All times are U.S. Mountain Time
"Without waxing philosophical, a few words are helpful concerning the mind-set with which you pursue your interest in gold ownership. Some enter the gold market to make a profit, others to hedge disaster, some to accomplish both. No matter into which category you fit, make sure you understand why you are going into the gold market. Convey that understanding to the individual with whom you are structuring your gold portfolio. The whys have quite a bit to do with what you end up owning.
"Frequently investors will say that any kind of gold will do because after all gold is gold, isn't it? This type of attitude has helped a great many coin shop owners unload unwanted inventory they hadn't been able to get rid of for years. This is probably a good deal for the coin dealer, but it could spell disaster for you. In the same vein, I have talked to hundreds, probably thousands, of investors in nearly a quarter century in the business. Quite often, potential investors have no more reason for buying gold than 'everybody else is doing it.'
"In Chapter 16 on portfolio planning, you will find some details on this important subject. For now, consider the inscription over the entrance to the temple of the ancient Delphic Oracle: 'Know Thyself.' Study. Read. Learn what's going on around you. Call a few gold firms and ask questions. There's nothing like conversation to stimulate thinking. Take time to lay a little groundwork. Then make your move. The political and economic situation being what it is, there is no better time to start than now. Know thyself -- your goals and needs -- and you will be a more confident, happier gold investor." (more)
Please Remember: It is your purchase from USAGOLD - Centennial Precious Metals that nourishes these pages.
Q. In your book, The ABCs of Gold Investing: Protecting Your Wealth through Private Gold Ownership you start the chapter by saying "Who you do business with is one of the most important aspects of gold investing." Why is that?
MK. Most, if not all, of the progress an investor makes towards realizing his or her goals with respect to gold ownership hinges on that relationship. Unbiased, objective advice from one's gold advisor is a key element. So are market information and education. Pricing, product selection, fulfillment and on-going support also rely on that relationship. Above all, it is extremely important for gold buyers to match their objectives with the type of gold they buy. Positive results in all of those areas depend upon a strong relationship with a gold firm. That is why it is important to spend some time finding the right one.
Q. Can you briefly describe some of the pitfalls a beginner might be on the look out for?
MK. The biggest trap investors fall into is buying a gold investment that bears little or no relationship to his or her objectives. Take safe haven investors for example. That group makes up 90% of our clientele, and probably a good 75% of the current physical gold market. Most often the safe-haven investors simply want to add gold coins to their portfolio mix, but by the time they finish talking with a typical national firm, they might end up in a leveraged gold position, exotic rare coins, or being diverted into silver or platinum. Others drift into gold stocks or gold futures which in reality are proxies for real gold ownership and could actually act opposite the intent of the investor. There's nothing wrong with any of these non-physical investments per se, it's just that none of them is really a safe-haven. The investor should bear this in mind. The question investors must always answer for themselves is "How will this investment serve me should the economy or financial markets suffer a major disruption?"
Q. What is the best approach for the safe-haven investor?
MK. If you want to protect yourself against inflation, deflation, stock market weakness and potential currency problems -- in other words, if an economic disaster is your concern, there is only one portfolio item that will serve you in all seasons and under most circumstances -- gold coins or bullion.
Q. In recent years, we have seen a large number of gold dealers proliferate on the internet. What do you have to say about that?
MK. The internet offers an interesting challenge for the gold buyer. Fly-by-night firms are as big a problem in the gold business as they are in other areas of the investment business. One major problem at the moment are all the one-man-do-it-from-your-basement internet operations that have cropped up in the last few years. How does one know that the individual with whom you are dealing in these situations is legit? We've even heard of instances where some of these people actually have criminal records or have had past problems with regulatory authorities -- like the Federal Trade Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission. After all, what does it take to go on-line with a website? Anyone can do it. It's up to the consumer to do their due-diligence before doing business with these operations.
Q. Any comments about your own internet presence?
MK. First and foremost, USAGOLD / Centennial has always been a brick-and-mortar brokerage headquartered in secure and professional office space here in Denver, Colorado. In function our own website is just a readily-available extension of our advertising and marketing programs. The USAGOLD website further gives us the opportunity to easily provide our clientele with timely market information and commentary.
Q. I've noticed that USAGOLD / Centennial stresses education more than most of your competitors. Why is that?
MK. For years, we have emphasized "We educate first-time investors" in our advertising. We believe education to be the key to successful gold ownership. To make a long story short, we tend to keep our clientele as they become better educated, while many of our competitors tend to lose their clientele once they become educated. It shows in the type of services we consider important to complement our sales and delivery programs.
Randy interjects... Mike is way too nice to say this bluntly so I will. What I've noticed about the apparent rationale behind some of those other firms' operating philosophy is that, if they bend the client over far enough for their wallet the first time they ever do business together, they really don't have to care about getting repeat business. They find new uneducated targets ripe for picking arriving at their doorstep every day. It doesn't have to be that way, but some investors simply don't take the time to shop around for a quality firm that will treat them professionally and with respect. They should.
Q. What are some of the criteria a prospective investor should look for in a gold firm?
MK. Credibility, longevity, pricing, service and compatibility -- all come into the mix. Of those I rate credibility and its sister virtues -- reliability and reputability -- the most important. Too many of the national firms have brokers who were selling condos at the beach or automobiles a month ago and now suddenly they've become "gold experts" selling leverage schemes, $50,000 rare coins, reproduction medallions at 25 times their gold content, or overpriced silver investments. Most sophisticated gold investors would probably like to avoid that sort of thing.
Q. What makes USAGOLD / Centennial Precious Metals different from its competitors in terms of its interaction with clients?
MK. Our business philosophy allows us to take a more laid-back approach. We don't employ a room full of brokers spinning the phones day and night. We don't have multi-million dollar advertising expenses dictating what kind of advice we give clients. This is all by choice. I decided long ago that I didn't want the headaches that go with managing a large number of brokers and the support staff and facilities required. At the same time, we get hundreds of requests each month for introductory information packets. We do not make cold calls. We do not work mailing lists. We do not call people at all hours of the day or night. We do not use marketing and sales gimmicks -- leaders, bait and switch, and the rest of it. We primarily work with clients who have discovered us, like what they see, and want to form a long term relationship with a reputable and reliable gold firm.
Q. Does the "laid-back approach" limit your business?
MK. Yes and no. In the short run, "yes." In the long run, "no." We probably lose a few prospects to the aggressive companies which use hard-sell tactics but we will not be changing our client-friendly approach. We know that not every prospective investor is going to become a client of USAGOLD / Centennial. However, we know that the client who chooses us is likely to be the type of client we are accustomed to doing business with. We work with a large number of professional people and business owners -- active, retired and semi-retired. In fact, we work with clientele that span the economic spectrum and all walks of life. Getting back to how our approach sets us apart from our competitors, we get quite a few disgruntled high net worth clients who come to us after being run through the mill by some of the boiler-room operations I've referred to earlier. They are usually grateful that they found us.
Q. And finally, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
MK. Fundamentally, we believe that we are here to serve the client. Anyone who has done business with us will vouch for the courteous and professional service he or she has received. Our staff is carefully chosen and it shows. We get referrals on nearly a daily basis and are kept busy with strong repeat business. I would also like to call attention to the solid informational services offered at this website. We believe that any of our clients or visitors will find USAGOLD head and shoulders above anything else out there. I would encourage anyone attending this site to have a look around. We also publish a very good hard copy newsletter called News & Views: A Bi-monthly Review of Forecasts, Commentary & Analysis on the Economy and Precious Metals. Above and beyond that, the most important thing is the way we treat our clientele. From first inquiry through order fulfillment, we want to make the gold investing experience as pleasant and rewarding as possible. We have a large and satisfied clientele and that's the way we want to keep it.
Q. How does USAGOLD / Centennial Precious Metals position itself among its competitors with regard to credibility, reputability and pricing?
MK. USAGOLD / Centennial Precious Metals has always been considered one of the most reputable firms in the business and it's always been that way. We have placed literally thousands of ounces of gold with investors and our repeat business and referrals are both very strong. That doesn't happen unless you know what you are doing and your clients know that you know what you are doing. If I were to sum it up, I would say we combine the first rate services and research that you would expect from a very large firm with the favorable pricing you would expect from a smaller, client-conscious firm.
MK. Fundamentally, we believe that we are here to serve the client. Anyone who has done business with us will vouch for the courteous and professional service he or she has received. Our staff is carefully chosen and it shows. We get referrals on nearly a daily basis and are kept busy with strong repeat business. I would also like to call attention to the solid informational services offered at this website. We believe that any of our clients or visitors will find USAGOLD head and shoulders above anything else out there. I would encourage anyone attending this site to have a look around. We also publish a very handy e-mail newsletter available to prospective clients. Above and beyond that, the most important thing is the way we treat our clientele. From first inquiry through order fulfillment, we want to make the gold investing experience as pleasant and rewarding as possible. We have a large and satisfied clientele and that's the way we want to keep it.