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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/70

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66
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

to be, for if you put a score of gold coins in a buckskin bag, and shake them up vigorously for a few hours, you will find that each has lost slightly in weight in the operation; and in the bag, in the shape of fine particles, will be the gold that has been rubbed from each coin by contact with its neighbor.

This is what is called "coin sweating," and if you try it to prove whether my statement is correct or not, do so by yourself and keep the matter dark, for it is against the laws of all countries, and punishable by as severe penalties as those meted out to the counterfeiter. For in appearance the coin will not be altered by a moderate amount of such treatment, and if a man should steadily employ himself in the operation, and could be continually getting a stock of fresh coins to operate on, he might be able to accumulate as much as fifty cents' worth of gold dust per day as the result of his labors.

But it will not do to confuse in one's mind the metal gold with the coin gold. For while the former under the existing laws has an absolutely unchangeable value, expressed in terms of money, the gold coins of different nations vary continually in value as expressed in terms of each other. Thus, the English sovereign fluctuates from $4.82 to $4.89 in American money, and the other European gold coins all vary likewise. This is due, of course, to the exigencies of international exchange, and to the fact that each coin is legal tender for the payment of a debt only in the nationality whose mint has issued it. Thus, when an English wheat or cotton merchant has bought a shipload of either of these commodities from an American producer he can not pay for it in English coin, but must buy American coin to discharge his debt. This he arranges through his bank, and if the demand for American coin for the payment of such debts by Europeans is active the price for the American dollar, as expressed in terms of foreign coin, advances little by little until it reaches a point where the English merchant (or his banker) will find it just as cheap to ship sovereigns (or even uncoined bullion) over to America, take it to the mint, have it melted and manufactured into American coins, and with these discharge the obligation. When such a condition of affairs occurs the gold-exporting point is said to have been attained in London, and the gold-importing point in New York, and because of it you can never tell whether the gold you hold in your hand, though bearing the Goddess of Liberty on its face, has come from the mines of America or from those of South Africa or China. But it makes no difference, for the inherent physical qualities of the metal are the same, no matter at what place in the earth's crust it originated.

However, we are considering gold the metal, and not gold the coin, and in again reverting to the subject it is necessary to call attention to another very marked characteristic of the metal, which it shares