“Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value — ZERO.” – Voltaire (1694-1778)
The world champion athletes at the Winter Olympics receive gold, silver, and bronze medals that contain roughly the same amounts of metal as the last Summer Olympics.
- A gold medal contains 550 grams of silver and is layered with just 6 grams of gold.
- A silver medal has 509 grams of silver and about 41 grams of copper.
- The bronze medals likely contain about 450 grams of copper and 50 grams of mostly tin and zinc.
At current market prices, a gold medal is exchangeable for about $494, a silver for about $260, and a bronze for just $3. If the gold medal was solid gold with the same mass, it would be exchangeable for almost $20,000.
While the Vancouver athletes are receiving the same amount of gold and silver as the Beijing Summer Olympics, world central banks – like the Federal Reserve – have been devaluing their currencies steadily for the past century or so to pay for the wild growth of government, non-stop warfare that have killed well over 170 million civilians, and the redistribution of wealth from those who worked for it to special interest groups. Sound money has been considered such a serious threat to the primacy of the state that virtually all dictators – Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Mao top the list – have banned it so government spending cannot be checked.
FDR, during the midst of the Great Depression caused by the printing presses of the FED, outlawed all gold coins in the United States from 1933 until 1975. Americans still used silver in their coins up until 1970 when the silver became more valuable than its face value and the coins all disappeared from circulation. A 1964 half dollar can now be exchanged for nearly $6. (photo courtesy Duncan Rawlinson of TheLastMinuteBlog.com license)
Unbeknown to most of the American public, the world’s gold market has over $20 TRILLION in annual turnover, a sum much larger than the $15 trillion figure bandied about for US GDP, which is the theoretical sum of all the goods and services exchanged by American firms and individuals.
Unnoticed to most of the American public, while the S&P 500 has actually fallen in dollar terms over the past decade, the price of gold has steadily risen each and every year by an average of 17%. Unfortunately, a rising price of gold does not indicate an asset bubble – like housing – in my opinion. It is the whistling before the kettle blows its lid. It is the silencing of the canary chirping in the coal mine from noxious fumes. So, back to the question, what is an Olympic gold medal worth?
While one cannot deny the sentimental value* attributed by some athletes to winning a gold medal at these Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Voltaire’s comment will remain as true in the coming years as when he first said it. All one must do is study the ruin of France under John Law, the debasing of the currency of imperial Rome, George Washington’s “worthless-as-a-Continental” script money failure after the Revolutionary War, post-WWI’s Weimar Germany’s hyperinflation – among many other European countries, the 1990 Argentine hyperinflation, and the Zimbabwe fiasco that is finally subsiding.
The gold and silver medals are money. Governments should take a lesson from the last couple Olympics and not devalue their currencies so carelessly.
History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme, and it’s best not be trampled when it decides to stampede.
[* Nor, in truth, deny the subjective value of anything.]