The splash that BitGold made recently by buying GoldMoney led many (including this writer) to assume that the Canadian start-up was pioneering the gold-backed currency space. But it turns out that Peter Schiff's Euro Pacific Bank already allows non-US customers to buy gold and/or silver, store it for free with Australia's Perth Mint, and then use a debit card to spend it.
Among Euro Pacific's claimed advantages:
Unlike physical bullion, the wealth in this account is totally portable: "Clients maintain access to their purchasing power despite whatever local capital restrictions or government controls may be imposed. If you want to leave the country there's no need to travel with physical metal holdings when card access is available," says Schiff.
It allows clients to create their own personal gold standard without waiting for their governments. And they can do so "in complete privacy."
An upgrade is coming. "Later this year we launch our improved service, which will allow 24/7 gold buys in multi-currencies for less than 1% commission, and free storage. Clients will be able to access their holdings using their debit cards as they do now, just easier and at lower cost, as well as transfer gold directly to other clients or merchants, like a PayPal for gold. However, our clients will also be able to sell gold for cash and wire proceeds directly to third parties, or use their gold as immediate credit to purchase stocks and bonds on exchanges around the world. When they sell stocks or receive dividends they can opt to receive those payments in gold too. It's a complete platform for commerce and investment based on gold, yet giving clients seamless access to the larger fiat world."
Not so long ago the US was where innovations emerged before spreading to the rest of the world. But in the realm of sound money and individual financial freedom at least, this is now Siberia. Foreign banks won't accept American customers because they're terrified of IRS agents showing up on their doorsteps with subpoenas. And now gold-backed payment systems that are apparently legal everywhere else are closed to Americans. So we'll have to watch the merger of sound money and modern technology from the sidelines.
Outside the US, however, gold-backed currency has the feel of an idea whose time has come. And to repeat an assertion made in yesterday's piece on BitGold, widespread acceptance of these payment systems might generate a positive feedback loop that sends gold much, much higher. So their success will benefit all owners of precious metals, not just the early account-holders.
It's still very early, and this space is littered with the bones of previous entrants. So until the main players prove that they're 1) secure, 2) capable of managing their growth, and 3) able to deal with the inevitable regulatory onslaught from panicked central banks, caution is advisable. Gold-backed currencies are not the same thing as coins in hand. But they are very encouraging.