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Does gold work as inflation hedge?

As I drove to work this morning, I noticed that the price of a gallon of gasoline had jumped a dime overnight to $3.099 a gallon. That wasn’t exactly a surprise, because the morning news shows that I watch as I eat breakfast were full of stories about the high cost of gasoline around the United States.

The entry points for foreign imports, New Jersey and South Carolina, enjoy the lowest prices. They are at $2.81, almost 30 cents lower than the price is here in central Wisconsin.

I pondered a minute and patted myself on the back for having lived through the 1990s without ever having succumbed to the temptation of buying an SUV. I would hate to have to foot the bill for a fill-up of those vehicles now. But there is no question that they look good on the road and make you feel like you are in total control.

Here in Iola the last time gasoline was under $1 a gallon was in December 1998. I remember that. Why? Well, I could give you some blather about being diligent. Editors do like to collect facts that they can later write about and the price of gasoline is always a popular news topic if it is rising.
I remember the price because I had done a lot of driving in the autumn of 1998, more than usual, and I was consistently paying less than a dollar. When it popped over that mark, I said to myself that I would probably never see it that cheap again. So far, I am right.

There was a parallel experience that I had when I was a very young child in the late 1950s. I suppose it could even have been 1960. Anyway, there was a gas war in the city of St. Paul, Minn., where I lived at the time. My father and my uncle took me over to a gas station that had a sign posted: 19.9 cents a gallon. They said. “Look at this. You will never see it lower again in your lifetime." So for nearly 50 years, they have been right.

All of this is a roundabout way of getting to the topic of gold as an inflation hedge. Is it? Well, let’s see.

If we take the gold price of 1959 of $35 an ounce, we find that it is now 19.2 times higher. Gasoline from that gas war sign to the current price in Iola is up 15.5 times. Pretty good for gold.

The 1998 comparison shows gasoline up by 3.1 times since then while gold has risen by a factor of 2.3. This latter performance is not as good, but it is a reminder that we live our lives day by day and not at some average rate.

If you need a hedge against inflation, you could do worse than owning a little gold. Naturally, do this in the form of collectible gold coins.