Imagine walking into a local farmers’ market and negotiating the price of organic tomatoes. You settle on the price and both you and the merchant pull out your phones to make the payment. You send them 7.23 gold cents which is verified instantaneously. These types of phone transactions won’t sound too foreign to those familiar with bitcoin, but this year there will be another alternative.
Start-up companies are rushing in to create a gold-based currency that can be widely accepted and used. Bitgold has built a system for peer-to-peer gold transfers, but it cannot be used inside the United States. Peter Schiff is working on an offshore gold currency as well, but for the same legal reasons as Bitgold it will also not operate in the U.S. Money laundering regulations are being used to prevent gold currencies from operating in the fifty states.
A few groups are looking at ways to navigate through the woodwork of laws and regulations to offer American consumers the ability to save and spend directly in gold. The Texas depository may be the most famous attempt at re-monetizing gold state side. However, it hasn’t been built since the law was passed and it may be years away from operating. The intention behind the depository was to store state owned gold as well as to create a platform for customers to spend and save in gold.
One new group is coeptis, which is still in an early invitation-only stage of development. Their founder’s previous attempts at re-monetizing gold were crushed by federal prosecutors for money laundering so this new attempt is aimed at avoiding a repeat of that. Coeptis allows members to spend and store gold much like bitcoin.
At least one company has been operating since 2011 and has recently added to their services. The United Precious Metals Association or ‘upma’ allows members to store their wealth in the form of ‘legal tender gold’. Using on legal tender gold and silver produced by the treasury is a unique approach because government-minted coins have a different legal status than other bullion. The advantage of this is that there cannot legally be a capital gain on dollars.
Since November, upma has offered a reloadable debit card to its members so that they may transact against their gold accounts directly. The debit cards are free for accounts valuing at forty ounces of gold or maintain a $1,000 monthly deposit. Another unique offering is that upma members may sell their gold back when they transact against it for spot plus premium. The purpose is to effectively eliminate the buy/sell spread for members and thus re-monetize gold. No one else has tried this.
The big news is the merchant program that is coming later this year. There are several hundred merchants and professionals signed up to accept gold as payment through upma. The platform that will allow members to spend down to a hundredth of a cent is to be built by summer of 2016. This will allow merchants to accept gold as payment on their website for a fee of 1%.
The payment system that upma is using can eventually be leased out to other companies that want to store gold as well. By using legal tender gold, all companies will be able to compete without the consumers needing to convert to and from different forms of gold whether it is grams, ounces, or gold dollars.
As central banking continues to fail, alternatives will continue to become popular and abundant, and market participators look for other means of storing their wealth. The year of 2016 may be the last and biggest year for central banking.