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- Created on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 09:30
December 2014, Week 3 Edition
Gold had its best week in six months last week, gaining 2.7% following a 2.1% gain the previous week. Gold rose from an intra-day low of $1142 on December 1 to close at $1223 last Friday, but then it fell below $1200 on Monday, December 15. The usual culprits were responsible for the quick turnaround – a rising dollar and falling oil prices. Still, gold is a relatively strong performer in the commodity world. Oil is down to $56, almost 50% below its peak of $107 less than six months ago, in late June. We don’t know if gold will close above or below $1200 by year’s end, but it is now certain that gold will beat the industrial commodities in 2014 – since oil, iron ore, copper and silver are all down over 10% in 2014.
Louis E. Eliasberg – The King of Gold Coins
Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. came to be known as “The King of Coins” after he accomplished a feat many thought to be impossible: Over a period of less than two decades, from 1934 to 1950, Eliasberg assembled the only complete collection of U.S. coins – the only one that contained regular-issue coins of every denomination from every date they were issued and every mint that made them in those years. News of this achievement not only electrified fellow hobbyists, but also impressed the entire nation. It was considered so significant that Life magazine, then required reading for millions of Americans, featured Eliasberg and his coins in a lavish photo layout. Yet, this “King of Coins” didn’t have kingly wealth. He lived comfortably on his income as a Baltimore banker, but his budget for buying coins was not unlimited. Nor was he known as a big spender: Dealer who did business with him found him to be a cautious buyer who took out his checkbook only after careful deliberation. Eliasberg wasn’t even a hobbyist when he started buying coins: He did so as a way to circumvent the Gold Surrender Order of 1933, which required U.S. citizens to turn in their gold coins, but exempted collectible coins. “I realized the only way I could legally acquire gold was by becoming a numismatist,” he explained years later. “So in 1934, to the extent of my means, I started buying gold coins.”
Soon bitten by the hobby bug, he started buying other coins as well, and within a few years he had built a respectable collection. Then, in 1942, came a marvelous opportunity: He was able to purchase outright the outstanding collection of John H. Clapp – in the process acquiring many rare coins he didn’t already possess. That’s when he began thinking seriously of pursuing the impossible dream: a U.S. coin collection with “one of everything.” He prepared a list of coins he lacked and started tracking them down in auctions and dealers’ inventories. “Eliasberg struck me as a gentleman,” one prominent numismatist later recalled. “He was tall, aristocratic, a genius at finance, but he didn’t know very much about coins… He knew more about making money.” His success at making money has become the stuff of legends in the coin collecting community. During the decade and a half it took him to complete his collection, Eliasberg spent less than $400,000. When the collection was sold, at a series of auctions between 1982 and 2005, it realized a grand total of roughly $55 million – more than 100 times what he had paid.
The gold coins he started buying in 1934 not only turned Eliasberg from a numismatic novice into a great collector, but also ended up confirming his status as a very successful investor. In short, even if he had never begun pursuing the seemingly impossible dream of collecting “one of everything,” Eliasberg would have made millions just through his decision to buy gold coins as collectibles.
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