Can you really buy gold at a $600/ounce discount?

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, February 12, 2009

Eric Roseman of the Sovereign Society has been blanketing the web with a teaser about a “different way to own gold” — one that he says might give you a discount of as much as $600 an ounce. Here’s what he says …

“Recently, I’ve been researching different ways to own gold – and two months ago — I came across a little-known form of the yellow metal.

“The shocking thing is, it has outperformed “normal” gold investments by a factor of 10… or more!

“During the great Depression – it soared 69% overnight. And according to the indicators I track, it has equal potential today. Bottom line, it belongs in EVERY investor’s portfolio (at least in my opinion).

“There’s just one problem – there’s very little to go around.

“Here’s what I mean: Last year when 1.2 million of these “little guys” were offered, they sold out in just 11 months… now… this year a similar offering has been made, except, and this is critical – that 1.2 million has plummeted to just 50,000. That’s all that are being made available in 2009 – creating huge demand.”

For someone like me, who’s not necessarily much of an expert on gold, this ain’t a waik in the park, but I’ll try to dig into it anyway. If you want the answer from Roseman, he’ll ask you to first subscribe to his Commodity Trend Alert service, which will run you about $1100 a year.

For free, there are a few things I can tell you … and I can at least make an educated guess about the rest:

First, though elsewhere in the piece he says that he wouldn’t recommend any US minted coins, the total sales of US-minted American Eagle gold coins were just about 1.2 million last year. I don’t think there are any specific US gold coins that are limited to 50,000 this year, but given his dislike for US minted coins that doesn’t seem too likely, anyway. I’m guessing that he’s comparing apples to oranges in this ad, which is not atypical for teasers — there were 1.2 million “similar” coins last year, this year there are 50,000. “Similar” is a nice word, it can mean pretty much whatever you want.

So … what are we dealing with here?

Eric Roseman, I expect, agrees with some of the other gold bugs in that he probably has some fear of US government gold confiscation — the specter here is of FDR, who confiscated bullion gold coins back in the early 1930s. At the time, gold coins that were “collectibles” were exempted, so many folks think that there is some extra safety in holding either collectible or commemorative gold coins that may be argued to have some value above and beyond their melt value.

So what coin has collectible or commemorative value, is minted in a limited run of 50,000, and trades without a huge premium?

Well, I was hesitant to answer this without digging in for a few other clues, so I skimmed through the video that they’re teasing us with for this one, and they added a few more details …

It’s from a G-7 country. It’s purer gold than the Eagle. It’s commemorative, specifically, which means that Roseman thinks it won’t be confiscated if the US again confiscates privately held gold (he does mention this as a specific concern in the video).

They of course still don’t reveal the “secret” in the video, but they do talk through the details enough to make me confident that the “$600 discount” is because some folks on eBay have been paying ridiculously high prices for American Eagle gold coins in recent months, up to $1500-1600, according to Roseman, and this coin trades for just 5% or so over spot gold prices, so closer to $1,000. That’s your “discount.”

So … let me be clear that the Thinkolator is not particularly precise when dealing with numismatics or gold, but it did help me put together a guess.

Here it is:

The 2009 Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, specifically the commemorative version that’s minted to celebrate the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

This is a pure gold coin, .999 pure (more pure than the American Eagle, which is alloyed for durability), and it is minted in a limited run of 50,000 coins (per year — this is a three year series, last year, this year, and 2010, when the Olympics actually are held in Vancouver).

It’s also currently available from many dealers, though it doesn’t look like it’s available direct from the mint anymore, and I’ve seen it priced at right around $1,000 recently, a bit above in most places. It seems on a quick glance like it’s now squeaking up to more like a 10% premium from some dealers, thanks in part to the runup in gold over the last few days. Prices I’ve seen run from $1,000 or so from a few websites to $1200 on eBay, so who knows how much it might really cost if you decide you’d like to own one.

There are all kinds of other commemorative coins sold by the Royal Canadian Mint, too, including some “gold colored” coins and some very limited edition gold designer coins that cost substantially more. There is also a 2008 coin already available in this series and it has a different design, so if you’re interested in these be careful that you know what you’re looking at.

And of course, I also have no idea whether or not this is really a great coin to buy — it’s a pure gold modern bullion coin but also a commemorative, so I guess it’s fair to call it collectible … but so far, folks aren’t paying all that much more for it than they are for American Eagles or for regular non-commemorative Maple Leafs. And if this is the match, then it’s not really much of a “$600 discount” anymore — American Eagle coins are trading at just about the same price these days or even less, it looks like most folks are charging a 5-10% premium over melt for Eagles even on eBay, where wacky price swings in gold coins are commonplace as sentiment changes.

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I also can’t guarantee that this is really the coin Eric Roseman is talking about — just my best guess. There may well be other commorative high purity gold coins minted in a run of 50,000 by a G-7 country this year, I’m just not aware of them.

I don’t personally own any of these, though I do have a few other gold and silver coins. And I know that there are many of you out there in Gumshoe Land who know more about this stuff than I do … please feel free to share that wisdom with a comment below.