Gold Prices Rise, Toilet Stays Put

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Humor, Precious Metals

A toilet seat made out of solid gold may not be in the cards for one Mr. Austin Powers, but Hong Kong entrepreneur Lam Sai-wing is holding tight to his own sparkling commode, a record-breaking, 24-carat, fully-flushable piece of artwork.

In 2001, Mr. Lam began building a palace that rivals the homes of kings and queens — and yes, those golden sinks, beds, chandeliers and armchairs total six tons of pure precious metal. Talk about a “safe haven.” As gold prices rise through the roof, however, Mr. Lam can’t dismantle his golden home fast enough, recognizing the high profits to be made. Currently set at $965.20 an ounce, gold is heading to another weekly gain as the dollar continues to weaken. Why bother washing with the golden sink when you can sell it for that kind of cash? But no matter how high the price of gold rises, the toilet is staying put.

“I don’t care if gold hits $10,000 an ounce,” Mr. Lam told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not melting it down.”

The toilet marked the beginning of Mr. Lam’s palace. What began as a marketing ploy for Hong Kong-listed jewelry business Hang Fung Gold Technology became a leading tourist attraction in mainland China. After the solid gold toilet became popular, the palace continued to add golden ornaments — and customers.

“The jewelry gift shop, the company’s first retail outlet, reeled in about $100 million a year in sales for the company at its peak, while sales of Hang Fung’s jewelry lines pushed company profit to new highs by 2003,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The attraction even drew Communist officials from mainland China, fascinated that a capitalist haven like Hong Kong could have realized Lenin’s dream without having first created a socialist utopia.”

You’ll find Lenin’s dream in one short sentence from his writings: “When we are victorious on a world scale, I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories in the streets of some of the largest cities of the world.” Mr. Lam, fascinated with gold at an early age, certainly took Lenin’s statement to heart.

All that glitters isn’t always gold, but gold remains the only option for the Hang Fung palace. Buying gold for the palace when the precious metal was $200 an ounce proved a successful hedging strategy against inflation. As the price of gold increases, it’s likely that more golden gems from the palace will find a new home in the melt shop. But melting the toilet made of solid gold? Never.

–Amy Edwards

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