MUCH of the romance and that in former times attached itself to the mental concept and the actuality of gold has passed away, partially because the yellow metal is becoming so common among civilized people, but mainly because in the hurry of modern life we have so many other things to think of. We take it much as a matter of course, just as we do our electric lights, telephones, wireless telegrams and other modern marvels. Yet there is a potentiality and uniqueness in gold that is possessed by no other natural or artificial product in the world, not even diamonds; namely, its apparently unchangeable value.
So far as words and terms go, an ounce of fine gold has been worth among civilized people, and at any time during the last one hundred years, just $20.67, or its equivalent in English, German or French money, and no less, though at times a little more. No other substance that the reader can mention has acquired this characteristic. Violent fluctuations have occurred in the price of every commodity or product. Wheat has ranged from $1.00 to $3.00 per quarter,-wool from 4 cents to 20 cents per pound, copper from $200 to $600 per ton, etc. Even diamonds have ranged from $10 to $50 per carat.
But through all these changes gold has been steadily at one price. At least one could always get the equivalent of $20.67 per ounce for it in coin. Why? Because, by legislative action, all the great nations have agreed to accept it from any source and in unlimited quantity, at their mints, and to transform it into coins of definite weight and purity, at a mere nominal charge to cover the expenses of the operation.
This is what is meant by the free and unlimited coinage of gold. Each civilized nation works up the metal into coins in a way of its own, but all upon the same fundamental principles, and from the same starting point. The result is that the gold coins of the world have a definite and unvarying value in terms of themselves. Thus, the English sovereign always contains just so many grains of chemically pure gold, and so also does the French louis the American eagle, and the German 20-mark piece, the balance being a base metal (usually copper) that is added because gold is a soft metal and would quickly suffer loss in weight if put into circulation in a pure state.
Even the resulting alloy is not so hard as the mints would like it