How Gold Coins Could’ve Saved Breaking Bad’s Walter White

December 6, 2013 – If you haven’t seen the 5th season of AMC’s Emmy Award-winning series Breaking Bad then you may want to bookmark this blog and read it after you have seen the series finale, Felina. In Season 5 we learn that the show’s protagonist-turned-antagonist Walter White has $80 million buried in the New Mexico desert in 7 55-gallon drums. Rivals steal six of the seven drums, leaving Walter approximately $11.4 million and a big hole in the ground (a hole that is eventually filled with something much worse than $80 in methamphetamine money, but we won’t get into that today).

Twitter user @iowahawkblog wrote that Walter would need 1,487,000 barrels to “bury” the current U.S. debt of approximately $17 trillion. If he was burying his $80 million in the form of one-ounce gold coins, however, he would use less than one barrel. In fact, $80 million in one-ounce pure gold coins valued at $1300 each is 61,538 coins. A 55-gallon drum has 1,457,383.54 cubic centimeters, so the 89,722.404 cubic centimeters that 61,538 one-ounce gold coins would require (based on gold’s volume of 1.62 cubic centimeters per ounce and a 90% packing density) means that Walter could’ve absconded with a far more private type of wealth.

Granted, Walter would’ve had almost 4,000 pounds of gold to bury, but it’s hard to imagine that being anywhere near as hard as burying 7 55-gallon drums full of cash in the middle of the hot desert, alone. If Walter kept his money in the bank or purchased lots of business and/or properties then everything would’ve been seized and his family would be left with nothing. One of the sad realities I stumbled upon while watching this show is that many of us prefer to keep our cash and/or gold spread out in physical locations rather than just owning it on paper, and even though we made our money ethically we have lost trust in the U.S. banking system.

Walt was able to leave his family a sizeable rainy day fund, although his untimely demise came in a way for which he originally did not plan. Had he stashed his illicit meth money in gold coins rather than in cash via those 7 large drums could he have prevented the desert showdown between Jack and DEA agents Gomez and Hank, the latter of which was also Walt’s brother-in-law? Possibly. Would burying gold coins in various locations keep him from losing 6/7th of his wealth, as he eventually did? Maybe. Perhaps some of Walt’s enemies could’ve been appeased by the glow of gold itself, ultimately changing the course of events for Walt. We’ll never know.

Most of us will never be in Walter White’s position. We do, however, know what it is like to be wary of banks, stocks or other investments that rely on technology or that could rob us of financial independence in an emergency. Dollar bills can be stolen in a literal way, or they can be stolen indirectly through over-printing and intentional devaluation. We, like Walt, want to take steps today that could help our loved ones tomorrow, regardless of what may happen to us in the meantime. Gold is currently at $1250 per ounce, and while Walter White’s methamphetamine sold for about double that it’s safe to say that even an almost-insolvent fiat currency like the U.S. dollar is a better asset to hold than Walter’s (aka Heisenberg’s) “Baby Blue”.

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