Gold Premiums in Vietnam Hit $217 Over Spot In Heavy Demand

I think you have had to experience a collapsing currency first hand in order to truly appreciate the fundamentals of monetary value, and how these things can take on what seems like a force of nature.

I was doing business in Moscow during the 1990′s, and saw the slow motion collapse of the rouble. Or at least it seemed like a slow motion collapse at first, until it gained quite a bit of momentum despite the measures the State took to maintain their ‘official rates.’

Russia had a sovereign currency, right?  And so does Vietnam, and many of the other countries that experienced extraordinary currency depreciation, otherwise known as monetary inflation, since WW II.  Perhaps they just needed some better monetary theorists, or official enforcers with hairier knuckles. Their financial elite seems to have had plenty of false bravado.

But then again, they were not us. We are different. We are unique. We are the masters of all that we survey and purvey, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.  London and New York are where the elite meet to eat.

Here is what is happening with gold prices in southeast Asia now.  Ding dong.

This from Goldcore:

The Vietnamese Central Bank sold another 25,700 taels (1 tael = 37.5 grams or 1.2 troy ounces) at a gold bar auction on Friday in order to try and satiate the massive public demand for gold in Vietnam.

The Central Bank hopes that the sale of gold into the market will reduce the very high premiums paid by gold buyers in Vietnam, the largest buyer of gold in Southeast Asia after Thailand and one of the largest physical buyers of gold per capita in the world.

Vietnamese people hold gold as a store of wealth for protection against war, inflation and currency depreciation. In recent months, the bursting of bubbles in the stock market (see chart) and property market and the continuing devaluation of the dong has led to record demand in Vietnam and a surging premium over the spot price of gold.

Today, the premium was close to 5.5 million dong which is the equivalent of a very high premium of $217 per ounce over spot.


‘Ozama’ Shipwreck: 19th Century Steamer Identified Off Carolina Coast, May Hold Gold

The wreck of a fabled 19th-century gunrunner that may also contain a treasure in gold has been identified off the coast of South Carolina.

The SS Ozama, a 216-foot-long (66 meters) iron-hulled steamship, had a colorful history, according to Discovery News. Launched in Scotland in 1881 as the Craigallion, the ship was active in the Caribbean Seas and helped build the Panama Canal.

The ship suffered a wreck in the Bahamas in 1885 and was rechristened Ozama after a river in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a frequent port of call. But in 1894, on its way to Charleston, S.C., the Ozama struck the shoals off Cape Romain, S.C. [Shipwrecks Gallery: Secrets of the Deep]

A New York Times report from 1894 describes how the wreck “stove a hole in the engine-room compartment. The water quickly filled the fire rooms, rendering the engines useless. The steamer floated off the shoals soon after striking, and at 2 a.m. sank in six and a half fathoms of water.”

The captain and crew were saved, but the ship was declared a total loss.

Guns, gold and mutiny

Fast-forward to 1979, when the wreck of an unidentified ship was seen off the South Carolina coast during a magnetometer survey on other shipwrecks conducted by renowned underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence, WBTV News 13 reports.

“The secret is out. We’ve discovered the wreck of the SS Ozama,” Spence wrote on his Facebook page.

But Spence said what “definitely has me excited” is the opportunity to find a bounty in gold and other treasure on the Ozama due to its checkered past in illegal smuggling operations. “Her colorful history is packed with events such as a mutiny and extensive gun and money smuggling to Haiti,” Spence said, as quoted by Discovery News.

Indeed, a New York Times report from 1888 claims the ship was carrying “1,000 stands of arms, 3 Gatling guns and 500,000 cartridges to Cape Haytien [a Haitian port] … doubtless for the use of Hyppolyte’s soldiers,” referring to the president of Haiti.

President Florvil Hyppolyte and his supporters were at the time locked in a power struggle for control of Haiti. In poor health, Hyppolyte’s supporters desperately needed arms and money to fend off political rivals, so it’s likely the Ozama was carrying gold as well as arms.

Smuggled treasure

“Newspaper accounts said she was traveling in ballast, without cargo,” Spence said. “Ships reporting themselves as traveling in ballast often carried money and even other cargo. When you are smuggling, the smuggled cargo often isn’t listed or is intentionally mislisted.”

On one trip to Haiti, the Ozama was seized by authorities, according to WBTV, sparking a diplomatic row until the captain of a U.S. warship threatened to bomb the city of Port-au-Prince unless the ship was released (it eventually was).

And Spence would own any treasure found on the wreck. “Yes I would own it,” he said during an interview on Night Talker Radio Network. “This ship had a long history of smuggling and of carrying large amounts of money, and I became the owner of it last year whenever I laid claim in federal court to this wreck and other wrecks that I found off Cape Romain, South Carolina. But I had no idea when I laid claim to it what it was, and it was just recently that I discovered its identity.”

He added, “I believe she may have a considerable amount of gold on it and that’s what I’m hoping. And we’re going to be digging into her and hopefully raising a great deal of gold.”

Spence’s exploration of the wreck, which will begin after mapping and ensuring the hull’s integrity, may yield historical treasures beyond gold. “While reports of the ship’s cargo and passengers’ effects make the Ozama wreck intriguing, it is also a virtual time piece of history that has not been disturbed by careless salvage,” Spence told Discovery.


Forget Gold and Bitcoin: Kissing Is the New Currency

With the global economy generally pretty out of whack, you’ve heard the calls for a shift to the gold standard. (If not, here’s Ron Paul.) And you’re probably still wondering what Bitcoin is, too. Then there’s this list of alternative currencies Katherine Ward put together for New York magazine in April. And now: there’s the kissing economy.

The world will run on affection, where hatred is a fine. You can buy a go-kart by hugging your husband or wife.

The Metro St. James Cafe in Sydney, Australia, is allowing its customers to buy coffee by kissing their partners between 9 and 11 a.m.

So, you walk in, get your coffee, and then the waiter/waitress tells you that you can kiss—it has to be a “real kiss”—instead of paying actual money. As the very French dude in their video says: “At Metro St. James, we don’t want you money. We want your kisses.”

But, I guess, “kisses” are actually a kind of money, right? If “money” is just an object that’s accepted as payment for goods and services, a “kiss,” the thing the two people are creating, is the object that’s being accepted as payment for your coffee. It’s harmless and kind of great—although one couple really kisses and it’s sort of uncomfortable depending on how you feel about two people making out in front of a cash register at a coffee shop—and maybe not all that insane? I don’t know. The “promotion” will only last until the end of June, and it’s not really sustainable to have a cafe that presumably uses standard currency to buy its goods and record profits to then sell their coffee for kisses, but maybe one day. The world will run on affection, where hatred is a fine. You can buy a go-kart by hugging your husband or wife. Hedge funds will monitor and trade on eskimo kisses and multi-part handshakes. Goldman Sachs would be the purveyor of all things good.