Bitten By the Gold Bug

John Mauldin  |

I wandered as an innocent bystander into the world of investment newsletter publishing in 1981-82. Back then it was a world inhabited to a great extent by "gold bugs" of one variety or another. The investment newsletter world was in its infancy, and I was something of a direct-mail wizard, brought in to weave my magic with mailing lists and fluid copy. You can't write effectively about something you don't know, so I plunged in head first, learning all about Austrian economics and the problems of fiat money.

I was soon a partner in what was then a small research and publishing house called the American Bureau of Economic Research, founded by Dr. Gary North. He inoculated me with reams of material on the case for gold and free markets - things I had not learned in college! I had never heard of Ludwig von Mises or Friedrich Hayek (whom I later got to meet in Austria, but that is another story).

I attended my first New Orleans Conference back in the early '80s. It was then a rather large gathering of people (4,000 or so) who wanted the US to go back on the gold standard. Remember, it had been only a little more than 10 years since Nixon led us down the path to a fiat currency.

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It is hard for younger generations to imagine now that it was once illegal to "hoard gold." Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, which required all persons to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, all but a small amount of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates owned by them to the Federal Reserve, in exchange for $20.67 (equivalent to roughly $370 today) per troy ounce. Owning gold would remain illegal until President Gerald Ford signed a bill, which went into effect on December 31, 1974, re-legalizing the owning of gold. Gold began trading in 1975, just in time for the inflation of the late '70s.

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