In February, a 10,000 ton meteor exploded over Russian skies. The once-in-a-lifetime light show captured the attention of the entire world. Now, the fallout has attracted the attention of treasure hunters – literally.
The meteor explosion sent thousands of meteorites (fragments) flying across the Russian landscape. The city of Chelyabinsk is believed to have a particularly dense amount of meteorites, so treasure hunters, space enthusiasts, and scientists have descended on the area to collect the valuable fragments – creating a veritable “meteorite rush.”
Unlike a gold rush however, no one is quite sure how much the fragments are worth, or even how to properly identify them. Essentially, if fewer meteorites are found, they will be worth more with some optimistic estimates reaching $2,000 per gram.
If the meteor was made of precious metals the meteorites would be worth so much more. However, scientists are classifying the fragments they have found as chondrites, which are mostly stone and about 10% iron. Russian citizens have been selling fragments for as little as $30 online, but there is no way to tell if the fragments are actually meteorites or just ordinary stones.
Since the meteor was so large, the number of fragments must truly be vast. Perhaps “meteorite prospecting” will be the next big Russian industry.
Remember the debt-ceiling crisis the US government faced at the beginning of this year? It was a complex fiasco that nearly produced a $1 trillion platinum coin. Here’s why:
By hitting the debt ceiling, the US Treasury would no longer be able to legally borrow more money. Without being able to borrow money, the US wouldn’t be able to pay the debts it already owes – causing the nation to default. Simply raising the debt ceiling avoids this crisis, but not everyone in Congress was willing to allow it. The alternative solution would be to mint a large denomination platinum coin.
Why platinum? The choice of metal is necessary for using a loophole in US law which allows the Secretary of Treasury to “mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.” In other words, the Secretary can mint a coin of any shape, size, design, and denomination – so long as it’s made of platinum.
With a face-value of $1 trillion, the coin can simply be deposited in the Federal Reserve. Just like that, the government now has $1 trillion to pay off its debts. Furthermore, the coin deposit wouldn’t increase the US money supply any more than raising the debt ceiling would – so it wouldn’t cause inflation. It’s a crazy idea, but you see why it got so popular.
Fun fact: $1 trillion worth of platinum at today’s prices would weigh around 18,000 tons – much more than has ever been mined in the history of the world. Likely, it’s even more than ever will be mined. Luckily, with a fiat currency, that doesn’t matter.
If today’s gold prices indicate anything, gold is popular all over the world as a store of value, jewelry base, and status symbol. The country of India in particular places a high social value on gold. As a matter of fact, the largest gold hoard in the world is located in the vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple which holds more than $26 billion in gold coins, statues, and other artifacts collected over the temple’s 300+ years of operation.
It seems in India, everybody wants gold and wants to show it off. It’s not uncommon to hear about everyday items getting a gold version in India, like Tata Motors’ gold-plated car. More recently, the “Gold Man of Pimpri” has gained a lot of media attention. A successful fund manager from Pimpri, India, Datta Phuge is obsessed with gold and holding onto his self-appointed title as the Gold Man. So much so, that he commissioned a gold shirt for him to wear about town. The shirt’s base is luxurious white velvet with Swarovski crystal buttons and 22k gold woven throughout. Fifteen goldsmiths used their expertise to craft the shirt, which weighs 3.5kg. In addition to the shirt, Phuge likes to accessorize with an additional 5kg in bangles, necklaces, and rings. At current gold prices, the ensemble is worth about $385,000.
Hopefully, his shirt size won’t change anytime soon!