In the early 1980s, when world stock markets boomed in tandem everywhere in the world, Gold reached the $500 level twice. The first time was in early 1983, just as the global boom was getting started. The second time was at the end of 1987, two months after the infamous crash of October 1987. From $499 in December 1987, Gold fell throughout 1988 and dipped below the $400 level in January 1989. Gold has only ever regained the $400 for four very short periods since then.
Gold traded as high as $422 in December 1989 - January 1990.
It reached as high as $415 in the lead up to the Gulf war in August 1990.
It reached $408 in August 1993.
And finally, Gold reached a high close of $414 in February 1996.
But Gold's history in the years since the 1987 crash is that at all the actual crisis points, the Gold price has not risen, it has fallen. The best single example of this phenomenon remains Gold's performance on January 17, 1991, the day that the "air phase" of the Gulf war began. On that single day, Gold fell $30 from its previous close. In fact, it fell $40 from its intra-day high. Gold had been rising in the months leading up to the war. As soon as the war started, Gold plummeted.
The Gold price has failed to respond to the fact that Gold demand has exceeded newly-mined Gold supply in every year since 1988. It has, consistently done the opposite of what all of its previous history shows that it "should" do. Why has this happened?
As we have documented in this series, in the 1960s and 1970s, governments fought Gold in the open. They announced what they were going to do before they did it. Of course, they failed miserably. But people in government, just like the rest of us, are quite capable of learning from their mistakes, The first thing they learned was that the best way to "fight" Gold was to go underground. They did so, with great success.
The plan adopted was to fight Gold on their own ground. In order to do this, they greatly expanded the ways in which Gold could be traded. More important, they introduced and developed an indirect market for Gold, they invented a Gold "derivatives" market.
Forward and futures markets were not, of course, an invention of the 1980s. What was an invention of the 1980s was the massive increase in paper trading instruments. These instruments, which became known as "derivatives", were first developed in the currency and debt markets. They then spread into the equity markets and into the Gold market.
The advantage of "derivatives" in the paper markets was twofold. First, they provided more and more leverage for more and more aggressive trading. Second, and far more important, they provided a method to hugely expand the amount of money in circulation without expanding the "money supply"! The traditional measures of money in circulation (M1, M2, M3, M...) expanded much more slowly. What did expand was the blizzard of "derivative paper" using paper money as its underlying "asset". This was one of the main reasons why "inflation" (defined as rising prices) slowed down.
The advantages of a Gold derivative market were similar. Governments learned in the 1960s and 1970s that it was impossible to meet an increased demand for Gold with physical Gold. They needed a paper substitute. Gold "derivatives" provided that substitute. With more tradeable alternatives to physical Gold, it became far easier to control the Gold price. But on top of the derivatives themselves, other specific mechanisms were developed to help control the price of Gold.
One of these methods was forward selling by Gold mining companies. This practice began with Gold's retreat from the $500 level in the wake of the 1987 crash. By the mid 1990s, Gold companies everywhere, but notably in Australia, were routinely forward selling years worth of their projected Gold production.
As the performance of Gold in the fifteen years between the market crash of 1987 and the start of the current $US Gold bull market in 2002 illustrates, these mechanisms worked very well indeed.