Gold books on the black market

Golden wisdom from Sun Tzu.
Liaoning's Times Business News reports that that despite all efforts by national regulators to ban a certain class of books, black market trade is thriving.

Sales of "golden books" were halted by GAPP last May, but TBN reports that they have resurfaced as popular gifts for the Spring Festival. Since the books cannot be obtained above-board, prospective purchasers contact a "gift planner" to arrange a deal.

So-called "golden books" are ancient texts, famous novels, collections of leaders' poetry, and calligraphic reproductions put out by a small number of publishing units who, out of a one-sided drive for profit, make books out of gold or silver, or luxuriously bind and package the books in gold, precious stones, and rare woods. Prices range from several thousand at the low end to more than 10,000 yuan. Just as golden books were starting to be in demand in the gift market, GAPP issued a memo banning sales to drive them from the marketplace. However, though they were taken off the shelves, golden books are still sought after by many people, particularly during the peak gift-giving season just before the Spring Festival, and underground trading in golden books is particularly hot. A reporter's investigation revealed that while manufacturers long ago stopped producing golden books, untold numbers of golden books still remain in the hands of sellers and collectors. Gift givers who have always considered golden books to be the best kind of gift contact "gift planners" privately to get their hands on them.

Mr. Zhou, a gift planner, revealed that just last week he arranged the distribution of forty or fifty sets of "golden books", and supply was far outstripped by demand. A private company boss who had just bought five golden book sets through Mr. Zhou told the reporter, "It's not so easy to get your hands on golden books these days. I spent close to half a month to get five sets worked out."

The report goes on to describe how the scarcity of these desireable items have driven prices far beyond their original list prices, which were unreasonable to begin with. An exposé on the phenomenon published by Gansu Economic Daily last May (following similar reports from other areas of the country) explained the numbers games played by golden book publishers:

Some sellers claimed, "Producing one 16mo sheet containing one gram of gold consumes six grams of gold." In other words, when purchasers spend so much money to purchase real gold and silver, the goods are truly worth it...."This is just playing language games. It's 'gold consumption' and not 'gold content,'" said a knowledgable source in the Northwest's hard to say how much is really contained in one vanishingly thin sheet of gold leaf produced from a tiny bit of gold.

An industry insider revealed...a golden book listing for 6000 yuan has a factory price of 700-800 yuan. Calculating from this, the true cost of one golden book is several hundred yuan, but its sale price can be twenty times that.

Bao Jianhe, head of the Gansu Province Collector's Association, has reservations about the so-called "limited circulation" of golden books. In an interview on 18 May he said that under most circumstances, the true number of golden books in circulation is far greater than the publicly disclosed number. "They may say 1000 sets, but the true number is probably 10,000. It's hard to say whether the distributors have upped printing numbers and by how much."

The TBN article closes with an expression of dismay from Shenyang's Press and Publications Bureau: "Who knew that golden books would still be so hot before the Spring Festival." But Mr. Zhou the "gift planner" isn't surprised:

Mr. Zhou said that the consumer group for golden books is mostly made up of the rich and powerful. These buyers see golden books as PR luxury items because so many people like them as gifts. So it is indeed difficult to completely remove golden books from the marketplace.

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