We have been proposing the monetization of a silver coin in Mexico since 2001. According to our proposal a one-ounce coin of pure silver, with no engraved value, would be given a monetary value by the Mexican Central Bank. This coin would exist and circulate as money, in parallel with the paper money system of Mexico.
The monetary value would be superior to the bullion value of the silver ounce by about 15%. This margin would allow a profit, called “seigniorage”, for the Central Bank. Since the coin would not have an engraved value, rises in the price of silver (which would tend to eliminate the seigniorage of the Central Bank) would be met with new, higher, Central Bank quotes for the monetary value of the coin.
The rises in the value of silver in the silver markets of the world would no longer cause the disappearance of the monetized silver ounce. As soon as a rise in the price of silver would begin to affect the seigniorage of the Central Bank, it would produce a new and higher quote.
In order for the silver coin to become money and cease to be a commodity, the last quote of the Central Bank would have to remain stable and not diminish if and when the price of silver were to fall, which of course it does from time to time. Granted such immunity from falls in the price of silver, the coin would become legal tender money and could be used for any commercial transaction.
Now we read that China is having problems with inflation of its money supply. We think that if China were to monetize a silver coin, its Central Bank would have an effective instrument to assist in dealing with inflation.
China used silver exclusively as money for many centuries and restoring it to circulation in China would seem appropriate for China, as it aspires to recover its former glory as the richest country in the world.
The hypothetical case of a monetized silver coin in China.
The first thing that strikes us as we consider a silver coin to be used as money in China is that given its enormous population a one-ounce coin would appear to be much too large.
Let us consider a smaller coin. In the case of silver coins with engraved values we have seen the case of Mexico, whose Central Bank attempted to retain a silver peso (with an engraved value) in circulation all the way up to 1967. The attempt required removing all previously minted and engraved silver coins from circulation and replacing them with new One Peso coins containing less silver.
What we are suggesting is radically different. Instead of replacing a One Peso coin with coins with progressively less silver content, we are simply, in the special case of China, “cutting up” a one ounce pure silver coin into smaller pieces.
For the purpose of silver in circulation in China, we suggest a small coin, about the size of an American dime, with a pure silver content of 1/10 oz., alloyed with 10% copper to give a fineness of .900. In metric terms, the coin would have a gross weight of 3.45 grams and a pure silver content of 3.11 grams.
The determination of the monetary value of the 1/10 oz coin in Yuan
Today, November 24, 2010, the exchange rate for the Chinese Yuan is 6.6489 Yuan per dollar, and silver is traded at $27.59 oz.
At these values, the value of silver bullion per ounce, in Yuan, is 6.6489 x $27.59 = 183.44 Yuan per ounce.
The value of silver in a 1/10 coin would be 183.44 / 10 = 18.34 Yuan.
Add to 18.34 Yuan, the cost of minting, which we shall estimate at 10 cents per coin = .67 Yuan for minting costs. Then 18.34 + .67 = 19.01 Yuan.
19.01 Yuan x 1.1 to provide a seigniorage profit to the Chinese Central Bank = 20.91 Yuan.
We round up the Yuan figure of 20.91, to 25 Yuan as the initial official quoted legal tender value of the small 1/10 oz coin, using multiples of 5 for steps in future increases of legal tender monetary value as the price of silver continues to rise. This facilitates public use of the coin.
The Chinese population will snap up these coins in enormous quantities. As they do so, they will initially be handing over 25 Yuan for each coin purchased.
One tonne of silver will serve to manufacture 321,510 coins. One thousand tonnes of silver will allow for the manufacture of 321,510,000 coins. For the population of China, this will be merely the first appetizer. The population of China will gobble up many thousands of tonnes of silver for its savings.
Each 1,000 tonnes of silver that is monetized, at 25 Yuan per coin, will initially withdraw 8.04 billion Yuan from circulation.
The silver coins that go into circulation will be money, but will hardly be used for purchases. It will be difficult to find these coins, as they will all be treasured up by the Chinese population. Their velocity of circulation will be close to zero and thus they will have no inflationary effect upon the economy. Paper Yuan are withdrawn and replaced with silver money which goes into savings; this is a correct way to fight inflation.
Saving these coins will amount to voluntary austerity for the Chinese. Saving is the postponement of consumption. Voluntary austerity is always more effective and sounder from an economic point of view than the forced savings beloved of Statists, who have dictated taxes and scarcity for consumer goods so that the Statists can build factories.
The monetization of a silver coin will be a free-market decision that prompts people to save, spontaneously, of their own accord, and which does not require raising interest rates to draw the people’s money out of the economy into savings.
When the Chinese begin to withdraw silver from the world markets, in order to supply the vast appetite for silver savings of the Chinese, the price of silver will climb to unsuspected heights. We can easily visualize a price four times higher than the present high price: $100 Dollars an ounce.
At 100 Yuan per 1/10 oz. – the initial price calculated above, times four – the Chinese Central Bank would be withdrawing about 32 billion Yuan from circulation with each 1,000 tonnes of monetized silver coin placed in the hands of the Chinese people.
Silver is sold on the world markets, for dollars. At $100 dollars/oz., the Central Bank would be able to transform part of its vast dollar and euro reserves into silver at $3,125,100 dollars per tonne. One thousand tonnes would require $3.1 billion dollars. A drop in the bucket as far as Chinese C.B. reserves are concerned, but every little bit helps, considering that Chinese reserves are not actually worth a Chinese firecracker and that sooner or later, China will have to take a gigantic bath when this fact is recognized.
What about the impact of $100 silver on the price of gold?
We think that the ratios of the past and of the present will disappear. Gold will not necessarily rise four times in price, to retain the same ratio with silver, at its new price of $100 dollars / oz. The silver ratio to gold has been as high as 100 to 1, and lately has been around 50 to 1. The silver ratio to gold can continue to fall towards the old ratio of 16 to 1. If China persists in purchasing world silver, the price of silver might far exceed $100 dollars per ounce and become increasingly effective in stemming inflation as higher prices for the silver coin draw off greater amounts of paper money from the economy.
Quite apart from the effect of sopping up quantities of Yuan at present in circulation in China, monetizing the silver coin for the use of Chinese in their savings would have a salutary effect upon society in China.
Silver as money gets masses of people to think, not of the present, but of the future, and to focus on their long-term objectives as they accumulate savings in real money. It has a binding effect upon society.
Tranquility, or peace of mind, is one of the great Confucian philosophical values of the Chinese and solid savings in real money are a great tranquilizer. It seems to us, that more tranquility in a frenzied Chinese society would be of benefit to China.
The world is seeking a new paradigm in money. The Keynesians and inflationists and Statists have had their day, and they have fudged it. The world’s monetary system is in the initial stage of breakdown. Confidence in fiat money is evaporating. The trend is in place and there is nothing to stop it. The time for real money has arrived, and China can lead the way by monetizing silver into small coins which can be used as money.
Perhaps silver will open the way to a further, more far-reaching reform for gold in the International Monetary Process; for what the world has at present is not a System, but only a Process – of meltdown.
Hugo Salinas Price is President of the Mexican Civic Association Pro Silver; its website, with some articles in English, is www.plata.com.mx