By Reginald Smith
Last year’s celebration of Juneteenth marked a special anniversary—150 years since 1865, the year that slavery was officially ended in the United States, setting free most of its Black population. While real freedom, both economic and political, was hardly immediate, the year is a milestone nevertheless in the progress of the nation. In order to celebrate this anniversary and emphasize a continuing important theme—economic emancipation—Reginald Smith of Philadelphia, along with the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (nationaljuneteenth.com) have commissioned the design and minting of a 1 oz., 0.999 fine silver coin to commemorate this anniversary.
One side shows a free Black family, chains broken, walking into the light of freedom. The other side shows the profiles of three great abolitionists: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and William Lloyd Garrison. This coin was selected and designed for two main reasons: first, as a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth and second, in order to help improve economic and financial literacy of Blacks by emphasizing one investment asset class rarely addressed in our community: precious metals.
While gold chains and bling can be flaunted (and later sold for a ripoff discount at Cash 4 Gold stores littering many poor communities), investing in precious metals as part of your assets is a wise and time tested way of preserving wealth. While this is recently back in huge fashion in the US due to economic turmoil, it has been common for centuries in areas like the Middle East, India, or East Asia. Indeed, it was not uncommon even among our ancestors where gold was important for currency and wealth creation in the three ancient kingdoms of the Sahel—Ghana (located in modern day Burkina Faso and Mali), Mali, and Songhai. Gold was also important in the Ashanti Empire, based in modern day Ghana, symbolized by the golden stool that the Asantehene (King of the Ashanti) used to represent his power and the soul of the nation.
Mali, whose great wealth was epitomized by the gold-soaked Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) of Emperor Mansa Musa, obtained much of its government revenue through the process of seigniorage. Seigniorage is where a government earns money by issuing currency whose face value is worth more than the underlying metal (or paper) of the currency itself. In the case of Mali, all gold was required to be deposited with the state where standard weights of gold were exchanged for bags of gold dust which had lesser weight, but could be traded for a relatively same value as currency.
Precious metals are best used as a part of one’s portfolio to preserve wealth in times of trouble were cash may be devalued (inflation) or when other asset classes are performing poorly. Gold and silver often perform better in poorer economic times, and though they do not pay interest, can be used to preserve long term wealth from instability in other markets or the economy in general.
This is part of the reason for designing this coin as pure fine silver instead of silver coated like many commemorative coins. Its value will increase with the value of silver and it can be a great gift or lesson for those being introduced to precious metals. True freedom requires political and economic freedom and the Juneteenth coin is a lesson in both.
Reginald Smith graduated from the University of Virginia with a BS in Commerce and the MIT Sloan School of Management with a MBA concentrating in operations and supply chain management. He has long had an interest in money & investing and has given talks in China on the Renminbi currency system as well as done research on the logistics of the cash switchover during the issuance of the Euro. He currently works in supply chain and is the President of the vinegar manufacturing company, Supreme Vinegar LLC.