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Best way to think about gold

When gold was new to American investors in the 1970s, the South African Krugerrand was advertised as the world’s best way to own gold.

The U.S. Mint might adopt a slogan for its gold coins, “the best that money can’t buy.”

Word came yesterday that the proof 2007 Buffalo one-ounce coins were taken off the market for an indefinite period to allow the Mint to reprice.

This is becoming a routine. Sept. 13 the Mint took the “W” uncirculated gold American Eagle coins off the market for what was initially hoped as a two-week period that has now turned into nearly a month.

New “W” unc. prices will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, clearing the way to put them back on the market. I don’t know how much time will elapse between publication and return. Keep an eye on the Mint’s Web site.

With so much interest in gold at the moment, the Mint’s predicament is unfortunate. I don’t expect the Mint to sell at a loss to current market value, but I have commented that the pricing mechanism is obviously more unwieldy than it should be if it takes such a long time to get the coins back on the market.

Some readers have e-mailed me that the Mint should just go on selling, much as they are striking nickels and putting them into circulation at a loss.

That is contrary to all business logic and I don’t expect it. It is a bit surprising that there is some sense of entitlement to buy coins at yesterday’s prices knowing that gold has gone up since.

I don’t know yet how long the proof Buffalo coins will be off sale. The September precedent isn’t promising, though.