Think Like a Thief
It's official: the greatest number of responses to any article I've written since joining Casey Research was to Robbed!,the story of my friend's gold being stolen and the suggestions for storage. It's clear the article struck a nerve - from those who've also been a victim of theft, to those who were simply looking for additional ideas for storage locations.
Based on the number and quality of responses, I thought it would be useful to pass some of them along. Here are the (edited) emails I received, along with our comments...
Other Stories of Stolen Gold:
"I had 136 American gold Eagles stolen from my home... $198,500 worth of gold. Besides the loss, I will lose the tremendous appreciation of the next few years. So be warned: HIDE YOUR GOLD!"
"Another sad story of robbery was the report of a Canadian man being robbed of his entire life savings. The article says he was punched, stabbed and tied up by home invaders who made off with his life savings in silver bars. The two thugs, wearing fake police uniforms, made off with $750,000 in silver the man had bought as an investment last year."
Comment: There are more horror stories than I think most of us are aware of. The message is the same: the gold and silver bullion you possess is valuable, and will be increasingly so, so tell only one other person. And to determine if your home storage is really secure, think like a thief: how likely would someone intent on robbing you find or get to your valuables?
Additional Storage Locations:
"Just wanted to offer an additional storage method... I suggest private vault storage... only you and the one person you trust have this information. I use Mountain Vault in the Phoenix area. Good prices: only a few hundred dollars for 3" or 6"h x 10"w x 24" deep. You can pack a lot of gold Eagles in there!"
Comment: Private vault storage is a great option, of course, but at this point it's not widespread enough to make it available to most people - and you want to be relatively close to your precious metals. It's also generally more expensive than most other storage choices. The advantage it holds over a bank safe deposit box is that it's outside of the financial system. If you're within an afternoon's drive of one and can justify the cost, it's definitely worth checking into. Google "depository" and your state or province.
"Some upscale jewelry stores have storage options."
Comment: Jewelry stores make me nervous; they might be an easy target if Doug Casey is right about a Greater Depression.
"There is one other option you forgot to mention: Build a storage or garden shed out back. Have a safe built into the floor. You can access the gold without being seen, day or night. Tell only one other person (such as your adult child) the combination. Do not have a key, only a combination. If you are robbed, they will not kill you because then they won't have the combination. If someone breaks in and heads for the shed and tries to dig it out of the ground, tell the cops to go find the contractor who installed it!"
Comment: An alternative worthy of consideration. Just be sure that if you go this route, the safe is protected from the elements - you don't want rainwater seeping in, for example. Also, my father knew a man whose family was tortured until he gave up the combination to his safe. While a combination safe is preferable to a key lock, don't think you're immune. Keep the safe hidden and tell only one confidant. Last, hiring a contractor is something to avoid if possible; all it takes is for them to tell one other person.
"Bury a pop can a foot above your buried gold so that if someone used a metal detector, they'd find it and stop digging."
Comment: Something to consider if you go the "midnight gardening" route. Keep in mind, though, that all they'd have to do after removing the pop can is wave the detector over the hole again.
"On the subject of storing bullion and home safes, Liberty safes are some of the best on the market. What sold me is, they will replace the safe and its contents if damaged or broken into. I didn't find any other company with as good a product or warranty."
Comment: The guarantee is worth checking into if you're buying a home safe. However, keep in mind that no safe is 100% secure; a safe buys you time, nothing more. Meaning, hide your safe or store it under the floor where something could be placed over it (a refrigerator in the garage, for example).
"Keep two safes - a decoy one and the "McCoy" safe."
Comment: Not a bad idea if you're storing a lot at home. Get a cheap safe from an office supply store for the decoy one, and put some metal or jewelry in it that's less valuable so the thief thinks he got your stash.
"Keep in mind that someone could follow you home from a coin shop."
Comment: Yes, be alert of your surroundings when you're handling gold. If you suspect someone is really following you, drive to the police station.
Also, my friend installed a security system at his home, complete with cameras. While most of his gold is no longer stored there, he'll have a video recording if someone tries again. A nanny cam could work, too, and they're not expensive.
Bank Safe Deposit Boxes
"The bank can access a safe deposit box only if the owner is deceased and no one claims it." ~ Bank official
Comment: Several readers wrote in to say they'd been told there were circumstances under which a safe deposit box could be accessed by the bank (confiscation) or restricted from access by the owner (locked down during a natural disaster, for example), but most of these comments sounded more like an internal comment from a local bank rather than a broader instruction.
The statement above is what my local bank told me and is generally the case with the bankers we spoke to. That's not to say the rules couldn't change (and perhaps with little notice), but generally speaking, the bigger risk here is that the contents aren't insured (think of the banks washed away by the tsunami in Japan).
I also got a response from Frank Trotter at EverBank, a banker David Galland knows well and someone we trust...
"We have always noted that there are two key elements for holding gold:
1. If you're holding it as an investment, then minimize the cost of holding and maximize the liquidity. This was the concept behind the development of our EverBank Metals Select Pooled accounts, and is in place at a number of other institutions. We also think this should be the primary focus of investing in gold.
2. We do not view holding the metal as an investment, but rather a self-insurance. If you are holding for emergency, then cost and convenience are not the primary drivers. Of course each individual has to assess what they consider an emergency to determine how to hold the metal, but if you are holding for emergency, then you must control the metal directly. I think we can all find scenarios where it would be impossible to access any business storing anything for you; will the employees come in, are all businesses closed by order, is there unrest near the facilities, etc. In major emergencies, it is certainly illogical that overseas transportation would be available if that is your selected location, and so on.
"Basically, we view investments in metals in cost-efficient and liquid instruments to be primary to hedge against inflation and geopolitical events, and holding metals yourself to be the only way to effectively hedge against dislocation of civil society."
"On burying coins: do not put silver coins, or even gold for that matter, directly in touch with PVC. It is highly reactive with silver, and silver is found in most alloyed gold coins in some amount. Here's a link to a good short articleabout it. Most coin dealers use mylar coin 'flips' which are hard and brittle, but I often get sovereigns and even silver Eagles in so-called 'soft' flips which can contain PVC. I remove them and put them in hard plastic non-PVC holders, of which there are a number on the market."
Comment: To confirm this, I spoke to a couple dealers:
Van Simmons/David Hall Rare Coins: "PVC holders were common, but not any longer. The industry has changed, in part, because PVC used to cause what was called the "green gunge," especially with copper and nickel coins."
Andy Schectman/Miles Franklin: "Over a long period of time, it could put holes in bullion. The reader is correct that you should store your coins in the stiffer plastic holders, not the softer "flips," though no reputable dealer would use those these days."
Insuring Your Metal
"You mentioned your friend decided not to make a claim with his insurance company because they may not have paid it or dropped him from coverage. I talked to my insurance agent, who is a personal friend I trust, and was told that in my case it covers only up to $2,000 worth. I recall the underwriter wanting to know what my safe was like, how heavy it was, etc., then wanted to know how much gold and silver I had and in what forms (I was told there are different rules for bars vs. coins). They also required a current appraisal of everything I had. In the end, they would insure it as a 'rider' with a premium of 1.5% of the value per year. Not only would I have been uncomfortable giving them all the data they were asking for, but I also didn't want to pay them 1.5% annually."
Comment: While it may seem wise to insure your metal, it breaks one of the golden rules of home storage - you've got to tell other people what you have. If you go that route, consider who else your agent has to discuss your policy with (corporate office, admin staff, etc.), who has access to the paperwork, etc. Bottom line: I would pursue this route only if you had substantial holdings, had a security system at your home, and kept some of your holdings elsewhere.
The bottom line is to review your storage methods so that you're confident your physical assets are secure. If you "think like a thief," you might find where you need to make some changes. And don't forget that no storage location is 100% secure. Therefore, one of the best ways to store your physical gold is to diversify your locations. The more you have, the more you should utilize several methods for holding metal.
Last, as I stated before, don't let this scare you off from buying bullion. It's still the asset that offers the best monetary protection for the foreseeable future. Not owning it may leave you feeling robbed when you go to use your paper dollars and find they won't buy you as much as you thought. That's not a theft you can prevent - unless you own gold.
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