May 2002 – the most important month of my life – is now ten years in the past.
Back then, I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a sell-side oilfield services analyst at Salomon Smith Barney in downtown Manhattan. My life was as consumed with oil as it is now with gold, but I had been working in the energy sector for seven years, a bit burnt out.
The 75-hour weeks were in my past, due to investment banking saturation, Wall Street scandals, and the bear market that commenced March 2000. I was already considering leaving Wall Street, albeit with less intensity than in subsequent years. In fact, I would have left New York in 2001 if not for meeting my wife-to-be, who I proposed to at Trattoria Grosso in Cold Spring Harbor in February, 2002. Diana and I met through my summer home (rented) in Montauk, Long Island – my favorite place in the world – and after our engagement, I decided to stick around New York for a few more years.
Although I researched all of my personal investments, Salomon Smith Barney assigned each employee a broker. We were required to keep all our investment accounts at the firm – to prevent insider trading – and thankfully I came across Doug Cundey – via an equity research colleague. We chatted from time to time, but I rarely listened to recommendations until he mentioned Newmont Mining, which he viewed as “cheap” at $12/share.
I had never heard of Precious Metals as an investment class – but given my growing skepticism of the U.S. economy and dollar, it made sense. I had sold my ENTIRE stock portfolio in April 2000, and was still 100% in cash in May 2002 awaiting an opportunity that piqued my interest, and this was it. Within a month’s time, I was 100% invested in mining stocks – perhaps 95%, as I may have held some Central Fund of Canada – and never looked back.
Anyone that understands me knows I do things FAST – with great INTENSITY – and by June 2002, I was printing 50 pages of reading material each day for the gym and train, absorbing EVERYTHING I could about Precious Metals; just as I had with Oil & Gas when my hedge fund made its first such investment – Marine Drilling Company – in April 1996. I immediately found Richard Russell, Jim Sinclair, Bill Murphy, and Bill Bonner, and by the time I was finally – mercifully – laid off from Salomon in February 2005, I was a PM expert and regular contributor to GATA.
I spent the next two years trading my personal account – ALL PM miners, mostly juniors – tripling my net worth and feeling invincible, all from my small, two bedroom apartment in Port Washington, Long Island. Simultaneously, I built an enormous Precious Metals database – seeking to become a sell-side mining analyst – traveling throughout the country to pitch my idea. I was so desperate to leave New York, I interviewed in New Orleans (I had lived there in 1998-99), Birmingham, Memphis, Baltimore, St. Louis, and Denver, but NO ONE wanted to hire a PM analyst, even five years into a growing bull market.
I was so disgusted by this experience – to this day, only two PM-dedicated sell-side analysts work on Wall Street – as well as the general direction the nation was headed, I decided to move out of New York and seek my fortunes in the mining industry itself. I had already been to the PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) conference in Toronto in 2006, and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself as a mining expert with Wall Street experience. I returned to PDAC in 2007, and by May, Diana and I were driving out to Denver to set a new life.
I quickly found a job as head of Investor Relations at Geovic Mining, a junior miner based in Grand Junction, Colorado, and started writing RANTS more often. They weren’t yet called RANTS, but they laid the cornerstone of my future. Thankfully, Geovic was a stable company, as my personal investments lost most of the gains I had made in the prior years, initially due to the peak of the TSX-Venture (Vancouver) stock exchange in April 2007, and subsequently the vicious Cartel ATTACK during Global Meltdown I, when I initially realized PAPER investments might not be the best bet, particularly given my assumption of an upcoming FINANCIAL ARMAGEDDON.
I cannot express the misery I was put through by the Cartel during that period, and if it weren’t for two fortuitous decisions, I probably wouldn’t be here writing today. In early 2008, I sold myriad mining stocks to pay off my house – damned if I was going to let the gold Cartel take away that dream – most of which have since decline by 75% or more. Additionally, I invested heavily in a junior called Silverstone at the market bottom in late 2008, betting a significant percentage of my net worth that it was rebound.
Silverstone was the “other silver royalty company,” spun off from copper miner Capstone Mining in 2007 in the same manner Silver Wheaton was spun off from Wheaton River in 2004. It was one of the ONLY profitable juniors, well managed, and down roughly 65% from its year-earlier highs. Thankfully, it was acquired for Silver Wheaton shares valued at roughly $7/share, and when the sector took off in 2009, I maintained it as my top position for two reasons – to reach the threshold for long-term capital gains, and because I was now too scared of juniors to take significant positions.
By the end of 2010, I had already converted roughly 30% of my shares to bullion, holding nearly all the rest in Silver Wheaton. I was now writing regularly for GATA, and had been nicknamed “RANTING ANDY” by Bill Murphy due to the content of my frantic emails each time the Cartel attacked. Holding mining shares does that to you, as lost stock wealth is GONE FOREVER, unlike coins that GO NOWHERE when the PAPER price declines. I was also tiring of Geovic Mining – whose stock continued to decline no matter how hard I worked – so I felt blessed when offered an opportunity to work as a Managing Director of Torrey Hills Capital, the largest U.S.-based consultant to junior miners, in January 2011.
Initially, I loved the job, as the people were fantastic and I got to travel a lot. I hosted client meetings throughout the country, went to all the mining conferences, visited mines and wrote reports on such, and had my own blog page for RANTS. However, as the junior mining bear worsened, I finally realized that the stock market game was over for me. Too much misery, too many failures, too much hard work in vain. Thankfully I had my home, and that summer I sold the last of my SLW shares in the low $30s, converting ALL proceeds into PHYSICAL gold and silver.
At which point, David Schectman called me out of the blue. I had certainly heard of Miles Franklin from seeing them on eBay, but had not yet transacted with them, or heard of their daily blogs. That changed quickly, as David and I quickly became friends, a “twin brother from another mother.” When he asked me to join the firm last Fall, he didn’t yet know in what capacity I would work in – only that I’d be a good fit.
After chatting with him and Andy Schectman several times over a two-month period, we decided that Marketing Director was the way to go. I’ve now been with Miles Franklin for six months, and couldn’t be happier. Our firm has been in business for 22 years, with much of our tight knit team either friends or colleagues going way back. I am finally being appreciated for my talents, and helping more people than ever to PROTECT THEMSELVES from the inevitable end of the global fiat currency system. Plus, I no longer own mining shares, and thus, sleep better than I have in at least five years.
May 2012 – ten long years later – I have finally found my calling, as described in my inaugural RANT on October 26, 2011…
PROTECT YOURSELF, and do it NOW!