Big Brother Knows You Have Gold? | By Patrick A. Heller on June 11, 2013


With the huge news last week about the National Security Agency (NSA) obtaining metadata about telephone calls placed by millions of Verizon customers, the specter looms that such surveillance could be used to track people who are purchasing and selling precious metals.

Just think for a minute. While the NSA does not have actual recordings or transcripts of such phone calls, it has the ability to do a search for phone numbers called, or were called by coin and bullion dealers. Even though a sizeable percentage would not involve bullion-priced gold and silver transactions, many such calls are made for conducting such trades. If the U.S. government wanted to make up a list of people who might own precious metals, the NSA surveillance would make the task much easier.

If the NSA has been able to track telephone numbers on calls that are made, I don’t see why it would not also be able to get the same information about which email addresses are sending or receiving messages from coin dealers. Checking the content of such emails would likely be much easier than trying to review recordings of phone calls. So, just because you don’t use a telephone, you can no longer assume that your email communications with coin and bullion dealers are private.

You won’t be off the hook if you use a different phone or email address to contact a dealer.

After all, the NSA is checking connections made to other telephone numbers (and potentially even their connections with others) by whoever had a call with a telephone number under investigation.

The governments of the world are also drawing tighter restrictions about trading gold and silver, even though none of them are currently outlawing their ownership. For instance, on May 23 France enacted a law that prohibits the post office from handling shipments of any coins, currency, or precious metals. While it did not prohibit private couriers from handling such products, earlier this year both Federal Express and the United Parcel Service prohibited shipments of coins, currency, or precious metals to or from a French address. Fedex has even gone further, where it will not handle such packages for shipments to or from the United Kingdom or Switzerland. Don’t be surprised to see similar restrictions pop up elsewhere. Australia already has a prohibition against coins and precious metals being shipped into that nation by all means.

As I understand it, both Australia and Canada have requirements that customer purchases of precious metals be reported to the respective governments. While this is not “confiscation” of gold or silver, it would certainly intimidate many would-be purchasers who wish to keep their ownership private. Don’t be surprised if such reporting regulations spread to other nations.

Especially in the United States, I don’t expect to see another program of fully compensated mandatory gold redemption such as occurred in 1933. The nations of the world are trying to pretend that precious metals are not money. Should the U.S. or any other nation try to call in gold or silver, that would be an admission that they have been lying to the citizenry all these years. Such an attempt, I expect, would hasten the collapse of that country’s fiat currency.

The only circumstances where I could foresee another call in of gold or silver would be if the national currencies are so near to total collapse that any desperate move might be considered.

If you are contemplating owning some physical gold or silver, but have not yet done so, one more reason to consider making your purchase soon is to have the maximum possible privacy compared to what will likely be less anonymity in the future. While it doesn’t make sense from a consumer benefit standpoint, you might want to consider making your purchases from a dealer that you have never called, emailed, or even visited their website.

Patrick A. Heller is the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects.