never mind that the British parliament had put a freeze on all Czech assets, to defend them against Nazi theft. And never mind that the Bank of England knew BIS No.2 contained Czech gold, and that No.17 was held for the German Reichsbank. Because the Bank of England's governor, Montagu Norman, was also a director of the non-political BIS. And he'd do anything to protect the noble independence of central bankers, applying their "gentlemanly" rules and so appeasing the Nazis one last time, by feigning ignorance of whose gold sat in those two anonymous BIS accounts.

The transfer was done before anyone outside the central banks knew, and the gold was then sold in just 10 days. By the time the story broke in May, the £6 million in proceeds was long gone. (We can find no reference to the transfer, nor to the national scandal starting in May, in Norman's personal diary.)

1966: Britain starts prosecuting gold-coin investors
Two decades after the war ended, and 35 years after Britain quit the Gold Standard, its politicians were busy meddling with gold investment. Because the Pound was falling on the currency markets. So people were buying gold, sending money overseas to buy it and so hurting the UK's already terrible balance of trade. Thereby hurting the Pound yet again.

To try and stem the slide, the Labour government put a block on imports of gold coin, and banned private citizens from owning more than four gold coins. Anyone with a bigger collection had to tell the Bank of England, whose officers would then judge whether the owner was a true collector, or a speculator.

Speaking in the (very heated) parliamentary debate of 13 June, the Conservative MP for Worthing, Terence Higgins, asked why the Government was attacking gold. "People are holding gold because they have no faith in the Government's policy on the stabilization of the cost of living and on curtailing the rate of inflation...Will it take action against other specific assets which are a hedge against inflation?" (Indian households might ask the same today.)

But too bad – the "rule of four" went through (as it became known by retail dealers). By June 1967 some 4,847 people had submitted themselves to the Bank of England's scrutiny, and prosecutions had begun. Exchange controls on gold were finally lifted by the first Thatcher administration's first budget, in 1979.

The moral of these tales? Because gold is no longer central to the world's monetary system, so-called "confiscation" looks a very 20th century phenomenon today. But that may well change. Exchange controls such as Britain had in the 1970s (and which Italy didn't lose until 1999) are more likely. Because people, like governments, want to own gold when they fear inflation, financial strife or political crisis. Holding it at home could expose them to theft or coercion. If they hold it safely at arm's length overseas, even a secure democratic jurisdiction requires clear ownership if you are retain control.

Be sure to get it if you're thinking about buying gold any time soon.

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay   |   Buy gold online at live prices

Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2012

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.

Adrian Ash Archive

© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History