Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving on and the Hunt brothers

My silver bar with the serial number erased in Photoshop.
Yesterday I finally put the Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt of the great silver debacle, behind me. If you are old enough to remember the year 1973, you will probably remember how the two Hunt brothers, members of one of the richest families in the United States at that time, had entered the silver market in a very big way.

Large quantities of gold could not be held by American citizens back then and so the Hunts fashioned a workaround. They began acquiring silver, another precious metal, as an inflation hedge. As an investment, silver also enjoyed heavy industrial demand. Think silver-based photography. 

By 1979 the Hunt brothers, along with some wealthy Arab investors, had formed a silver pool. In short order they amassed more than 200 million ounces of fine silver, equivalent to half the world's deliverable supply. When the Hunts originally begun accumulating silver in '73 the price was in the $2.00 an ounce range. By early '79 the price had risen to about $5 and the historic rapid climb in price was on. 

By early 1980 the price was in the $50s, peaking at about $54 U.S. per ounce.It began to look as if the Hunts and their consortium would corner the silver market. Outsiders joined in the feeding frenzy driving the price higher.

But no one considered the reactions of the regulators to all this chaos in the silver market. A combination of changed trading rules on the New York Metals Market (COMEX) and the intervention of the Federal Reserve put the brakes on the Hunt's out of control silver binge. The price began to drop, culminating in a 50% one-day decline on March 27, 1980 as the price crashed from $21.62 to $10.80.The Hunt brothers declared bankruptcy and countless speculators went bust with them.

And then there's me. The drop in price from the lofty $50s to just over ten bucks was not quick and clean. There were ups and downs. I bought on the last down. There was no bounce offering a chance to sell my brick of silver.

In fact, over the years the price continued to gently slide and I lost money. I owned a valuable door stop.

Yesterday the price rose to more than $21 and ounce and I stopped by the ScotiaBank with my silver. I learned that yes they still bought 100 ounce silver bricks. This is only fair as they originally sold me my silver bar decades ago. I'll pay some fees, $30 for armoured car transport, and some other small charges. But, by sometime next week I will be more than two grand richer.

Now, what do I use for a doorstop?

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