Interview with Mr. Lochmann ESG

Dominik Lochmann, Managing Director of ESG Edelmetall-Service GmbH & Co. KG Germany, in an exclusive interview with Mr. Joachim Schwarze from silberinfo.com

This Interview was done short after the presentation of the firsth Gold CombiBars™ to the public in the beginning of 2011:


J. Schwarze:

How did you come up with the idea of producing divisible gold bars? How much time passed from the concept to the production stage?

D. Lochmann:

I had the idea last summer while on holiday during the Greece/Euro crisis. There was a mad rush to buy gold bars as people feared the currency might collapse. The mints were not able to keep up with demand and special small-unit bars were quickly sold out in Germany. My office called and explained the situation to me. At the time, demand was primarily for smaller bars, because it would difficult to carve off a piece in the event of an emergency. I spent some time thinking about a production method for gold bars which would allow us to more effectively respond to the spike in demand. In the end, I struck upon the idea of a divisible gold bar with individual segments which could be broken off as required. Once I understood the tremendous potential of the invention, all I wanted to do was to go home and start working on making the project a reality. And when I did arrive home, the first thing I did was contact our company lawyer and have him apply for a patent and copyright the name. I then spoke to our long-term partner, Heimerle+Meule, and brought them on board to help us with the technical implementation of our idea. By early November, I was able to hold the first gold CombiBar™ in my hand.

J. Schwarze:

You are entering uncharted territory with your product. Did you receive any assistance in implementing the concept? If yes, from whom?

D. Lochmann:

Initially from Heimerle+Meule, who really took to the idea immediately and helped us prepare the product for market launch. Innovation and tradition are a good combination. Later, we will also receive assistance from Valcambi, the Swiss gold bar maker, who will also produce CombiBars™ according to the Good Delivery standard.

J. Schwarze:

Is it easy to break off the individual bars with your hand? Are all the bars identical in weight and is any gold lost when breaking them off?

D. Lochmann:

The individual mini-gold bars can be easily split off from the CombiBar™. All you need to do is bend a row or bar up and down two to three times and it can then be separated from the main bar. The designated break-off points on the bars are calculated so that each gold mini-bar weighs exactly 1g and no material is lost when separating a row or bar from the main bar. It is similar to tin foil, where there is also no flaking when a strip is removed from the roll.

J. Schwarze:

How widely accepted are the small, individual gold bars? Are they accepted only at scrap value, or do coin dealers and banks also accept them as they would small coins, for example?

D. Lochmann:

Gold is gold. We purchase the individual bars at the same rates we offer for all conventional 1g gold bars. Our company is also currently working on a special type of packaging with an appealing design, where the mini-bars can later be placed when they are split off and can be bought or sold again as standard 1g gold bars. This will be offered to precious metal dealers and banks.

J. Schwarze:

When you had the idea for CombiBars™, was there some particular scenario you had in mind, such the global financial crisis?

D. Lochmann:

I am not a prophet of doom, but there is demand for small units and, with our new product, we are now able to satisfy this need with a bullion product specifically targeted at this market. Plus, physical gold is a long-term investment and who knows what the future holds in store.

J. Schwarze:

Do you believe that a crisis could unfold where holding small gold units would be to the advantage of the consumer, in other words, when making everyday purchases or paying bills?

D. Lochmann:

I hope we never face a situation like that. But if that were to happen, you would be well-prepared.

J. Schwarze:

As an alternative to your CombiBars™, investors could also purchase gold coins or bars. What specific advantage do CombiBars™ offer?

D. Lochmann:

For one thing it is significantly less expensive. The premium charged over pure gold on a per gram basis is much less than for small 1/20 or 1/10 oz. gold coins and for individual 1g or 5g gold bars. Plus, Germans use the metric system and are therefore better able to think in terms of grams than ounces. The outer dimensions of CombiBars™ are also standardised according to DIN and the bars can be easily stacked.

J. Schwarze:

You offer the bar from two different manufacturers. Please explain why. Are the Heimerle+Meule and Valcambi versions priced differently?

D. Lochmann:

The 100x1g bars from Heimerle+Meule are made in Germany. In addition, the 99.99% pure gold used in the bars is primarily from recycled gold. The products are stamped and punched from a continuous sheet of gold in a single step.

The 50x1g Valcambi version is produced in Switzerland and features the LBMA Good Delivery status. The Swiss version is minted much like gold coins and features embossed lettering. They are both great products and priced more or less the same on a per gram of pure gold basis.

J. Schwarze:

Do the individual bars feature serial numbers and the stamp of a refinery?

D. Lochmann:

We made a conscious decision not to use serial numbers. For many gold investors, it is extremely important that the bullion product is discrete and anonymous. Since the CombiBars™ consist of a number of individual 1g gold bullion bars, each one of them is naturally stamped with the weight, purity and manufacturer's logo. The CombiBars™ Valcambi will sell out of Germany and Austria will optionally become an serial number.

J. Schwarze:

Would it be possible to apply the same concept to silver, palladium and platinum bars? Or does it only work with gold?

D. Lochmann

Technically speaking, the concept of divisible gold bars is transferable to most other precious metals.

J. Schwarze:

Are divisible bars with other metals planned?

D. Lochmann:

We are already working on a silver version, with platinum and palladium certain to follow sometime in the future. But it must be said that the potential market for these two metals is much smaller than for gold or silver.

J. Schwarze:

How expensive is a 50g / 100g divisible bar compared to standard, off-the-shelf gold bars?

D. Lochmann:

The sale price for the CombiBars™ will be more or less in line with the premium for minting levied on 1 oz. bullion coins. The slightly higher price compared to conventional 50g and 100g gold bars is more than justified by the greater flexibility when selling the divisible bars in the future. The owner does not have to sell the whole bar at once and can divide it into the required portions as part of a divorce settlement or in the case of a joint inheritance.

J. Schwarze:

Do you plan to launch CombiBars™ as a product on international markets?

D. Lochmann:

The product is sold abroad through Valcambi under the name ‘CombiBar™'. These bars will soon be a standard product on global markets much like gold coins and bars.

J. Schwarze:

Mr Lochmann, thank you for your answers and we wish you and your family all the best.