Gold Coin And Bar Shortages Likely To Lead To Rationing

Published in Market Update  Precious Metals  on 13 January 2014

By Mark O’Byrne


Today’s AM fix was USD 1,246.00, EUR 911.89 and GBP 757.86 per ounce.
Friday’s AM fix was USD 1,232.25, EUR 906.53 and GBP 750.78 per ounce.

Gold climbed $18.70 or 1.52% Friday, closing at $1,247.10/oz. Silver rose $0.56 or 2.86% closing at $20.13/oz. Platinum climbed 14.85, or 1.1%, to $1,428.10/oz and palladium rose $5.99 or 0.8%, to $739.10/oz. Gold was up 0.87% and silver was down 0.15% for the week.

Today's gold prices continued last week's rally, strengthened by a disappointing U.S. jobs number which creates doubts about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.


Gold in U.S. Dollars, 1 Year - (Bloomberg)

The Perth Mint's Bron Suchecki has written an interested blog post regarding the real risk of gold coin shortages and rationing happening again:

The extraordinary demand for precious metals coins following the 2008 global financial crisis caught the minting industry by surprise, resulting in never before seen coin rationing and shortages.

It seems not much has changed, with recent reports that the UK Royal Mint ran out of 2014 Sovereign gold coins due to "exceptional demand", as well as the continuation for over one year of an allocation program first put into place early 2013 by the US Mint on its ever popular silver Eagle bullion coins.

While these recent events have been limited to specific coins, with availability of other leading bullion coins like the Perth Mint’s gold Kangaroo not affected, it does seem to indicate that worldwide minting production capacity is still unable to meet demand surges.

However, it is little appreciated that the bottleneck in the global coin minting process is blank (planchet) manufacture. This is a far more complex process than simple stamping of a coin, particularly around purity and accurate weight control.

If you dig deep, you will find that many of the coin supply problems come from underestimation of demand and the resulting exhausting of blank inventories. Often, blank suppliers are mints themselves and can face conflicts where they earn more by prioritising blanks for internal use rather than supply externally. Running higher blank inventories is often not an option, due to the cost of funding the high dollar value of the inventory.

 
How high coin premiums can go when coin demand overwhelms production capacity - (Sharelynx)

Notwithstanding the capacity expansion by blank suppliers over the past five years, in my opinion there is no way the industry can meet the demand that would occur were precious metals to see even a small bit of interest from the mass market. While cast bars are a lot easier to make and refiners are much more casting production capacity, I am not even sure if it could meet sustained mass market demand.

For now 2008 style shortages and rationing don't seem to be on the horizon but the fact that the UK and US Mint are having supply issues on a few of their product with metal prices at these low levels is an indicator that as prices rise and (re)attract investor interest, shortages and rationing may become a reality of coin buying life again.

The interesting and informative blog post can be read here.

This is another reason why if you are considering buying coins or bars in volume for delivery or bullion storage in Zurich or Singapore, it is best not to wait.

“Don’t wait to buy gold and silver. Buy gold and silver and wait.”
 
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