November 19, 2010

1820: Wollaston's Platina Price estimation

In 1806, Edward Troughton paid £ 0.75 per Ounce Troy for Dr. Wollaston's Platinum.
On 17 July 1820, Troughton paid £ 15.4375 for 21.25 Ozt of his Platinum.

July 1820: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (UK: trade) = £ 0.7265 (Fr 18.76) 
July 1820: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (UK: French Import) = £ 0.7832 (Fr 20.23)

1820: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (Paris: semi-mfg) = £ 0.7125 (Fr 18.21)
1820: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (imported refined, whols.) = £ 0.8042 (Fr 20.55)

1821?: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (semi-mfg, wire, retail) = £ 0.88 (Fr 22.63)

"Once platinum was no longer available from Wollaston, it would have been necessary for Troughton to seek further supplies from abroad, perhaps from France. A note recorded by Wollaston in 1820 shows that Cary acquired some platinum ingots from the firm Cuoq, Couturier et Cie., in Paris; the price charged was equivalent to 16s. 1d. an ounce, of which 1s. 10d. covered freight charges (38).

Erich Bollman met Dr. Wollaston in August 1814 and informing him that supplies of crude
platinum could be obtained from the merchant firm Adams, Robertson 81 Co, of Kingston,
Jamaica. As Bollman believed, smuggled ore could not be bought at Cartagena for less than five Spanish dollars a libra (=pound avoirdupois) equivalent to 1s. 6d. a Troy Ounce when the avd. price at Philadelphia was six Federal Silver Dollars.

In Philadelphia in 1813, Bollman had fabricated a massive sulfuric acid refining still for John Harrison with ~32 kilograms of platina.  (It appears others soon followed.) Such amount of platina was of little or no consequence to the historical record, and the plenitude of platina in Philadelphia attracted Wollaston's interest. Why was bulk platina shipped and or stored to the USA, if there was no demand for the metal?  It would appear that the rare commodity was simply held by merchant banks in diversification, as an asset.

In 1820, Wollaston estimated John Johnson's (the importer's) profit for platina based on Bollman's assumed fixed price at Carthagena (actually, Jamaica.)

"N.B. Platina bought at 6 Dollars per lb. or 1/9 per ounce and sold at 2/10 gives 1/1 or 62 per cent for charges and profit."

Where "per lb." is the libra, almost identical to the English avoirdupois  = 14.792 Troy Ounces, or 7,100 grains troy, the variable is exchange for "6 Dollars" in Spanish Dollar coin (Piastre or 8 reals.)   The English Pound Avoirdupois (16 ounces) is 14.583 ozt; the Price of New Dollars varied according to Market. (1818: S$1. = £ 0.2750)

Not factoring forex hazards or expenses, Johnson's apparent profit (62% - 89%) should have been considerably lower.

1806 - 1818: 1 Troy Oz. platina (est. Jamaica import) = S$ 0.4056 (£ 0.1115)

1806 - 1818: 1 Troy Oz. platina (est. Jamaica import) = £ 0.0875 - 0.0883
1806 - 1818: 1 Troy Oz. platina (sale to Wollaston) = £ 0.1417 - 0.1455

In Cartagena, the English merchant was arbitrage-trading commodities, (semi-) manufactured English goods for ore and other raw materials of Terra Firma. He purchased and sold in libra, his US and UK imports sold in either Avoirdupois or Troy ounces.  

In trade, a Jamaican merchant's true Cost Basis was probably between  £ 0.0365 - £ 0.0664 per Troy Ounce.

Wollaston's misunderstood the merchant's true cost, but platina was sold avoirdupois in Jamaica, NYC and Philadelphia in this period.  Wollaston was exceedingly secretive but his venture with Tennant had not gone favorably.  His miscalculation and inability to acquire platina (at imagined 'fair rates') may have factored into his declining ore purchases.   This confusion and frustration constituted a very real business risk to him, no less than the deflationary Platinum rates of his Continental competition.  

1815-20: 1 Troy Ounce platina (imported) = £ 0.1120 per Troy Ounce

1806 - 1818: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Johnson) = £ 0.1455 
1820: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (scrap, Johnson) =  0.6441

4/12/1820: Unmet Bid, 203 Kgs @ £ 672, >254 Kgs @ £ 840, > 1,120 Kgs @ £ 1,680.
4/20?/1820: Unmet Bid, 248.83 Kgs @ £ 1,000.
“In reply to Dr Bollmann I engage to take 4 or 5 cwt or even twice that Quantity of crude Platina if the price does not exceed 30/- p lb avoird & to pay for it on delivery in London.”

“Henry having spoken to Hibbert & Co respecting crude Platina & asking Quantity I reply that I would gladly lay out £ 1,000 at a price not exceeding 2/6 p oz Troy”.

In March, Dr. Wollaston requested to purchase through Dr. Bollmann (as a third party?) between 5,800 - 7,300 ozt "or even twice that quantity" £ 600. - 750. His April 1820 advanced the unit price but capped the amount to 8,000 ozt.  Neither offer was successful, so below market price.

March, 1820: 1 Troy Oz. platinum (Wollaston's Bulk Bid) = £ 0.1029 (Fr 2.62)
April, 1820: 1 Troy Oz. platinum (Wollaston's Bulk Bid) = £ 0.1250 (Fr 3.18)


On the Spanish Pound, even as late as the 1870s:

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