The price of an ounce of platinum fell below $1,000 this morning.
Will gold be close behind?
I checked the Kitco website a little more extensively than I usually do because platinum’s fall below that nice round number made we want to know more.
At $998 an ounce, it hasn’t been this cheap since the Great Recession clobbered the world economy in 2008.
Using the handy historical charts on the website I could see that platinum peaked at $1,901 an ounce in the summer of 2011.
That was the same summer that gold was riding high, peaking slightly later at an almost identical $1,900.30.
Since that time both metals have fallen.
Platinum is down 47.5 percent. Gold at $1,137 is down 40.2 percent.
I also couldn’t resist checking on the collecting hobby’s favorite metal, silver, which at $14.91 an ounce is down 69.2 percent since its April 2011 peak of $48.48.
What does this tell us?
First, it tells us that bullion buyers at the top of the market are enduring a lot of financial pain if they are still in the market.
Second, platinum and silver have more industrial uses than does gold, so they are something of a bellwether for the economy in addition to their investment functions.
Historically, silver weakens more than gold.
This means the relative magnitudes of the declines in the three metals are correct.
I checked some paper records that I have had on my desk for many years.
These take daily gold and silver back to 1976 and an annual Mint report table takes the annual highs and lows back to 1874.
I will not go back that far. I only want to go back to 1980.
If the current decline in metals would go to the absolute extremes they did following the 1980 peak, silver would be down by 93 percent at the bottom. Gold would be down 70 percent.
Platinum, I will not throw in here because as coin collectors, we apparently haven’t been interested in it as much. My first paper record dates to 1986.
So the answer to my question at the beginning about whether gold will follow platinum below $1,000 is that it can.
An identical 70 percent fall from the 2011 peak compared to the 1980 peak would take gold to $570.
Silver would be back at $3.40 an ounce if it falls 93 percent.
Would you be able to weather such a financial storm if it comes?
Historical records are not forecasts, but they are useful guidance in making appropriate backup plans.
Nobody in 1980 thought $3.50 silver could ever happen again either.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
• If you enjoyed reading this historical information, you’ll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.