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A Holiday Gift Worth Its Weight In ... ?
By Bradenton Herald
November 26, 2007

Yogi Berra's right. It is deja vu all over again. In 1980, gold was trading at its all-time high of $850 an ounce. During the meteoric run-up, many investment analysts and precious-metals pundits predicted it would soon surpass $1,000. They're doing it again.

With gold recently over $800 an ounce, "experts" again are forecasting the same peak. Why? I wondered. Maybe it's because 1,000 is a nice, round number. More likely, it's because we have worldwide unrest, an unpopular war and oil prices at record levels. Add to that the fact that wealth, disposable income and opulent spending in China have never been higher. Given those factors, I'd make the same prediction - sort of like calling the winner of a race when the leader's a full lap ahead.

But wait! Last week, gold dropped more than $10 an ounce in just one day. Perhaps it's just a hiccup. Either way, gold remains the expensive holiday gift of choice in the form of jewelry, coins and bullion.

I suppose that, too, is understandable considering that biblically, the Magi (three Wise Men) brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. Frankincense was considered a gift for a priest. Myrrh was a burial ointment. How bleak. Anyway, today they're moot. Few of us would now recognize either and might even call a Haz-Mat team if they showed up at our door. But gold - the traditional gift for a king - is still universally desirable.

Wherever it's headed, those who think gold is going higher are buying. Others who think it has peaked are selling. Either way, whether you're stocking up or cashing in, it's critical to know what you're doing.

For investors, gold coins are far and away the best bets. The .999 pure gold American Buffalo, Canadian Maple Leaf and Chinese Panda coins trade for hefty premiums above the "spot" value. American Eagle gold coins are only .916 pure but also sell for a higher price. Also at .916 purity is the South African Krugerrand. They're out of favor though are discounted up to $15 per ounce less than other gold coins.

For those on a budget, the American Eagle coin comes in smaller sizes, including 1/10- ounce, 1/4-ounce and 1/2-ounce sizes. When used in jewelry, the smaller sizes are far less conspicuous (a.k.a. garish).

On the subject of jewelry, when purchasing a gold necklace, bracelet or earrings, BE SURE to buy from a reputable dealer. Gold jewelry is rarely pure. Other alloys, such as copper, silver and nickel, are added to harden it for everyday use. Naturally, the actual values of 12-karat, 14-karat and 18-karat gold are less than if they were pure 24-karat.

As for gold-plated jewelry, unless you're planning to break up, I'd think twice. "Plating" means just that. A super-thin layer of gold has been coated over most any base metal to make it shiny. The little gold they contain will fade quicker than a bad relationship and has little if any resale value.

When selling gold, always remember Smokey Robinson: "You better shop around" is the mantra. Banks no longer trade cash for gold. We went off the conventional gold standard long ago. And, while pawnshops may be convenient, coin dealers regularly offer better prices. Still, shop around. Gold prices change hourly, and one dealer may be eager to pay more than another.

So, where will the price of gold end up by Christmas? Even $1,000-an-hour gold analysts don't have that powerful a crystal ball. It's best to remember how industrialist J.P. Morgan responded when asked how the stock market would perform. His response: "It will fluctuate." That golden advice I'll buy.


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