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A Gold Mint Under Every Pillow!
by Rich Lancaster

I used to be a rabid high-tech investor. Throughout the nineties I invested solely in telecommunications companies, software companies and almost anything that was bleeding edge technology and publicly available. Then as the economic landscape changed so did my investment focus.

A couple of years ago I reached the conclusion that gold was becoming a sensible investment after a couple of decades of being shoved aside and branded as the "barbaric relic" of the past. Reaching this conclusion wasn't trivial and I did a ton of research - I don't take investing lightly, if you do you lose most of the time. Of course, I am NOT an investment advisor and totally believe that everyone should do their own research, reach their own conclusions and do what is right for them.

Anyway, I discovered that the demand for gold has outstripped supply for the past decade, annual newly mined supply is about 2,500 tons and demand runs at 4,000. I also discovered that this shortfall in supply is being made up in the marketplace by the central banks of the western world selling their gold reserves to cover this demand. There are complex reasons for this, which I won't go in to here, but suffice it to say there is a physical limit to the reserves in the central bank vaults - and we are reaching those limits around about now.

Additionally, in very uncertain times - such as these - there is a natural tendency for people all over the world to seek out an alternative "store of value." Gold has traditionally been the ultimate store of value for over 5,000 years. Paper money that is not backed by anything tangible other than a "promise" (the promise of a politician at that!), is not seen by many people in times of crisis as something to bet the farm on.

Consequently, in recent months all over the world there has been a resurgence of interest in owning physical gold. Physical gold is obviously bought in the form of jewelry by many of us - but for investment purposes you can purchase gold coins, but most people wouldn't have a clue where and how to do this. So I thought this might be an appropriate time to introduce you to the website of the Northwest Territorial Mint.

The Northwest Territorial Mint is situated in Auburn and is the official mint for the Northwest, they are licensed to produce all kinds of precious metals items as well as being a dealer for Canadian Maple Leaf and American Gold Eagle coins. In addition they are a gold and silver bullion dealer. Their website is at www.nwtmint.com and does a good job of showcasing their business.

The site itself is nothing spectacular to look at, it is straightforward and informational; they haven't spent a lot of money on flash and fancy designs. Right on the home page you realize just how diverse this minting business can be. There are two very different aspects to the business and the links go to custom minting of commemorative coins for municipalities, police forces, military establishments and corporations on one side, and to precious metal investment services and options on the other side.

I cruised over to the custom minting links and took a good look at what the Northwest Territorial Mint can produce in-house with its own minting capabilities. It was fascinating!

There are all kinds of neat coins and medallions these folks have produced to be given to their customers' employees, supporters and those involved in specific projects; there were samples from unions, a SWAT team, various fire and police departments and many municipalities around the country. The mint has the ability to hand craft many metals in to an endless array of designs, it is interesting to see the medallions and custom coins people from all over the country have ordered up.

As I meandered around looking at the custom products on display I followed some links that took me through the process of designing and minting a coin, all the way through to custom packaging in a display case or Lucite block. There was a glossary of terms for a neophyte customer to learn from and the whole process was nicely mapped out so if I was a first time buyer I would not feel overwhelmed.

Over in the Gift Store I looked at the products for sale and found a Tun Tavern medallion minted in 4 different alloys with different prices. On this page was a nicely written brief history about the Tavern being the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps. Apparently in 1775 the cold beer and a chance to serve the cause of independence lured many new recruits, if you are or were a Marine this would be a nice thing to own. There were quite a few other custom medallions to look at and read about, all very well displayed with well-written copy. One major feature the store lacked was the ability to buy online, customers are asked to call the mint to place an order, I think this is an aspect of the site that could be enhanced - and not just in the gift store.

Over in the Bullion Sales area there is a general history of precious metals use as a store of value as well as links to further information on gold and silver coin purchases, including 90% U.S. silver bags, called "junk" silver. These are all viable investment options for everyone, and can be purchased in small or large increments. This area could also benefit from some e-commerce functionality. There is no reason why the mint can't take secured credit card transactions and drop ship the coins directly to a customers home. I wonder if opportunities are being lost in instances like this as some folks choose not to spend the time to hang up their Internet connection and place a phone call?

Overall this is a nicely crafted and interesting site. It serves its purpose very well and highlights the capabilities of the business and the excellence and quality of the custom medallions. I think there could be more time spent on the bullion aspects of the site, but otherwise this is a fun place to visit.

Many financial advisors recommend owning some precious metals, usually between five and ten percent of a portfolio. But not many of them will tell you to own physical gold though, and I don't know why. Not only is it a great investment its also something you can pass on as a family heirloom to future generations. I think everyone should have some under the mattress for a rainy day, and if you really like to be close to your investments maybe even under your pillow! Cheers Rich


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