To Nelson Bunker Hunt, the world was full of enemies.
There was inflation. It was running as high as 13 percent in the 1970s, like a thief threatening to steal the family fortune earned by his father, H.L., in the oil fields of East Texas.
There was Muammar Qaddafi and the American oil men who collaborated with him. When Hunt and his brothers William Herbert and Lamar had refused to pay Qaddafi half their earnings from the Libyan oil fields, like their competitors had, Qaddafi had simply snatched the Hunts’ 8 million acres.
There were the communists, the liberals, the proponents of the welfare state. If inflation didn’t rob him of his billions, the tax man would.
The answer was silver. Enough silver to hedge against inflation. Enough to stay rich despite Qaddafi and the Internal Revenue Service, said Tim Knight, author of “Panic, Prosperity and Progress: Five Centuries of History and the Markets” (2014).
“Silver to him was not a pump-and-dump scheme,” Knight said in an interview. “Hunt had a paranoid world view and it made sense to him to amass silver and hang on to it. He was a true believer.”
Hunt died Oct. 21 at the age of 88 of congestive heart failure after a long battle with cancer and dementia, according to The Dallas Morning News.
When he began buying silver with his brothers in 1973, it cost $2 an ounce and a big consumer was Eastman Kodak Co., which used it to make film.
Before the Hunts were through, seven years later, they’d stockpiled more than 200 million ounces, the price was soaring past $45 an ounce and regulators were preparing to take measures to make sure nothing like what Nelson Bunker Hunt had done would ever happen again.