Short and Sweet

– One for the history buffs  –

730 years of a strong British pound ends in 1931 with gold standard exit

ovelay chart showing price of gold and UK CPI over 730 years

Sources: Bank of England, ICE Benchmark Administration,
St. Louis Federal Reserve [FRED] •  • • Click to enlarge

This telling chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve chronicles the history of consumer prices in the United Kingdom from 1209 to present. We added the price of gold to show the direct relationship between declining purchasing power in the British pound and the sterling price of gold after 1931, the year Britain departed the gold standard. Prior to 1931, there was an occasional minor bump higher in the price of gold, but for the most part, it followed along the same flat line as consumer prices. It was only after Britain separated the pound from gold in 1931 that the price began to move radically higher in terms of the currency. It gained significant momentum after 1971 when the Bretton Woods agreement was abolished. Currencies and gold were then allowed to move freely in international markets. Though interesting from a historical perspective, the real lesson in this chart is that when a nation-state goes from gold-backed to fiat money, gold coins and bullion become a logical and worthwhile alternative for citizen-investors – even after 730 years of relative price stability.

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