What Makes Gold So Precious To Investors?

Guests

Jacob Goldstein, correspondent, NPR's Planet Money
Tim Duy, director, University of Oregon's Oregon Economic Forum

Investors historically have turned to gold when other forms of investment become unpredictable, so some economists say rising gold prices indicate that people are getting nervous. NPR's Jacob Goldstein explains the state of the markets and what makes gold attractive to investors.

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NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. After yesterday's plunge, the world looks a bit less terrifying today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 90 points, but no one knows whether stability has truly returned or whether we're on the edge of a new precipice.

About 10 minutes from now, the Federal Reserve will send new signals about its intentions, more on that after it happens. But amid the slaughter of stocks yesterday, the price of gold continued to climb. The Midas metal has gone up steadily since the recession began in 2008 and soared above $1,750 an ounce today, a new record high.

Gold is seen as a safe bet in chaotic times, but it's a little hard to explain why. Investors, what makes gold so attractive? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Warren Jeffs got life in prison today. We'll talk with the expert witness he did not call to the stand. But first the gold rush. NPR Planet Money correspondent Jacob Goldstein joins us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you with us today.

JACOB GOLDSTEIN: Hi, nice to be here.

CONAN: And what makes gold so precious?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, that's a good question. I'm very interested to hear what the callers are going to say. You know, we worked on this, a long project on gold here, and that is sort of the question, the mystery really at the heart of gold. I mean, essentially it's valuable because people have always, or at least for thousands f years, believed it to be valuable.

It's very unusual among, you know, all kinds of assets you can think of. There are sort of rational ways you can think of why something should be worth a certain amount of money. You know, a stock, you can think of how profitable is the company, or a bond how much interest. But with gold, it's just, it's valuable because people think it's valuable.

CONAN: It's not especially rare?

GOLDSTEIN: It's pretty rare. But, you know, there are things that are rarer that people aren't that interested in, right? There are rarer elements that don't have the role that gold has. There are rarer elements that people don't rush to buy in times of great fear.

CONAN: And is it - it has some industrial uses. Of course, it's very pretty and good on jewelry.

GOLDSTEIN: It does indeed, and, you know, the industrial uses are real, and gold - people like to point that out. But the price of gold and particularly this huge rise that we've been seeing for years and years now, is not driven by those industrial uses.

The pretty factor, I think that actually factors into the sort of early history of gold, right. Before money was ever invented, I think people liked gold because it was pretty, and it was easy to work with, and it was relatively easy to find and to melt down in the pre-industrial world. So I feel like the prettiness sort of helped to give gold its launch thousands of years ago.

But now, you know, it's just gold because it's gold.

CONAN: It's just another precious metal, but it is the precious metal.

GOLDSTEIN: It really is. I mean, there is nothing else - you know, people talk about silver, and silver did have this big run-up in price, but silver also I think has much more significant industrial uses. So you see the price of silver rise and fall somewhat with its industrial uses. There's really nothing like gold.

CONAN: A stock, you're sort of betting the company will increase in value. You get dividends from stock. Gold gives you zippo.

GOLDSTEIN: No, and in fact, you have to, you know, pay people to store it, typically, or buy a safe to put it in your house or something. You know, there's this famous line that's attributed to Warren Buffett. Frankly, I don't know if Warren Buffett actually said it, but it's great, so I'll say it, which is - you know, if you were looking down from Mars at planet Earth watching, and you would see - you pay people to go dig this stuff out of the ground.

And then you pay a lot of money for it. And then you pay someone else to go stick it under the ground in a vault. I mean, it's really, it's really - it doesn't make sense.

CONAN: It's a little hard to explain. Now we mentioned since 2008 and the great recession began, the value of gold has gone up. Does it always track that in hard times, gold is the last port in a storm?

GOLDSTEIN: It certainly seems to track fear, and I'm not speaking quantitatively here. But qualitatively, it's very clear that when people are really afraid about the world, about governments, about the value of money, about everything, if you're afraid the world is going to start to fall apart, that is the time when people like to buy gold.

CONAN: So it is the last - but if - there's got to be other bets that are better than that.

GOLDSTEIN: I'm not going to - I'm not here to say better or worse. There are certainly other bets that seem, on their face, maybe more rational. There are certainly lots of places you can put your money where there's a pretty good chance someone will pay you interest.

You can even buy bonds that will pay you interest plus whatever inflation is. So if you're afraid of inflation, you know...

CONAN: And some of them you can get tax-free.

GOLDSTEIN: That's right. That's right. So I mean, you know, it's very - it's a very interesting mystery, and I think a lot of it - you know, there was this great exchange recently where Ben Bernanke was testifying before Congress, as he does regularly, and Ron Paul, who is a big fan of gold, asked Ben Bernanke why, you know, why do central banks hold gold.

Paul asked Bernanke is it money, and Bernanke said no, it's not money. And Paul said, so, why is it? And Bernanke, he paused for a minute, and he said: I guess it's tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDSTEIN: Sort of Bernanke as Tevya, right.

CONAN: Yes, exactly. And that's why there's all that weight in Fort Knox.

GOLDSTEIN: That's right, that's right, and, you know, there were these calls earlier this year, None from real centers of power as far as I could tell, but, you know, there are these periodic calls, well, why doesn't he U.S. sell its gold. It's some - I haven't done the math, but it's many billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of gold that is just sitting there.

CONAN: As far as I know, its major use is to be an attraction for movie villains.

GOLDSTEIN: Right. You can't - in fact, the public cannot tour Fort Knox. It is, as far as I understand, not open to the public. So it does make - you know, every 30 or 40 years, you get a "Goldfinger," and maybe it's worth keeping the gold on hand for that.

CONAN: We're talking with Jacob Goldstein from NPR's Planet Money. When the Fed issues its statement in a few minutes' time, we'll bring you an update on that. But in the meantime, we want to hear from investors in our audience. What is the allure of gold? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Ted(ph). Ted's on the line from Kansas City.

TED: Hello?

CONAN: Yes, Ted, you're on the air. Go ahead.

TED: Hi there. Yeah, I just wanted to tell you there's a few things. I am a little biased because I am a coin dealer. But besides just the investment background, if you look at gold, it's one of the few metals that if you throw it in the ocean, in 100 years, it won't have any oxidation on it. For that reason, it's wonderful in any electronic because that's the biggest problem with electronics: Once you drop it in the water, it's spent.

CONAN: Yes, that's a general problem with electronics, every time you drop them in the water. We have some experience with that in radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TED: Another benefit is with the - it's so malleable that you can roll into a layer so thin that you can see through it, yet it'll still prevent radiation. That's what you see on the face masks of all the astronauts in space.

CONAN: Aha, so Jacob Goldstein, these are some of the industrial uses we were talking about.

GOLDSTEIN: That's right, that's right. And, you know, it's interesting. When we were doing this project, we actually went and talked to a chemical engineer and said, okay, take us through the periodic table of the elements, every element known in the universe, and explain what would work well if you wanted to come up with one to use as money on planet Earth.

And he sort of eliminated almost everything and got down to gold and said, you know, partly for the reason the caller is saying, the fact that it's not reactive, it won't tarnish, it won't rust, you can throw it in the ocean. You know, it's rare, but it's not too rare. Historically, you could go into a stream and find some of it.

It melts at a relatively low temperature. So it's easy to work with. There are lots of reasons that it's sort of in this sweet spot historically.

CONAN: Ted, you're...

TED: May I say one more thing?

CONAN: Can I ask you a question?

TED: Sure.

CONAN: You're a coin dealer. Is the value of the coin the weight of the metal, the gold, or is it the - whatever's embossed on it?

TED: Well, at this level, unless it's extremely rare or in extremely great condition, it's - yeah, it's basically just its fundamental base metal value.

CONAN: Okay, now, you had a question.

TED: Well, here's what I don't understand, why I never hear, with all this talk about all the problems with the economy today, as soon as we went off the gold standard, and the governments were allowed to print money with the Federal Reserve, that's when this problem started, at zero dollars national debt.

Now we're at $14 trillion, but nobody seems to mention that since 1933, we went from zero to $14 trillion because we stopped backing our money with real, tangible metal.

CONAN: And I can hear William Jennings Bryant speak even as we talk, Jacob Goldstein, and the cross of gold.

GOLDSTEIN: So the national debt was not at zero in 1933. I don't have those figures in front of me, but I'm pretty sure the only time the national debt ever got to zero was when Andrew Jackson was president in the 19th century.

I mean, we talked to a number of economists about the gold standard when we did our piece, and to a remarkable degree, you know, economists don't agree on anything, but to a remarkable agree, they seem to agree that the gold standard was a bad idea. And the Depression is the key thing they cite.

And if you look back at the Depression, first England went off the gold standard, I believe in 1931, and then we went off in '33, and a number of other countries went off. And there is this very high connection between when a country goes off the gold standard and when it begins to recover from the Depression. And that's basically because the world was in this deflationary spiral at the time.

And the essentially solution to that was basically, as scary as it sounds today, to print more money. When you're on gold, indeed you cannot print more money, and there is something that sounds sort of comforting about that. But there is a very strong economic consensus that says there are times when in fact you need to print money, and if you're on the gold standard in the middle of the Depression, you're going to be locked in this cycle that you can't get out of.

CONAN: Ted, thanks very much for the call.

TED: Thank you.

CONAN: Now here's an email from Jim T.(ph). I believe gold prices are substantially overpriced. I purchased some back in 2002, but I'm not going to be purchasing any with prices where they are now. That raises the question: Are we in a gold bubble? We've heard about the tech bubble and the housing bubble. Are these nothing more than overpriced tulip bulbs?

GOLDSTEIN: You're asking me? Well, you know, the short answer is I don't know, and it's for the reasons we were talking about at the top of the show, which is you can take almost any other asset, you can take a bond, you can take a stock, you can take a house.

You can take a house and say, well, how much rent would I get for it versus how much is my mortgage. Are those sort of in line? You can take a stock and say how much dividends does it pay? How much is it going to grow? And from those kind of measures, you can come up with some rational basis, or you can well, over history, you know, how does this compare. Are prices really high now?

You could do that in the housing bubble. You could do that in the dot-com bubble. You could do it with stocks. But there is no way to do it with gold because, as we've been discussing, it doesn't produce any income. So I don't know how you come up with a rational price for gold.

CONAN: Jacob Goldstein from NPR's Planet Money team is our guest. After a short break, we'll hear what the Fed had to say about the economy. In the meantime, investors, why do you buy gold? What is the allure of this particular precious metal? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Send us an email, talk@npr.org. More in a minute. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The Federal Reserve just delivered its first statement since Standard and Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating, which sent stock markets into turmoil. Economist Tim Duy is following the announcement. He'll join us in a moment with the latest, including how markets are reacting to what the Fed had to say and what it may mean for investors.

Either way, gold is having another big day. Investors, what makes gold so attractive? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also clime in on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

While we await details on the Fed's announcement, Jacob Goldstein from NPR's Planet Money team is with us from our bureau in New York. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and let's go to Tom(ph), and Tom's with us from Denver.

TOM: Hi, how are you? Thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Sure.

TOM: I'm going to take a difference with your coin dealer. I've traded futures for probably 46 years, traded gold a few times, and I tend to agree with John Maynard Keynes, who incidentally, for the columnist, he was the one that said what you attributed to Warren Buffett, that you're better off putting gold in a hole in the ground, and at least you could pay people for getting it out and then putting it back in.

Gold, in my opinion, is strictly a bubble, and it's a very convenient commodity to trade. It's not like keeping 5,000 bushels of wheat around the house or...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: It's very heavy, though. It weighs a lot.

TOM: I'm sorry, go ahead?

CONAN: I said it weighs a lot. It's very heavy.

TOM: Not the gold - I know what you meant, yeah. And, you know, so it lends itself to speculation. And I know your - I think - guess Mr. Gartman's(ph) going to be on the air. He's got a long history of commodities futures...

CONAN: We just played a clip of tape...

TOM: (Unintelligible) in the past, but it's really I think strictly a bubble that's going on, and a lot of people don't have long memories. I remember when it first started trading publicly, in '74 I believe, it was around $100 an ounce. And by 1980, it was $850 an ounce. And in 2002, it was back to $200. It wasn't a very fine investment at all.

In fact, your checking account investment would have done better between - if you'd bought it at the wrong time in 1980. The bottom line, it's just something that people trade. It's the idea that if you can buy it and then shuffle it off to the next guy at a higher price, it's a great investment. And if you can't, you're one of the people who couldn't find a chair when the music stopped.

CONAN: Tom, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

TOM: You bet.

CONAN: And we now have more details on the Fed's statement, and we have some reaction, as well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, in positive territory all day long, was edging closer and closer to the break-even point. It is now done 60 points since the Fed issued its statement.

Joining us by phone from his home in Eugene, Oregon, is Tim Duy. He's director of the Oregon Economic Forum at the University of Oregon. Nice to have you with us today.

TIM DUY: Oh, thank you for having me.

CONAN: And what did the Fed tell us?

DUY: The Fed told us that the economy was weakening more than they had anticipated in their last meeting and that their inflation outlook is falling, as well. And essentially what we're seeing as a result of that is the Federal Reserve offering what I think is tepid support. And in this case, what they've done is extend the language on their statement a little bit to include basically saying that rates of - interest rates will remain low for, you know, at least through mid-2013, so quite a very specific timeline on that, that timing.

CONAN: So wasn't that what people were expecting, indeed hoping, the Fed would say, interest rates will remain low for a long period of time?

DUY: Well, I think what people were really hoping for was that they would come in with more stimulus. I think this is one of the tools that they could have used is indeed to basically commit to a longer period of interest rate stability. But I think that most people have already started anticipating that in fact the Fed would be on hold for an extended period due to the weakening of economic conditions.

I think what people truly wanted to see was a more aggressive policy approach, and that would be I think expanding the quantitative easing program.

CONAN: The Fed did issue a statement that begins with all of that bad news that you remembered - that you mentioned: economic growth considerably slower than the committee expected, recent labor indicators weaker than anticipated. It does go on to say: However, business investment in equipment and software continues to expand. Temporary factors, including the dampening effect of higher food and energy prices on consumer purchasing and spending, as well as supply-chain disruptions associated with the tragic events in Japan appear to count for only some of the recent weakness.

Inflation picked up earlier in the year, but that seems to be more under control, inflation moderated as prices of energy and some commodities declined. That's kind of bad news, good news.

DUY: It is bad news, good news, in the sense that yes, inflation - some of those price pressures that were in the system earlier in the year are coming off. But the sort of bad news part of that is that those price pressures were inducing the Federal Reserve to move to a much more hawkish stance than they really - really was justified, I think, given the data.

And so now what we're seeing is reality set in that they were, I think, much too optimistic on the state of the economy early on, and at the same time, they were much too pessimistic about the inflation outlook. Now what we're seeing is a reversal of that stance.

And in some sense, you kind of would prefer the other to be true, right. In some sense, you would actually have preferred that growth was actually stronger and inflation was something of a concern if only because that would suggest the economy was strengthening through the first half and into the second half. And what we're getting is a very opposite situation.

CONAN: And some people looked at the economic indicators yesterday in terms of what the markets were doing and how they were placing their bets in terms of, well, the price of oil going down as people anticipated a global economic slowdown. People said - investors in any case seemed to be anticipating another set of bad news, another recession maybe.

DUY: Right, and certainly there is - in the last week, we have certainly seen a rush to safety as investors really questioned the pace of I think not just U.S. growth but global growth going forward. And you see that. I think where you really see that show up is not only our stocks dropping, but you've seen this rush into treasuries.

Despite the downgrade, people are not seeing U.S. treasuries as an unsafe asset at this point. They're rushing into them as fast as they can. And you're seeing really some - I think some evidence there of very weak growth expectations for a very long period of time.

CONAN: So whatever's going to happen, it's going to take a while.

DUY: It's - well, it's certainly going to take a while if market participants and agents throughout the economy continue to believe that the fiscal and monetary authorities, basically the Federal Reserve and the federal government, are basically out of the game, that they are not willing to boost stimulus efforts going forward.

And that's where I think a lot of this challenge lies is that if you look at the - what happened over the past month with the budget debate, it's all really focused on fiscal consolidation, fiscal contraction while we're in an economy that has over nine percent unemployment and very weak economic growth in the first half of the year and concerns about weak economic growth in the second half of this year.

So, all of these concerns about fiscal consolidation, fiscal austerity, are really tightening the noose, more so, on the U.S. economy.

CONAN: Well, the markets, after dipping well below zero for a while, have gone back into positive territory. It's up about 75 points at last glance. So we're going to have to see how that plays out. Obviously, volatility is the key word for the past several days on the market.

DUY: Right, right. You saw also on the upside of - or after several days of such tremendous downward pressure, I think that anything, any sort of news, positive news in any event, might be something of a relief and at least stop some of that downward draft temporarily.

CONAN: Tim Duy, thanks very much for your time today.

DUY: You're welcome, thank you.

CONAN: Tim Duy is director of the Oregon Economic Forum at the University of Oregon, joined us by phone from his home in Eugene. And let's get back to our conversation with NPR's Planet Money correspondent Jacob Goldstein. We're talking about the gold and the allure of this metal, which, well, seems to go beyond its rarity and its economic usefulness and its basic goldness other than its - other than of the psychological importance that people have always thought it was valuable.

Here's an email that we have from Susan(ph), who invests. Gold is outside the system, she writes. You can buy and sell without a paper trail, professional assistance, the IRS, et cetera, good for all sorts of outlaws and non-conformists.

GOLDSTEIN: I buy that. Certainly, you know, when we went to buy our gold coin for this project, we bought this gold coin and sold it six months later, we went to the diamond district in Manhattan, which is where lots of people buy and sell diamonds and gold. And clearly there is a lot of cash business going on there, right. It's just these little shops, and people are walking in with wads of $100 bills or little sacks of coins. So there is certainly a lot of, you know, a lot of cash business going on there, and I would be shocked if those people were reporting every transaction they were doing to the IRS. And, you know, I think more broadly that is consistent with this idea that people who like gold see that gold is sort of outside the system, right? If you don't trust the government, if you don't trust money that is backed by the government, then oftentimes you buy gold.

So I mean, it sort of fits together. At the same time, you know, there has been the rise of these investment vehicles, exchange-traded funds, ETFs, that are much more mainstream. And on the one hand, you know, you have to report it to the IRS and everything, but basically, as easily as you can buy a stock out of an online brokerage account, you can buy one of these ETFs that then in turn buys gold. So you don't have the advantage of being able to, you know, put gold in your sock and...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDSTEIN: ...flee the country, but it's a very cheap way to invest in gold. So that has brought a lot of more mainstream sort of, you know, retail investors into gold, I think.

CONAN: When you sold the gold coin, how much profit did you make?

GOLDSTEIN: You know, I'm ashamed to say that we managed to lose money...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDSTEIN: ...on gold, perhaps the only investors on the planet to lose money buying gold over the past year. And I mean, I do think it's the - so we bought this little quarter ounce coin, which is a terrible investment idea because, you know, a quarter ounce coin is kind of an unusual item, so you end up paying a higher premium and actually because it was very low value we even had to pay sales tax, which it's like who's ever heard of having to pay sales tax on an investment. And then, we had to pay another fee when we sold it.

So, you know, I mean, it's sort of exceptional, and it's because we were doing it for this project, but it does also speak to the fact that certainly before there were these ETFs there were high transactional costs associated with getting in and out of gold. It's a relatively inefficient investment, traditionally.

CONAN: Let's go next to Michael. Michael is on the line from Boston.

MICHAEL: Hi. Yeah. I'm a pawnbroker here in Boston, and I've been in business for about 26 years. I started when gold was in the, you know, high 200s, and I have to say as a commodity the fundamentals don't work except for one thing, and that's China and India. As their middle class begins to have some real disposable income, there's going to be a suck on the supply of gold like we've never seen before, and that will probably sustain the price where it's at right now.

But, frankly, outside of that, this price is completely artificial. It could drop. Within two months, it could be back down to 400 bucks. I don't believe in the price of gold at all, and I trade in it and make a living in it.

CONAN: And you say China and India because culturally those societies value gold?

MICHAEL: Exactly. Those cultures value gold as jewelry, as ornamentation, and they usually buy 24-karat gold jewelry, which has, you know, for jewelry is, you know, would - again, they've got in China 1.4 billion people. If they have a strong middle class someday in the 800-million range that actually has real disposable income, I think that just the gold being used in jewelry will affect the supply and demand ratios, and we can see these type of prices sustained because right now every bit of gold that came out of the ground is with us. It doesn't get burned like oil. Even platinum, you know, is used in industry in a much more significant way than gold, so that's the only fundamental that works for me is the actual demand for jewelry in those countries.

CONAN: Well, Michael, thanks very much for the call.

MICHAEL: You're welcome.

CONAN: And...

GOLDSTEIN: You know, I should say the professor who we talked to about gold he was of Indian descent, and he was saying that his grandfather in India had all of these daughters, and apparently, basically, he had to amass a lot of gold for his daughters' dowries. And he actually employed goldsmiths on his, I guess, estate who would come and always be making gold jewelry and more gold jewelry, he said, because this was basically the way you stored wealth at that time in that place. I mean, I think it really speaks to what the caller was talking about.

CONAN: We're talking about gold bugs. Our guest is Jacob Goldstein of NPR's Planet Money. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And this email from Robert in San Francisco: As someone who inherited some gold coins from his dad, I thought about selling them but have held off on doing so because of the difference in what I can get paid from retailers on gold and what the price we often see quoted on the news. The difference is often a third of the quoted price. It just seems like such a rip-off, and I'm not hunting for money, so I'm going to keep holding on to it.

GOLDSTEIN: You know, if he ever - I'm sorry - if Richard ever happens to be in New York, the Diamond District, even though we did end up having to pay a fee, it seems like a pretty good place to do this kind of deal because there a bunch of people in one place who are buying and selling, and lots of storeowners actually come to buy and sell. So that may not be helpful. It may not be worth the price of a ticket. But...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDSTEIN: ...that's what I got.

CONAN: Let's go next to Gary(ph), and Gary is with us from Houston.

GARY: Hello. How do you do?

CONAN: Very well. Thanks.

GARY: I have a question, but first, I got into gold way back in the '80s. I'm a mineral collector, and I started buying silver bars, and I amassed some silver. And then I bought some gold, and I sold it just before the Hunt brothers crashed. I got lucky. I actually had enough profit to buy a vehicle.

CONAN: That was Nelson and Bunkie Hunt who tried to corner the gold market.

GARY: That's right - or the silver market, but gold went along with it. But what I did, I bought some gold some years back for 290 an ounce. I've held on to it ever since. And I'd recently sold it for 1,400 an ounce, so I made a profit. But I see it going up, so that leads to my question. Isn't there a point at which, at least in this country, as gold goes up and up and up, you're going to end up not having any buyers. Someone is going to say go to your local coin shop, and you say, well, I want to sell my gold.

And they'll say, well, we don't see a future in it. We don't want to buy it. It's way overpriced. It's inflated. And then, you're stuck with it, and, you know, I mean, you can't eat it. You can't take a Krugerrand and flop it down at the supermarket. Isn't there a point of diminishing returns on the value of a commodity that's - whose price is sort of imaginary?

CONAN: Jacob Goldstein, we'll give you a whole minute to answer that.

GOLDSTEIN: Well, certainly, if it's a bubble, that's what it would like, and, you know, gold still has not gotten back to the highs of the early '80s if you adjust for inflation, and so, yeah, that could definitely happen. You know, in the '80s, the price went up almost vertically. The price went crazy, and then, it went down almost vertically. It went crazy. I don't know if that's going to happen again, but it certainly could happen again.

CONAN: Gary, thanks very much for the call. Congratulations on your profits.

GARY: Oh, thank you.

CONAN: Jacob Goldstein, thank you also for your time - are you investing your vast public radio salary in gold these days?

GOLDSTEIN: I am not invested in gold. I have no conflict of interest, and I have no idea what's going to happen with the price of gold.

CONAN: Jacob Goldstein, a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money. You can check out the Planet Money blog on our website, npr.org/money, and he joined us from our bureau in New York. Coming up next, the man Warren Jeffs did not call on to testify joins us. The jury in that trial just sentenced the polygamous leader to life in prison. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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