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The Road to Bullion Default: Part I

In the gold market, gold's status as the world's best money has resulted in near-perfect conservation of this metal. Put another way, it is at least theoretically possible for nearly every ounce of gold ever refined to be collected into a single stockpile. On a practical basis, much (most?) of the world's gold is contained in precious cultural artifacts and/or heirloom jewelry; and would/could never come onto the market at any price. However, there can be no question that large stockpiles of gold do exist that could come onto the market.

The situation is entirely opposite with the silver market. Nearly a half-century of concerted manipulation of this market has resulted in most of the world's silver (literally) being "consumed." It has been used in a plethora of industrial products -- generally in tiny amounts -- and most of that silver is now scattered around the world's landfills, in microscopic concentrations.

Understand that it was the under-pricing of silver (i.e. manipulation of the silver market) which has resulted in the destruction of inventories. Had silver been priced at its fair-market value; much/most of this industrially consumed silver would have been recycled. We know this because only a dramatic increase in recycling could lead to equilibrium in the silver market; and by definition the "fair-market value" for any good is the price which results in market equilibrium.

Thus the destruction of silver inventories -- by itself -- is conclusive evidence of the manipulation of the silver market; since the magnitude of that destruction can lead to no other possible conclusion. Between 1990 and 2005 alone, global silver inventories plummeted by approximately 90%. Over the past half-century, noted silver expert Ted Butler estimates that global stockpiles of silver plunged from approximately 6 billion ounces to somewhere around (below?) 1 billion ounces.

What has been the consequence of this inventory destruction? The price of silver has moved from the 600-year low (in real dollars) reached in the late 1990s of under $4 per ounce to well over $30 an ounce today -- a nearly tenfold increase. That multiple was significantly higher when the silver market reached its short-term peak of nearly $50 an ounce in 2011.

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