Silver-coin sales from Australia’s Perth Mint, which was founded in 1899 and processes all of the country’s bullion, have surged to a record as buyers seek to protect their wealth with the metal known as poor man’s gold.
The mint sold 10.7 million 1-ounce silver coins since July 1 last year, according to Sales and Marketing Director Ron Currie. That’s 66 percent higher than the previous full fiscal year and about 10-fold more than five years earlier. Sales of 1- ounce gold coins will be close to a record, he said.
The soaring demand adds to signs investors are stepping up precious-metal purchases as Europe’s governments tackle a sovereign-debt crisis and central banks led by the U.S. Federal Reserve print cash to stimulate their economies, potentially devaluing paper currencies. Silver, the second-best performing commodity over the past year, rallied to a record in April.
“Silver’s still booming and it’s been going strongly for a year,” Currie said in interview yesterday from the mint in Western Australia’s capital. “A lot of the buying is by people new to the market,” with European and U.S. investors the most active international purchasers of the mint’s products, he said.
Immediate-delivery silver, which rallied to $49.79 an ounce on April 25, was at $36.33 at 4:40 p.m. in Perth, 42.6 times cheaper than gold. Over the past year, silver has beaten all the commodities on the Standard & Poor’s GSCI index apart from top- ranked corn. Spot gold, rallying for an 11th straight year, has gained 25 percent.
Gold has become the preferred “coin of the realm” during Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis, Dennis Gartman, editor of the Gartman Letter, said in May. There is a “distinct possibility” that Greece, which is seeking additional financial aid, may leave the euro zone and go back to the drachma, Pictet & Cie Chief Investment Officer Yves Bonzon said in London yesterday.
“Sales of gold coins in Greece have risen considerably as nervous savers shift out of cash deposits,” UBS AG analyst Edel Tully wrote in a note today, citing a report in the Financial Times. “This ties in with our own sales of coins and small bars to Europe which have accelerated in recent days.”