16 Tons And A Briefcase

October 30, 2019
Market Analyst, Author, and Founder of The Deviant Investor

Tennessee Ernie Ford sang about the plight of coal miners decades ago. His song remains relevant in today’s increasingly crazy world.

“You load sixteen tons, what do to you get

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the company store.”

The owners paid in script which coal miners used as currency. Script had no intrinsic value and was only good at the company store. The owners increased profits by coercing miners to buy goods at higher prices. Script cost next to nothing to produce.

We use dollar bills (paper and digital) that have no intrinsic value as currency in the U.S. The dollars cost next to nothing to produce and are used because of ‘legal tender’ laws.

PARALLELS:

Coal miner           Average American

Load 16 tons       Work for wages

Deeper in debt    Deeper in debt

Company store    Debt based economy

16 TONS OF COAL AND GOLD:

Sixteen tons of coal is a huge quantity of concentrated fossil fuel energy.

Sixteen tons of gold results from a tremendous effort to mine and refine gold ore into 16,000 one-kilo bars, about 514,000 ounces. At $1,500 per ounce, it is worth $771 million.

SO WHAT?

Sixteen thousand kilo bars of gold are a fortune, representing wealth that is valued everywhere in the world, especially Asia. They accumulate gold.

Read: 13.5 Tons of Gold in a Secret Basement

But wait, 16 tons of gold sells for about $771 million, while the Fed recently conjured over $300 billion in “printed” digital dollars to feed into banks for overnight repos.

For perspective, the Fed created, at a cost of next to nothing, about 400 times as many dollars, in a few days, as 16 tons of gold cost.

Annual global production of gold is about 3,200 tons, 102 million ounces, or $154 billion dollars, if valued at current COMEX (paper gold) prices. The Fed created at the end of September more than the equivalent annual production of gold—in a few days.

It’s good to be a central banker. Wave your magic wand and create endless quantities of digital script with no intrinsic value.

A stage illusionist waves his magic wand. A pretty girl and a panther switch from inside locked boxes. The illusionist amazes the audience, but they know a distraction created the illusion.

Central bankers created $20+ trillion in new currency since 2000, bailed out banks, and made monetary illusions look real. Debt, interest expenses and prices rose. The monetary, fiscal and political illusions, including impeachment, continue.

Question: If digital dollars have no intrinsic value and are easy to produce, what is a dollar worth? Is a kilo of gold worth $48,000 or far more, knowing that the Fed often creates $48,000 in a heartbeat?

Repeat: It’s good to be a central banker but expect gold to cost much more in the next decade.

WHAT ABOUT A BRIEFCASE FULL OF CURRENCY UNITS?

A four-inch briefcase holds about 10,000 paper bills—debts payable by the Fed to the holder. Those 10,000 bills, whether $1 or $100, each weigh about 1 gram. The briefcase contains 10 kilos of bills or about 22 pounds of bills with no intrinsic value. If it were 10 kilos of gold the current value would be nearly $500,000 at current prices.

Examine a history of briefcases containing cash or gold. Assume the cases contain 10 kilos of gold or 10,000 Federal Reserve Notes. Rounded values are listed below.

Year Gold Price Gold Value Federal Reserve Notes:

1971         $40          $13,000       comparable to $1 bills

1999       $310          $99,000       comparable to $10 bills

2019    $1,550        $498,000       comparable to $50 bills

2025?   $3,100       $996,000       comparable to $100 bills

The Fed and commercial banks “print” billions of dollars each year. Those new dollars devalue every other dollar in existence. Each dollar buys less and… you know the drill.

In 1971 a briefcase of $1 bills was about equal to 10 kilos of gold.

In 1999 a briefcase of $10 bills was about equal to 10 kilos of gold.

In 2019 a briefcase of $50 bills was about equal to 10 kilos of gold.

When will a briefcase containing $1,000 bills be equal to 10 kilos of gold? (Yes, I know, the Treasury no longer prints them, but the question is relevant.)

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Gary ChristensonGary Christenson is the owner and writer for the popular and contrarian investment site Deviant Investor and the author of the book, “Gold Value and Gold Prices 1971 – 2021.” He is a retired accountant and business manager with 30 years of experience studying markets, investing, and trading. He writes about investing, gold, silver, the economy and central banking.

China is poised to become world's biggest gold consumer.

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