Saturday, August 11, 2012


There are any number of advertisements like this one, on buses and billboard in and around Seattle, that have taken over from the constant drone of gold-purchasing outfits that filled the airwaves as the price of precious metals began to rise. In each, a regular person (or three) is shown holding a sign, with a dollar amount that ranges from just above $250 to not quite $10,000. And there is always a pithy caption, with something to say about the nature of the money.Some of them, like this one, don't mention the sources of the windfall at all. Others are a little more specific, mentioning "valuables" or "jewelry."

If the lottery is often characterized as a voluntary tax on people with poor mathematics skills, this ad campaign can be said to be promoting a voluntary fee on people who don't understand the relationship between the price of gold and expectations of inflation, especially given how the advertisements tend to characterize the situation as being akin to found money.

This is not, of course, to say that the whole of the gold-buying business, which now seems to have a participant on every corner, is simply about getting people to value the present over the future. But it has a certain level of appeal, in a time in which many people feel strapped for cash, that we should be wary of.

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