Gold Standard Corporation
Founded in Kansas City, Missouri by Conrad J. Braun, circa 1977. He purchased gold (“For Integrity There is No Substitute”) from the U.S. Treasury in 1980, minted his own coins, and sold them to the public. The denomination of these coins (and notes as well) is the Gold Standard Unit. Along with promotional slogans like “Sound Commercial Banking”, “Denationalization of Money”, and “Free Choice of Currencies”, each coin bears the image of a different free-market economic theorist. From 1983-89, as the price of gold and silver took a steep dive, Braun made some unwise investments in commodity futures in an effort to keep his company afloat. On the domestic front, he was arrested for harassing his spouse and imprisoned for 2 years beginning in 1991. From jail, he ran GSC by phone. Then, in 1993, 3 employees discovered that the company was $2 million in debt; they turned records over to the FBI, who in turn raided the offices in February and emptied their vaults. Agents found only about $100,000 worth of gold, silver, and platinum. In March, they began an inquiry, and Braun was accused of defrauding at least 550 investors/depositors; he was arrested in September of that year. In April of 1994, with the company kaput, he plead guilty to 5 counts of mail/wire fraud and 5 counts of interstate transportation of funds obtained by fraud. For the embezzlement, he was sentenced to 90 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution. Upon his release from federal custody in September of 2000, he was re-arrested for violations of the conditions of his supervised release. He was set free once again in June of 2002. Portions of the preceding pastiche were printed in the pages of The Kansas City Star. Another story was found in the Offbeat News section of (posted on January 26, 2004), which has also been reprinted on other Web-sites: Braun “left a judge buzzing” when he showed up at a Johnson County District Court (Olathe, Kansas) wearing a bumblebee costume, complete with yellow stripes, cloth wings, and a foot-long stinger. This contemptuously satirical getup was his way of protesting what he claims was a “sting” operation by prosecutors (involving his former wife, brother-in-law, and the youngest of his 3 sons); their case, involving a blackmail charge, alleges that he made a threat against his ex-wife's current husband.
Someone close to Mr. Braun, in K.C, states that “when Conrad started his business, he was really a visionary.” But on account of his personal tribulations, “he was not able to sustain his success.” The person says that “he maintains that he was an innocent man” who believes he was framed. “He is convinced that he will prevail”.
Conrad himself explains, in a sometimes difficult-to-follow way, his lengthy legal battles, at a blog to which he contributed entitled Sentencing Law and Policy. It all started when he was “sentenced to 180 days” for a misdemeanor in September of 1991. His served only 120 days, but afterwards, his troubles only escalated, particularly because he would not refrain from contacting his children, against the orders (which he feels were a violation of his civil rights) of Kansas authorities; since then, he has spent time in halfway houses, correction centers, state and maximum-security federal prisons (including a brief stay at the “the Larned Facility for the criminally insane”), and was considered to be “a danger to the community.” His business (GSC) had collapsed after only “a year and a half in Kansas prisons”. He concludes by saying that “I was finally released in May of 2000…I was revoked in September 2000 and finally released without strings in April 2002…I now reside in San Diego” and “have started a small business”. He is “very busy trying to get reestablished and fighting more retaliation...from Johnson County Prosecutors who are under DOJ investigation for their actions.” And because he was “wrongly convicted” and received harsh treatment based on his “false criminal history” (which is built on a foundation of lies and cover-ups), “I am determined to bring this to the public eye.”
Some information on GSC coinage from 2nd edition of Krause publication "Unusual Coins of the World" is:
  • 1/20 Gold Standard Unit 1.7800g 0.999Au 0.05oz Nicholas L. Deak - Internationalization of Sound Money - Stuck at Roger William Mint in 1980.
  • 1/10 Gold Standard Unit 3.5400g 0.999Au 0.10oz Adam Smith - Trust in God - Stuck at Roger William Mint in 1979.
  • 1/4 Gold Standard Unit 8.5000g 0.999Ag 0.25oz Henry Hazlitt - Free Choice of Currencies - Stuck at American Pacific Mint in 1984.
  • 1/2 Gold Standard Unit 17.1000g 0.999Ag 0.50oz Friedrich A. Hayek - Denationalization of Money - Stuck at American Pacific Mint in 1984.
  • 1 Gold Standard Unit 34.9600g 0.999Ag 1.00oz Edward C. Harwood - Sound Commerical Banking - Stuck at Roger William Mint in 1981.
  •  1 Gold Standard Unit 34.2200g 0.999Ag 1.00oz Edward C. Harwood - Sound Commerical Banking - Stuck at American Pacific Mint in 1984.
The “Gold Standard Corporation” coins have also been struck in platinum. See “250 Years of Platinum Coinage; World Coins and Medals in Platinum and Palladium from 1740 to 1990” by Mr. Willy Fuchs (ISBN 3-927 286-07-9) on page 168, in the denominations of G 1, G .50, G .25, and G .10.
The Harwood piece, one ounce was minted in gold, silver, and platinum. The other three coins in this suite are: a 0.50 oz. piece (Friedrich A. Hayek, minted in gold, silver, and platinum), a 0.25 oz. piece (Henry Hazlitt, minted in gold, silver, and platinum), and a 0.10 oz. piece (Adam Smith, minted in gold and platinum). It should be noted that the gold Harwood pieces from ’79 and ’80 differ from the other versions: they honor the unnamed “Director Emeritus” of the “American Institute for Economic Research” (who happens to be E.C. Harwood, the organization’s founder). Mr. Melvin adds that besides the proof coins (which “were double struck and the dies were polished every 15 to 20 coins so there would be a bright polished background for the frosted areas”), he is sure that GSC also struck many more “common coins” (without the frosted areas). Therefore, “I have been reluctant to conclude that all coins of a particular type were minted at those same mints. It is possible that two mints produced the same coins or that one produced common coins and the other proofs.”
Mr. Braun, based on the choppy and briefly, stated that his coins were an attempt at “alternate money.” His first task was to “decimalize [the] ounce”, a concept which was pretty “Radical at the time”. He says that a viable system of substitute money like the one he developed is “Needed now more than ever. Idea that money should be in hands of government is simply superstition, like divine right of kings.” He asked me to complete my homework by looking into old issues of one of the numismatic publications: “The day the front page Coin World appeared the feds from federal reserve walked in my door!” Other than the coins I mentioned in the previous paragraph, he also listed a handful of pieces pertaining to his “Pioneer series” and/or “Pioneer Interchangeable series” (I don’t know if both terms refer to the same series) of which I was unaware (featuring Elizabeth Courier, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Freeman, Jim Blanchard, and someone else he couldn't remember).
Thanks to a collector named Mr. Pat McAuliffe, It was also learned that GSC produced a fascinating group of 4 medallions, unrelated to the Gold Standard Unit series. The complete set includes a “One Troy Ounce Gold” piece featuring a portrait of John F. Kennedy, a “One Ounce Gold” Abraham Lincoln piece, a “10 Gold Grams” Thomas Jefferson piece, and a “5 Gold Grams” George Washington piece. The medallions are housed in a Capital plastic custom coin holder, upon which is written “United States Prototype Gold Coin Proof Set/Free Market Gold Coinage Act”. All of the pieces, dated 1981, have “Gold Standard Corporation” inscribed on their reverses. We both wondered why the set includes a “One Troy Ounce Gold” coin as well as a slightly smaller “One Ounce Gold” coin. Mr. McAuliffe believes that “it had something to do with Conrad Braun's drive to try and decimalize the ounce. This set was probably a prototype produced by GCS with the hopes that it would be adopted for U.S. gold coinage.” He points out that the pieces all bear mottos — “Liberty” and “In God We Trust” on their obverses and “E Pluribus Unum” on their reverses — that are similar to those found on U.S. coinage.
I later learned that GSC also produced a “United States Prototype Silver Dollar Proof Set/Free Market Silver Dollar Act” set (also in a Capital plastic custom coin holder), consisting of a “ONE DOLLAR” (one ounce, featuring Lady Liberty) piece and a “ONE HALF DOLLAR” (half ounce, featuring George Washington) piece. Both pieces are dated 1982. Text-wise, their obverse has “Liberty” and “In God We Trust”; their reverse has “Gold Standard Corporation” and “E Pluribus Unum”. Mr. Barnhart provides fascinating background information about these coins: “In 1981, the U.S. had a large reserve of silver in its stockpiles. Silver prices were rising. And a few hard-money advocates suggested the US should do something with this silver. Enter our old friend Conrad J. Braun — riding high on the early success of Gold Standard Corporation. Conrad was pushing for hard money and seigniorage-free silver. Idaho, as a major producer of silver, could be expected to be fully behind this concept. So this set was produced to promote the idea before influential politicians — and which actually came to fruition a few years later as the Silver Eagle bullion coin. But in 1981, a young Representative from Idaho named Larry E. Craig was the only politician to voice this support. On 11/13/1981 Craig proposed H.R. 4965 the Free Market Silver Dollar Act. No one else thought it was a good idea and Braun and Craig's lovely little idea was shuffled off to the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage.” The purpose of the bill was “to provide for the minting of United States silver coins.” It declared “that it shall be the policy of the United States to promote the free coinage of silver at a free market price.” The bill directed “the Secretary of the Treasury to offer the silver bullion reserves of the United States for sale to the public, except that such sales shall only be in the form of silver coins that are minted in accordance with the provisions of this Act.” It declared “that, in addition to any other legal tender of the United States, the following shall be legal tender in payment of debts, public and private: (1) silver coins minted by the Secretary under this Act; (2) silver coins minted by any person; and (3) silver bullion.” It directed “the Secretary to accept silver bullion or silver coin offered from any source in exchange for its equivalent fine weight in silver coins minted under this Act.” It also prohibited “any seigniorage from being charged by the Secretary for any silver coin minted under this Act.” Mr. Barnhart states that even though they are dated 1982, the GSC coins pertaining to the Free Market Silver Dollar Act were actually struck in 1981. “Anecdotal Evidence indicates these sets were handed out by Braun to politicians and leaders to support Craig's efforts.”
Furthermore, from Mr. Greg MacLean, I learned that there is a 5-piece proof set of gold pieces called the “Testimony Series”. Each obverse features a profile of Jesus Christ and the words “For Christ There is no Substitute”; each reverse has a cross in the center along with a round crown of thorns along the complete outer border. Most of the pieces have one more bit of text directly underneath the cross: the 1/20 oz. coin says “five piece”, the 1/10 oz. coin says “ten piece”, the ¼ oz. coin says “one quarter”, the ½ oz. coin says “one half”; the 1 oz. coin is blank. They are all dated 1985, which is pretty late in the company’s life.
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