03 January 2011

Gold and silver

Dear Chinese guy

I'm going to be visiting China via Hong Kong in a few weeks time . Where can I buy gold and silver? I've heard the price tends to be lower in China.


Dear Richard

You are correct gold and silver is significantly cheaper in China than it is in well I don't know about the US but it is certainly cheaper in China and HK than it is in the UK. The UK charges sales tax of 20% on silver you see. Gold in the UK commands massive premiums. Gold for instance as of today 3/1/2011 is £913.12 per 1 troy oz (31.1 grammes). You can't buy gold anywhere in the UK for less than £975.00 per troy oz due to the high premiums. China and especially Hong Kong (where no sales tax exists) you can buy gold for a couple bucks above spot price.

In China it is typically 30RMB above spot price thats £3. So you can buy gold for £916.00-£920 due to the lower spreads. This wasn't always the case in Mainland China though. As IIRC there were laws against hoarding it for the private citizen. Also there are problems getting it out of China Mainland China that is. As taking gold out of China used to be punishable by death. I'm not sure on the status of this law as of 2011. So best buy in Hong Kong instead where you can get gold at spot prices. Yes you read that right you can buy it at spot price. Chinese people have always had a distrust of paper money due to history and hyperinflation.

Thus having a bit of precious metal is quite normal and banks buy and sell the stuff as if it is money. Paper gold is generally shunned too so people like physical holding of gold. (Ironically many stick it in safe deposit boxes though!) And there is no need to go to a numanist to sell the stuff if you need to. I'd note the gold you can buy in HK banks is a bit battered though unsealed and with scratches here and there. While in the UK at least owning gold people call you crazy and nuts to do such a thing thus you have to go see a numanist or a specialist trader to buy your gold and silver. Probably because for some reason we love paper money and in recent memory have not had huge debasement of paper money. Heh doncha just love the way Benake uses the euphemism QE? When really he means Zimbabwe style money printing?

Silver is a different animal in Hong Kong. Banks even though the Chinese word for bank contains the word silver 銀 行dont deal with it. This is because the perceived value is rather low in relation to gold. Thus you have to find a specialised dealer, there is one in Central Hong Kong and also one in the streets behind the ferry port to Macau. It moves about though.

A final word of warning though is this, two actually. Smuggling gold out of China is very bad and comes with harsh punishments. Also Chinese measurements are funny. While in the UK we deal with grammes, kilogrammes tons while also maintaining imperial measurements like oz, lbs and short tons. China is funny. Al

Since they use troy oz (31.1g).
Candareen (3.77grams)
錢 Mace which is 37.77grams
Taels which are 40grams

The bigger problem is the units of weight are inconsistent! In that a silver Tael can be anywhere from 33.9grams to 41grams. Therefore bring a mini set of scales and demand to have the thing you are buying weighed. To consider the price in troy oz (31.1g) Which is what the western world uses. Heh in old Chinese comedy it is common to advertise an extremely low price for something and in the bottom corner have one of the above measurements written in tiny letters. Heh and once it is wrapped or sliced you HAVE to buy it.

Btw I'm not a gold bug! I do not think gold/silver will go up forever! I am just seriously annoyed that the government is debauching the currency so badly (have you seen the price of gas $10! a gallon and sales tax of 20% as of tomorrow! I feel violated!) and it is forcing me to move some of my money into metals as they are addicted to the printing presses. I can sit on my arse and let them inflate my money to nothing.


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