We arrived back to America yesterday (midnight, ugh), and I have compiled my photos and notes about the large scale of companies buying gold from Italians, individuals and families. Zero Hedge was the first news source that alerted me to this, right before our vacation there, about a month ago. I wrote a brief comment from Rome, and I now I include plenty of evidence that Italy is indeed losing its (private) gold holdings. This first photo is from Rome, near our hotel, I saw this same sign over a dozen times, and because Rome is so large, I am sure there were over 100 such signs from the same company:
This next photo is their store (the company is called Yud Preziosi S.p.a., located on Via Napoleone III, 49/51, you know, if you are ever down on your luck in Rome, the guy told me they are the BIGGEST in Rome):
The van at the far right is actually an armored car. I just barely missed getting a picture of the guard loading up the gold. In a random act of journalism, I went in and talked with an employee about their business. Naturally they did not want to give out their names, but they did tell me some facts. They are buying LOTS, from lots of different people, much of it is heirloom gold... Most that comes from Italians is 18 kt gold (75% gold), most of the gold coming from Eastern Europeans is 9 kt - 14 kt gold (!), and the gold coming from Africans is typically 21 kt (!!). Most people who are selling their gold are in desperate states, they are not buying iPhones, they are selling their gold because they have to (Italians have long memories about the value of gold). They typically only buy gold and silver despite what their ad says... But GOLD is what they really buy, that's why "Oro" is always prominently displayed. They do NOT buy platinum. They get their gold price from kitco.com.
They test their gold examining hallmarks and an acid test, he told me they get BAD gold some 2 - 3 times a month. They also discourage counterfeiters and thieves (who have robbed others) by making them sign a "Registro" which contains enough information for the cops to track them down I suppose.
They sell the gold that they buy to refineries, mostly in northern Italy, he mentioned "ARGOR" as one, I have not yet looked them up on the Internet. He then told me that he believes that ARGOR mostly sells to banks, China and India. Hmm.
They do have competition however. Here's a picture my wife took of me at the sign of a competitor. The small yellow sign about 100 feet away is yet another sign for Yud Preziosi):
We have been to Italy several times. I always let my wife do the planning because she is more interested (and speaks the language, etc.). This time we spent time in SE Italy (Apulia in English, Puglia in Italian). We did spend two days in Caserta (inland from Naples) breaking up our train trip to Bari (Apulia). Yes, there are buyers of gold in every city, Caserta:
When we arrived in Bari (a surprisingly nice city) I found more signs:
We visited the city of Taranto, which was founded by the Spartan Greeks about 702 BC. For awhile Taranto was known as a very rich place, with lots of gold. They were conquered in 272 BC by the Romans, after a long set of wars with the Greeks (whose King Pyrrhus gave us the term "Pyrrhic Victory", meaning that the Greeks won battles, but at a very high cost). Taranto is now selling more of its gold:
Lecce (another surprisingly interesting city, like I mentioned above, my wife plans our trips very well), an ad on a light pole:
Lecce again, note the name "Pomod'oro" which is a pun in Italian (pomodoro means tomato), take a look at the lower left and you can see all those cities in SE Italy where Pomod'oro has branches, buying gold from broke people in Italy is big business:
And it's not just signs and storefront windows, here are two other ads, the first on the back of a bus in Lecce, the second from an Italian newspaper:
The ad on the right just above shows that they will pay 29.80 euros per gram of 18 kt gold (the usual over there vs. our usual of 14 kt), that works out to about $1205 per troy ounce, a better rate than you get in the USA.
Yes, yes, I know there are ads and kiosks at the malls offering to buy gold here in the USA. But, this is NOTHING like the scale that I saw just now in Italy.