Queen's Policy Engagement

How the US government seized all citizens’ gold in the 1930s

During extreme economic crises, governments have been known to seize people’s gold says Dr Chris Colvin and Dr Philip Fliers.

How the US government seized all citizens’ gold in the 1930s

With global financial markets in disarray, many investors are turning to classic safe havens. Gold is trading above US$1,750 (£1,429) per troy ounce, which is the standard measure – more than 15% above where it started 2020. Even after a strong rally since March, the S&P 500 stock market index is down nearly 10% over the same period.

Gold confers familiarity during downturns. Its returns are uncorrelated with assets like stocks, so it tends to hold its value when they fall. It is also a good way of avoiding currency devaluation. It therefore features in any well diversified investor’s portfolio, whether via gold-mining shares, gold funds, bullion or whatever.

Yet there are two slight caveats to viewing gold as a safe haven. Early in an economic downturn, gold prices often plummet with the rest of the market. This is from investors selling gold to offset losses in shares and other assets. We saw this in March, when gold fell 12% in two weeks, then quickly recovered. If the coronavirus causes more market panic, this could happen again.

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Article originally appeared in The Conversation.

Dr Philip Fliers is a lecturer in Finance in Queen’s Management School. 


The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 



Dr Chris Colvin
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Dr Christopher L. Colvin is Senior Lecturer in Economics at Queen’s Management School, where he teaches economic history to economics students.

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