In Jim Cook's Archive


Back in 1980 I made a lot of money in the gold and silver business. However, it didn’t take me long to dissipate it. I purchased the manufacturing and distributing rights to a plastic storage box for video tapes and audio tapes for $3,000,000. The seller was a European corporation with an address in Liechtenstein. I paid $250,000 down with the balance spread over several years. Key to the deal was expensive tooling that supposedly had been perfected by the seller.

Once I got delivery of the tool it became clear it was faulty. I sank a hundred thousand into the tool to no avail. I made another payment, but the project looked like a bust. I kept trying to improve the faulty tool, but eventually stopped my payments.

The seller sued for payment. I countered that the tooling never worked. Before we got to trial the judge granted them a summary judgment based on the fact that I had not given proper notice of the flawed tooling. Suddenly, everything I had was in jeopardy. Almost immediately Sheriff’s deputies were at my bank to tie up my accounts. They sued my wife and I personally. Process servers banged on our doors. They hired a private detective who quizzed my acquaintances. I was forced into hours of testimony as attorneys grilled me on the whereabouts of my assets and poured over my personal records demanding explanations of my private transactions. To say that I was frantic would be an understatement.

Eventually, I staved off disaster and, after a few months, the harassment ended. Ultimately, the company that sued me went bankrupt and I settled the whole mess for $25,000. In every adversity lies the seed of an equivalent benefit. I was forced to think about assets and wealth in an entirely different way. I had always concentrated on how to make money and now I gave equal attention on how to keep it.

One aspect of keeping your money is owning some assets with a low profile. After what I went through, I’m convinced it’s doubly important to have certain assets that aren’t easily found. It’s easy for your enemies to spot real estate, stocks, bonds and savings accounts. It’s much harder to uncover tangibles, such as jewelry, art, stamps or diamonds. This is especially true about gold and silver kept at home in a safe. Bars and coins are small, portable and surprisingly liquid. Over time the record of their purchase fades away and they become an anonymous holding.

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