The bank VP vs. the moneychanger -- a study in spin : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Gold Rush
Y2K fears provide silver lining for precious metals dealers

By Bryce G. Hoffman
Tri-Valley Herald (Pleasanton CA)
April 18, 1999, page BUSINESS-1

Fears of a global computer meltdown on Jan. 1, 2000, have sparked a rush on American gold and silver bullion coins that has sent retail prices soaring and exhausted the U.S. Mint's supply of silver. [snip]

Ignoring recent, nationwide tests which show the Year 2000 computer problem has largely been fixed, some Americans are buying up bullion coins like, well, like there is no tomorrow. [snip]

"This is probably the worst I've seen," said Mildred "Millie" Loeser, who owns the Albany Coin Exchange, one of the largest sellers of gold and silver bullion coins in the Bay Area. "As the year progresses, it will probably get worse." [snip]

Though silver was trading for just under $5 an ounce last week, most bullion retailers were selling one ounce American Eagle silver coins for between $10 and $15 apiece. Government minted bullion coins do comand a premium, but market watchers like Loeser say this is ridiculous.

Cassandra -- not her real name -- was willing to pay it though.

A vice president with a major national bank, she has been involved in her institutions efforts to fix the Y2K problem.

"Im in the industry. I see all this computer code every day," Cassandra said. "Its extremely vulnerable."

She believes there is a very real possibility that Y2K-related disruptions will cause serious economic problems here and abroad. Serious enough to shatter the global economy. But Cassandra plans to survive whatever calamities lie ahead.

"Our personal decision was to do a little bit of everything," she said.

Cassandra and her family have been stockpiling food and cash. They are raising chickens and planting vegetables in the back yard of their upscale suburban home. And they have been building a small private reserve of gold and silver bullion.

"They have intrinsic value and always have," she said. "People have used it as currency for a millennium."

Precious metals have recognized value worldwide and are "quite negotiable," Cassandra said. She sighted [sic] the experience of many well-to-do Vietnamese refugees who used gold and silver to buy their way out of Southeast Asia and start new lives in America.

Its enough to make Joe Stephens fall off his chair laughing.

"It just doesnt make any sense," said Stephens, a drawling Texan who heads the Certified Coin Exchange in Houston. "Youre doing that while everyone else is becoming 401(k) millionaires. Its not a smart thing to do."

His exchange is one of the places the nation's big coin and bullion wholesalers trade their goods. Stephens said he hears stories about people like Cassandra all the time from his customers. The panic buying may be great for retail business, but he said the bullion coin market only does well when stocks and bonds do not.

The above was quoted from the printed edition. The online version of the article starts at the "Cassandra" paragraph and has a different title. Click through for some interesting details on the silver shortage.

The article was accompanied by an 18-point pull-quote of the words from Joe Stephens (marked in bold above). Anyone reading just the headline, the pull-quote and the text down to the introduction of Cassandra would conclude that Y2K is nothing to worry about.

But wait a minute. Over here we have "Cassandra," a bank VP working on Y2K code remediation. She's worried. (Hey folks, this is a clue!) Over there we have Joe, a guy who works in the coin business and has never written a computer program. He's not worried. But Joe, the guy with no knowledge, gets the 18-point quote above the fold on page 1 of the business section. Of course, we can tell that Joe is a very smart guy, because he knows which way the stock market is headed!

Not to mention that reference to "tests which show the Year 2000 computer problem has largely been fixed." I'd sure like to hear something about those tests.

The Tri-Valley Herald is an excellent paper, by the way. This article is typical of those I've been reading everywhere lately. Soothing headlines followed by scary details buried in the text.

-- Alan Rushby (, April 19, 1999


And just because the article says that "Cassandra" (not her real name) is a VP for a major national bank, how do we even know that that is true? Newspapers sensationalize in all different ways. She may just be a programmer or may even have been invented by the author just to add a little spice to the story. The press does that from time to time, you know. The people on this forum point that out all of the time. There really aren't scary details buried in the text. It is just your scary little mind searching and reaching for anything that will bolster your position.

So, you will take a few random words of an unnamed bank VP (what type of VP, you don't know or care, even though in banks there are 2nd vice presidents, 1st vice-presidents, executive VP's, etc.) at their face without any question, but you want information on Y2K tests. Hypocrisy at its best.

So you are right in one sense. This is a study in spin: Your spin.

-- larryb (, April 19, 1999.

Good Point Alan !

I submitted a press release on March 12th to our local newspaper re: my website concerning Y2K for local citizens. I was told that they were going to do a series of articles about Y2K and would include my press release. --- NOTHING ---

Our newspaper hasn't run one article regarding Y2K and my press release has apparently been circularly filed. I guess I'm going to have to pay for an advertisement for my freely available public service website. --- I "Get It" but I don't get it !???

-- WebRNot (, April 19, 1999.


Anyone who has read a news article about an event of which he has personal knowledge knows that they often get things wrong. But outright fabrication is dangerous to a reporters career, as Janet Cooke or Stephen Glass could tell you.

Any news article, Internet post or Dan Rather sound bite might be true, might be false, or might be true in the details but analyzed ineptly. There are no oracles to turn to. We must use our brains to evaluate the information that is available to us.

My "position" is to collect what information I can, evaluate it as best I can, and try to figure out what is going to happen and what, if anything, I need to do about it. I have read hundreds of news blurbs and around half-a-dozen long and boring reports, including the Senate report and Yardenis Y2K Notebook. Add to that mix some personal experience with several software projects that failed. Frankly, I dont see how some recent good news from the SSA, which started its work in 1991, and the FAA, an organization which intentionally lied to you when they claimed to be 99% done last September, offsets the near total lack of news from, for example, the HCFA (think: income stream to your hospital) and the IRS (think: income stream to your government). In my state, California, they are debating whether or not the DMV is a "mission critical" system. When they are considering throwing overboard a system that generates hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue because it is not "mission critical," I take that to be a clue.

It is just your scary little mind searching and reaching for anything that will bolster your position.

Scary? I know about scary. I lived in LA during the Rodney King riots. Ive seen what Ralphs grocery looks like when its full of middle class shoppers just this side of panic. Id rather be home cooking rice on my Coleman stove.

I know what it's like to be cowering in an apartment less than two miles from stores that are being looted, sirens blaring outside, smoke rising in the distance, wondering if my family is safer staying put or getting in the car and driving to the inlaws' place in the suburbs. That's what scary is.

One more thing, Larry. If youre wrong, and you have children, they will be hungry -- very hungry -- the first week of January, unless you are willing to go stand in line at Safeway with hundreds of your angry and edgy neighbors, many of whom are bigger and less polite than you are.

On the other hand, if Im wrong, I have a bit more rice and beans in my earthquake preparedness kit than I really need.

-- Alan Rushby (, April 21, 1999.

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