We see absurd hyperbole every day here at Stock Gumshoe, with promises of stocks that double or massive “free income” from various “top secret” trading strategies or… well, you know the drill, you get most of those same emails.
So after swimming in this sea of hype for almost a decade, I sometimes forget just how crazy it can be… but this “promise” is almost unbelievably misleading.
Here’s how Byron King teases the ridiculous potential of “JFK’s Super Currency” in his effort to sell subscriptions to Outstanding Investments (which has trailed the market, on average, for five years but beaten it over ten years, largely thanks to a focus on hard assets and commodities):
“At the very least, over the next 12 months I expect this ‘Secret Currency’ to multiply your money 10-times over.
“But this new Kennedy Revolution is absolutely unprecedented. And it’s starting to gather steam right now.
“People are not waiting for the Fed to demolish the dollar with its trillion-dollar money printing. They’re seeking to destroy the Fed instead and take their hard-earned money back.
“My point is, JFK’s Secret Currency could skyrocket 2,000%, 3,000%, or more.
“Of course as with any investment nothing is 100% safe, nothing is 100% guaranteed, but when it comes to an investment like this its upside potential has virtually no limits.”
Multiply your money ten times over “at the very least?” He may expect that, if he’s not in complete control of his faculties, but saying that as a financial pundit to a few million of your closest friends strikes me as frighteningly irresponsible.
All that is from the last version of this ad that ran in the Summer of 2014, they’ve done a little tinkering with it since then, changing “JFK’s Secret Currency” to “JFK’s Super Currency” and editing a few other parts, but the general idea is the same as it was last Summer. Most of what follows is from the original ad and our original answers, we’ll toss in some new tidbits where they’ve changed (if they have), and will append the original comments and discussion from the first time around so you can see that history.
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You should never, ever, ever, ever “expect” anything to go up 1,000% in a year, if for no other reason than because that expectation would mean you’re left with little room to think rationally about risk or a reasonable portfolio diversification. It might happen once in a blue moon, with luck and speculation and a little bit of skill, but man, the idea that you can predict it and be correct even a small percentage of the time is goofy.
John Paulson, in one of the biggest and most successful bets in modern history, posted gains of 300-600% in some of his funds with his large short bet against subprime mortgages, and he undoubtedly had investments in those funds that did far better than that, but that’s by being on exactly the right side of the biggest market crash in our memory at almost exactly the right time… he’s famous because this doesn’t happen very often, so are we to expect that your $49 subscription to Byron King’s Outstanding Investments is getting you access to the Oracle of Agora?
It’s probably not illegal and may not even be evil, since they rightly note that nothing is guaranteed, and they don’t know what your financial situation is, and they are journalists sharing their opinion and analysis, not financial advisors telling you what to do… but still. Those paragraphs jump out more than most.
And, frankly, they make me want to find out what this “secret currency” is. If not so we can make 1,000% gains, then at least so we can defuse some of that hype… and see if it’s worth considering if you go in with expectations that are more rational.
So what is “JFK’s Secret Currency?”
Well, King does compare it to one of those “currencies” that went up by 1000% or more…
“It has all the potential of Bitcoin in its early stages…
“But, unlike Bitcoin, it has REAL VALUE.
“It’s a safer, more secretive and potentially more lucrative alternative.
“It’s not some fly-by-night technology trend.
“It’s not vulnerable to hackers.
“It has a proven track record of building wealth… and it works even during a power outage.
“That’s why JFK’s Secret Currency could prove even more successful than Bitcoin….”
I led off today with the absurd prediction made by Byron King, but the real attention-getter for readers at the top of the ad is the implication that President John F. Kennedy was killed because he was on his way to instituting this “secret currency” …
“It was June 4, 1963… perhaps the most important day in recent American history…
“Although hardly anyone even remembers it.
“Just five months before his untimely death, President John F. Kennedy made a stunning announcement…
“A watershed moment that could have changed the course of America forever…
“He re-extended the right to print a currency, backed by hard assets, to the U.S. Treasury.
“This single act would have re-invented the dollar.
“It could have guaranteed a balanced budget and economic prosperity for future generations.
“And it could have prevented America’s 50-year downfall from greatness.
“But President Kennedy’s radical plan never came to be.
“Because on November 22, while visiting Dallas, Texas, gunmen fired on the presidential motorcade.”
So what’s he talking about? Executive Order 11110, which he says “some people” believe led directly to JFK’s assassination.
It’s hard to pick one conspiracy theory about the JFK assassination that’s goofier than the rest, and this one is far from being the worst (it does not, at least, involve space aliens)… but this is pretty goofy.
“You see, after the Kennedy assassination…
“These ‘Kennedy Dollars’ essentially vanished.
“First, they stripped it out of circulation as money…
“They even outlawed its use for some time.”
This conspiracy theory is not unique to Byron King and his ad, it’s just goofy — that particular executive order was essentially a housekeeping note, though it did involve the authority to issue silver certificates, and it was not an attempt to displace the Fed or to stop the fractional reserve banking system. And to extend the conspiracy in the way it has been extolled, no, the Federal Reserve did not kill JFK to quash silver. Even G. Edward Griffin, the guy who wrote The Creature from Jeckyl Island (bible to those who fight the Fed) and no stranger to conspiracies, thinks that’s silly.
U.S. money was already backed by silver or gold in the early 1960s, and coins were still actually made of silver, Kennedy was much more likely to be loosening that choke hold of an asset backed currency than he was to be tightening it — he was, after all, a politician, and he was trying to do away with Silver Certificates in favor of Federal Reserve Notes — but really, this particular executive order was and is a non-issue relating to whether the President or the Secretary of the Treasury had specific authority to issue some silver certificates while those certificates were being phased out. This particular conspiracy theory was really shepherded by Jim Marrs in his book Crossfire — More on that here if you really want to delve into the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, The Fed’s conspiracy to kill JFK, or whatever. Or there’s a rebuttal to this “Fed killed JFK” story here as well. But really, JFK seemed to be moving away from a silver-backed currency just like subsequent politicians have.
So we can skip King’s conspiracy bit, realize that he’s talking about buying silver (or possibly gold) in some fashion, and dig a bit deeper to see what exactly it is he’s recommending. Here’s some more from the tease:
“Outlawed As Money for 50 Years…
“Over the years, an underground movement championed this monetary breakthrough…
“A select group of brave Americans kept JFK’s legacy alive and well.
“As a result, a subversive form of money — what I call JFK’s Secret Currency — quietly exchanged hands in every major city, and throughout every state.
“Larry Elie, a Maryland businessman, began buying one class of JFK’s Secret Currency because ‘he distrusted paper money.’ Decades later his efforts amassed a $55 million fortune thanks largely to it. As one editorial writes, ‘Elie spent less than $400,000 and realized a grand total of roughly $55 million – more than 100 times what he had paid.’ …
“Harry Archer started with just a small stake of $40,000 in JFK’s Secret Currency and turned it into a windfall of $1.9 million — a whopping 4,750% gain. Not bad. But in one instance, he even smashed that with an unbelievable 1,450-fold gain. That’s enough to turn every $1,000 invested into $1.45 million.”
Those are both fairly famous stories about 20th century coin collectors — “Larry Elie” is actually Larry Eliasberg, and his story is detailed here; “Harry Archer” is actually Harold Bareford, whose story is here. Like most fabulously successful collectors, they built collections of things — in this case, coins — that were not particularly popular or expensive while they were collecting, and the prices shot up as the hobby gained popularity and the scarcity of the coins they collected added huge value to their estates. The huge returns were not necessarily primarily from the value of silver or gold in the coins they collected, they were from the scarcity of the coins and the increasing popularity of coin collecting.
So is Byron King telling us to become coin collectors? Here’s more from the ad:
“This ‘Secret Currency’ could only stay hidden for so long.
“Recently, its potential was brought to light.
“And now that it’s considered legal tender in some areas it’s starting to go mainstream.
“As CNBC reports, ‘nowadays even the average investor can find profits’ in JFK’s Secret Currency.
“As it sweeps across America, changing hands and fortunes…
“It has the potential not only to hand you 1,303% gains in the months ahead…
“It could even put $1 million in your pocket on something that’s the size of a penny.
“Of course situations like these don’t happen every day…but as you’ve just seen, my research has shown plenty of gains like these in the past. And I don’t think there’s been a better time than right now.”
That piece quoted in CNBC was about the retail excitement over coin collecting and, perhaps more specifically, about the wave of excitement over gold and silver coins as those metals were rising in price and people hated stocks in 2009, you can see it here if you’re interested.
So is “JFK’s Secret Currency” some sort of silver coin? Here’s more from the ad:
“16 U.S. States are ‘Dumping’ the Dollar for JFK’s Secret Currency
“Utah has already adopted it.
“So has Arizona.
“Oklahoma followed two weeks later.
“And 13 other states are preparing to do the same.”
That is indeed true, or it was a year ago — now, as far as I can tell, four states have passed laws recognizing at least US government-coined gold and silver coins as legal tender. Which I’m pretty sure they already were, at least technically (No one has been dying to use an American Eagle silver coin with a nominal value of $1 to buy $1 worth of anything, from what I can tell, since the silver is worth $20 or so)… this is largely a symbolic and political move, trying to make a Ron Paul-esque stand against the Fed and their herculean (and misguided, depending on who you ask) efforts to push dollars into the economy to keep rates low, but it does have one substantial real-life implication: When something is a currency, you apparently don’t get taxed on capital gains when you exchange it for another currency. So in those states, or at least some of them (I haven’t checked the wording on all the laws), folks who take profits from selling these “legal tender” gold or silver coins after whatever the cutoff date is won’t pay state capital gains taxes on those profits. Which is unlikely to be a huge deal for most people, but is a real world impact. And no, they’re not “dumping the dollar.”
More from King:
“Ordinary people are circumventing the Fed and taking control of their money too, thanks to JFK’s Secret Currency.
“Rich… middle class… and poor…
“Conservative taxpayers… retirees… and even liberals…
“They’re all trading their dollars for it.
“In 2013, Americans traded $1.14 billion for it.”
Then there are a series of cryptic quotes from reputable sources like the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal about “small investors” who are “flocking to” or “fueling” the surge in “[JFK’s Super Currency]”. Those quotes are all about coins, mostly the regular old American Silver Eagle that’s widely sold as both a collectible and a bullion coin and which has generally been in high demand from the US Mint in recent years, but also the surge in interest in collectible and rare coins.
We know silver coins have had a resurgence in interest in recent years, particularly when silver itself has spiked up in price, but that stuff about rare coin auctions being standing-room-only shouldn’t be a surprise, either — the markets for high-end art and stamps and antiques and vintage automobiles have been surging too, thanks to the swelling ranks of global multimillionaires, so why not rare collectible coins as well?
And then we get silly again:
“This year, based on some of the projections I’ve seen from its track record, we could see gains as high as 1,303%.
Creating a whole slew of new millionaires… or even billionaires.
Truth be told, we could be at the precipice of one of the greatest explosions of new wealth in recent times.
We’re talking about $87 billion in REAL WEALTH moving away from paper dollars and into JFK’s Super Currency.”
So clearly, then, this is a general tease for the return of silver (and maybe gold) to prominence as a regularly-used currency, or at least as something that will rise in value as the US dollar declines. Which, so far, it stubbornly refuses to do by most measures (inflation is low, though some debate the inflation statistics, and the dollar has been very strong in recent years against most other major global currencies).
But is there something in particular? Are we talking silver mining stocks, or silver ETFs, or physical silver coins, or “junk silver”?
“I’ll show you how you can start using JFK’s Secret Currency tomorrow morning to build REAL wealth…
“Starting with as little as a few hundred dollars…
“And, believe it or not, in some instances you can use it without paying the IRS a single dime!”
Well, there aren’t many ways to avoid paying taxes on your investments — unless you’re losing money, or are using a tax-sheltered account to own this stuff. Or lying. But there is the stipulation in the law that the sale of some bullion coins (American Eagles in particular) are not reportable to the IRS. That does not mean that you don’t owe taxes if you make a capital gain by trading those coins, just that the IRS might not know about the sale unless you tell them. (Taxation on this stuff is a murky world, make sure to check details for your situation and don’t rely on me to be right).
And yes, Kennedy’s administration was a key inflection point in what became a long-term devaluation of the dollar — though LBJ’s was even more so, given the budget challenges he faced. JFK was easing out of issuing silver certificates before his assassination, then LBJ took silver out of coins and talked about making the dollar non-convertible into precious metals in subsequent years when the Great Society and the Vietnam War were sapping the treasury, and finally Nixon made it final by closing the “gold window” and prohibiting even central banks from trading their dollars for US gold. Any evidence of JFK planning anything different along those lines is some mix of guessing and wishful thinking, from what I can tell.
But that’s beside the point. Can we get closer to exactly what King is pitching, other than these few examples of people making extraordinary gains with their coin collections?
Here’s another example King gives — this one’s from the old teaser last Summer, it doesn’t seem to be in the new one:
“Take Simon Katts, who dreamt of owning a house. But money was a problem and there came a point when he was about to give up on his dream. He had no parents, no windfall or inheritance tho which he could turn.
“So he turned to JFK’s Secret Currency. And for some years exchanged his dollars for it. According to The Economic Times, that Secret Currency helped him to put a down payment on a house.”
So… apparently, according to that clue, “JFK’s Secret Currency” is “collectible coins of any dang kind” … this example is a carefully obscured version of a story that ran in the Economic Times (an Indian news site) about a man named Suhas Kadam (they usually at least keep the initials the same) who collected “error coins” (mis-strikes from the mint) and later auctioned them off to raise money for a down payment on a houseo.
But when it comes back to specifics, King tells us that yes, this “Secret Currency” as he is teasing it is a form of silver. So it’s obviously coinage of some sort (otherwise all those previous clues and examples would be meaningless … and methinks you don’t run down a littany of almost every financial conspiracy theory you can think of if you’re going to suggest a financial derivative like an ETF that relies on silver futures or unallocated silver like SLV).
“I can tell you, without giving away the secret, that JFK’s Secret Currency relates to silver…
“But it’s unlike any precious metals investment out there.
“It has nothing to do with, mining stocks, futures, or mutual funds.
“None of these can match its safety, anonymity or wealth potential.
“And to my knowledge, it’s can be one of the simplest tax havens in existence.
“Nothing complicated or illegal like offshore schemes.
“What’s more, it’s virtually immune to the fluctuations in the markets.”
So… what is it?
Well, frankly, he doesn’t give enough clues — or at least, his clues contradict each other too much — for me to be certain exactly what is his favorite form of “JFK’s Secret Currency” … but from his chatter about reportability to the IRS and the “tax haven” status I think his core idea must simply be owning US silver coins, likely the American Eagle (which is the most widely recognized silver bullion coin). Though secondary ideas that could be relatively invisible to the government (though not always technically exempt from reporting, as Eagles can be) might be junk silver, which usually consists of bulk bags of very worn “cull” pre-1965 dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars that are 90% silver, or, for those looking for the boost that a collectible can provide, graded and collectible silver coins — the most widely-traded are usually the Morgan and Peace dollars, which can be found at any coin vendor online or in person and trade at generally pretty stiff premiums to melt value these days.
And heck, those junk silver and collectible silver dollars are still also legal tender, just like American Eagle coins, so who knows, maybe there are special tax rules about those (this guy goes through a long analysis of the legality of reporting of coin transactions, in case you’re curious — but remember, in almost no cases are regular coins you hold in your hand a tax “shelter”… you still owe taxes even if your sale is not reportable by the person who buys the coins from you, and it’s usually at the higher collectible tax rate).
Quite possibly, Byron King is using these ideas as well as a hodgepodge of several other silver investing ideas, perhaps including physical silver ETFs — the most-cited ETFs for silver are the iShares Silver Trust (SLV) which some folks don’t think is “physical” enough but does own actual bars in a London vault and is by far the largest silver ETF; Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV), which aims to be somewhat more “guaranteed physical” and redeemable than SLV; and the levered ProShares Ultra Silver (AGQ) which uses futures contracts to aim for twice the daily moves of silver prices (or leverage on those, like options, if he’s really predicting 1,000% returns with a straight face).
And I’m sure Byron King is probably also pitching silver mining stocks — though that’s a secondary play on the “JFK’s Secret Currency” idea and mining stocks, even those that are relatively diversified like silver streamer Silver Wheaton (SLW), which should probably be the first silver mining equity that most people look at, are far more volatile than silver … which is itself awfully volatile when compared to gold.
There are a great many silver enthusiasts and Fed watchers here in Gumshoedom, though, so if anyone wants to jump in with their favorite ideas in the world of silver, well, feel free to use the friendly little comment box below.
Personally, I like holding some silver coins — I try to buy a few every month as a little “savings” that I hope will maintain purchasing power as the dollar declines, so I’ve got the odd little stack of American Eagles and some junk silver in the vast Gumshoe vaults because it seems likely to me that the dollar’s long and slow decline will continue… but I try not to delve into the world of collectibles because the uninformed and inexpert (like me) get fleeced too easily, and when it comes to the common kinds of coins I understand and own I am really quite certain that these coins will NOT go up in value by 1,000% this year… and, frankly, I’d be shocked if they went up by 100% by the end of 2014 (well, now we’re well into 2015… I’d also be shocked if they went up 1,000% this year). Not that this is impossible, silver has spiked in the past and it might well do so again someday… maybe even this year or next… but your guess is as good as (and quite likely better) than mine.
So there you have it — a mishmosh of last Summer’s pitch and this most recent “who really killed Kennedy” spiel about silver and the Federal Reserve and various conspiracy theories. And I’ll apologize if I mixed up the 2014 and 2015 pitches too much and was unfair to them regarding exactly which was teased which time, but, well, there you have it — Byron King can say that the Fed killed JFK with a straight face, and he thinks you should own some silver.