(Rationing is a form of price fixing!)
Silver Stock Report
by Jason Hommel, May 24th, 2008
I know many of you saw the WSJ article, "Losing a
Mint: Curb on Coin Sales Angers Collectors"
to overwhelmingly growing popular demand, The U.S. mint has sold twice the
amount of one ounce Silver Eagle coins as last year (6.8 million since the
start of the year), and is forced to ration their available coins to
their 13 authorized dealers, one of whom says he would like to buy 5 times
as many Silver Eagles as the mint will let him, 500,000 per week, instead
of the 100,000 he is allocated and limited to buy. (That would
corner the market on Eagles. 500,000 x 52 = 26 million
The U.S. Mint typically has sold about 10 million ounces of
Silver Eagles per year for the last 5 years, which used to be 1% of the
overall silver bullion market, and now might be 2% of the silver
market of about 1000 million ounces per year when you add in
recycling of 250 million ounces, and government selling, and
mine supply of about 650 million ounces.
The shortage of Silver
Eagles should serve as a warning to people who think they own silver,
but only own a paper promise of silver instead.
silver market is about 100 times bigger than the physical silver market,
just as the physical silver market is 50-100 times bigger than the
market for Silver Eagles.
If there can be a quick shortage of
Silver Eagles due to popular and rational public investment demand,
when they are only 1-2% of the silver market, how quickly can the entire
silver market seize up when merely the paper silver market decides to
enter the physical silver market?
Um, I'll take a guess. How
about next week? Or maybe it already did, and that might explain
some problems over at the Perth Mint.
But I'm not arguing that
only the paper silver certificate holders might want physical
silver. The fact is that gold investors, which is a market 1000s of
times bigger than the silver market, can also decide to enter the tiny
physical silver market, and that bond investors, which is a market
100,000s of times bigger than the silver market, can also decide to
enter the physical silver market, etc.
I would have thought that
more people would have understood the economic significance of delivery
delays and rationing, and that it proves there is a shortage.
"In market economics, rationing artificially restricts
demand. It is done to keep price below the equilibrium (market-clearing) price determined by the
process of supply and demand in an unfettered market. Thus, rationing can be
complementary to price controls. An example of rationing in
the face of rising prices took place in the Netherlands, where there was rationing of
gasoline in the 1973 energy crisis."
"A reason for setting the price lower than would clear the market may
be that there is a shortage, which would drive the market price very
It may surprise you to know that I'm not too concerned about the U.S.
Mint rationing Silver Eagles. After all, we ought to be grateful
that they are, indeed, doubling supply for us, so far. The reason
why I'm not too concerned is that the U.S. Mint has rationed Silver Eagles
before in the last few years, so this is standard procedure for
them. The long wait recently is unusual, but my sources tell me that
there was one batch of 500,000 blanks that were substandard, and were
returned to the other mint that made them. Whether that was real, or
an excuse, I don't know, but the Mint is saying they are making twice as
many as normal, and that's good, because they are adjusting to increased
I'm far more concerned with the delivery delays from
the Perth Mint. The reason is the difference between the two
The U.S. Mint does not have a certificate program, and does
not claim to have a large operating pool of metal.
Perth Mint, supposedly, has an operating pool of $880 million Australian
dollars worth of physical metal that it is holding on behalf of
certificate holders, and it cannot redeem those certificates or handle
physical purchases in a timely manner, which is suggestive of having
run out of their operating pool of metal, since rationing and delivery
delays are evidence of a shortage!
The reason why I'm so harsh on
the Perth Mint is that they are the ones who appear to be breaking
promises right now with delivery delays, not the U.S. Mint.
I continue to hear reports that the major private mint, the
Northwest Territorial Mint, is having shipping times to customers
about 6-8 weeks out.
What is frustrating
is that none of these mints appears to
be operating according to free market principles. The
most basic is this: They ought to raise prices, before running out of
inventory. The raising of prices is a method they should all be
using to gain more profits, and signal to the market the impending
shortage of silver before it actually arrives.
that the reason why they do not raise prices "before running out of
inventory" is because none of the three mints has any inventory, and thus,
they do not know how to raise prices as inventory levels go down, since
they don't have any inventory levels that can change that they can track
and look at as an internal signal to themselves to change prices as
Raising prices as inventory levels drop could
work like this: their last 100 ounce bar should at least sell for a 100%
premium, right? And perhaps the last 10% of their inventory could
sell for maybe a 50% premium, the last 20% of their inventory could sell
for a 20% premium, their last 30% of inventory should sell for a 15%
premium, and when they get down to 50%, they start charging a 10% premium,
and no special premiums of they have 50% or more of their inventory levels
and business is normal, or something of that nature.
that if they are always short on inventory, they would try to
always keep their own prices as low as possible to get new
customer orders, and use customer money as a means to "float" or to
use it as operating expenses, and thus, would prefer that prices
go down between the time that they get an order and the time they would
have to deliver, and thus, they wouldn't want to signal to the market that
a shortage is taking place, which would make prices go up. I would
suspect that shorts would want to hide the fact that they are short, from
Operating short was a great way to make
money in the silver minting business from 1980 to 2003, as extra profits
could always be realized between a long lag time between an order and
delivery. But that's not going to work in a rising market.
suspect that since they charge "too low" prices, they always have
trouble not making enough money, which is why they are short on inventory,
which is a vicious self-imposed cycle of economic pain that they are
In other words, it's not a conspiracy, it's their
own stupidity, and bad business sense that has them trapped, and has
us all waiting on long delivery times.
In other words, I
suspect that they fear that if they raise prices, they would not
get customer orders.
I urge them to trust in the free
market, instead, which provides a way out, and a good solution for their
own self-imposed problems! I urge them to raise prices for their
unique minted products that are in short supply so that they can make
a real profit by serving the needs of the market.
people have been paying $25-40/oz. for Silver Eagles lately, due to the
short supply. On ebay, I've heard that 100 ounce bars are selling
for up to $20/oz. or higher during this last consolidation, and prices
have not come down very much. At least ebay is a free market that is
actually working, even if little supply is available.
mints ought to take pricing cues from ebay?!
The market appears to
really need turning 1000 oz. comex bars into real products that
most investors want. This is a dramatic new change in the
silver market that is developing this year, and it's not surprising to see
the mints get caught not being able to adjust to it quickly enough.
In past years, if 250 million ounces of silver was from recycling, and
only 50 million ounces of new net investor demand, I suspect that most
investor demand used to be able to be met mostly through selling old
products, not newly minted bars. With investment demand in 2007 up
to 75 million ounces, and perhaps double that or more in 2008, things are
And if the mints don't adjust with higher prices,
well, maybe someone ought to go into business and compete with them, and
supply the real needs of the market. Other mints or dealers ought to
advertise silver available for immediate delivery, and charge extra for
that unique competitive advantage over the other dealers.
know of a private mint in the U.S., or a coin dealer, who has 50,000
ounces of one ounce physical silver rounds available for immediate
delivery, please email me a picture of the physical goods, and I'll
mention your offer in my next email. (Don't mention 90% bags,
there's plenty at www.fidelitrade.com I
In case you miss an email,
check the archives:
You can buy silver in
lots of 100-500 oz. at my auctions at www.seekbullion.com
Auctions end M-Th, Sat, At 7PM Pacific, but you can place bids anytime, 24/7.
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ship overseas, and also in lots of more or less than 100
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