Could Platinum Serve as Money?
While investors often treat gold as a commodity, at its core, gold is money. Silver also has a long history as a monetary metal. But what about other rare metals? Could they serve as money as well?
In the following guest column, SchiffGold client Antony Pouros makes the case for platinum.
The following article was written by Antony Pouros. Any views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Peter Schiff or SchiffGold.
Gold and silver are important and valuable in their role as stable money throughout history, but I also find platinum fascinating. I don’t believe we have considered whether platinum could truly be money in the future like gold and silver.
I will try to outline the case of why platinum could be future money and address some of the common objections.
One argument that I have heard is that platinum was never used as money in the past; it’s not money today and therefore it will never be money in the future. But platinum wasn’t discovered until 1735. I would argue that there was not enough time for the public /free market to choose platinum as money as it was not known to the general public. Production of this metal was also initially very limited compared to today.
Since it took many hundreds of years for the world to collectively agree that gold and silver would serve as money then we would expect a similar time period to materialize for platinum to evolve into money as well. However, we now live in a world of technology, social media and so on. So, if the market were to choose platinum to serve as money, as it did with gold and silver, it could potentially happen very quickly.
Another argument against platinum as money is its higher melting point. In the past, it could not be easily be minted into coins. But that’s no longer an obstacle as we now have better technology and techniques to reach such high temperatures.
Does platinum possess the qualities required for sound money?
Platinum possesses the characteristics necessary for money. It is portable, divisible, durable and fungible.
It is also scarce.
In fact, some people argue that platinum is too scarce to be money. But if this is true, is it not just a matter of time until we have mined enough for it to be used by the public? Perhaps not. But isn’t gold already too scarce among the 6 billion people on earth? When backing a currency with sound money, Jim Rickards said that it’s not a question of having too little gold but a question of getting the price right for the amount of gold that would back a currency. If that’s true, why can’t platinum be considered?
I know that a ‘platinum standard” doesn’t sound as good as a ‘gold standard’ but why can it not be considered by governments if they can just change the price of the commodity itself to back the increased money supply if they need to prevent a currency crises?
While platinum clearly possesses the characteristics of money, some argue that platinum is merely an industrial metal. It is widely used as a catalyst for chemical reactions and is an important component in catalytic converters. But gold and silver also have many industrial and technological uses and yet they also serve as money. So, the mere fact that it has industrial applications doesn’t mean platinum can’t be used as money.
And if its a question of what is better money — if gold fits the role of sound money a little bit better then silver then why can’t platinum also serve as money along with the other metals? Like I said before, the fact that its never been money before may well be due to the simple fact that it was discovered too late for it to evolve into the role.
The real question is what qualities of sound money can we say with absolute certainty that platinum does not have?
The most important quality that sound money must have is ‘intrinsic value” – something that Bitcoin lacks completely. Peter Schiff has explained that the very reason that gold became money in the first place was that it was wanted and used/valued. From the very beginning, people valued gold for its beauty and its physical qualities. People have been using gold to make jewelry for centuries.
Today, platinum jewelry can be bought from companies like Tiffany & Co. or Mene right along with gold jewelry. For this reason, I ask the question: does platinum not have that exact intrisic value that gold had that gave it the opportunity to become money in the first place?
As I write this, I’m holding a Britannia Platinum coin. It has its own unique color and shine to it. Some may not find it as beautiful as gold, but I think it’s quite nice. And the weight of the coin will likely come as a surprise to anyone who holds it. It’s in fact heavier than gold.
I think it’s clear that platinum could serve as money. It would certainly be a better option than the unbacked paper currently circulating around the world. In a world in desperate need of real monetary competition, platinum provides another option.
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