I am poor and have very little gold. Think a few small coins.
Whilst I'm happy driving over to Europe carrying my tiny stash along with me, and have had no problems, air travel involves totalitarian surveillance.
Would it be considered foolish to carry one's favourite 'lucky' coins with them if having to travel by air (against my will, I hate air travel), within 'safe' European countries?
Are there any money laundering regulations that would assume I was illegally exporting bullion for nefarious purposes, or are small amounts ignored?
For example, my old watch is worth more than my few gold coins... and I've never been suspected of money laundering by wearing my nice watch when travelling by air.
However, I hate modern air travel with a passion and thought it best to check here before taking my favourite coins from what remains of my little collection with me for safe keeping.
Any advice would be VERY welcome.
All I know is that you have to declare worth over 10.000 euro.
No one is going to notice (by X ray or otherwise) that a few of your coins are made of gold, without a direct, detailed inspection. Just throw them in with some loose change in a coin purse if you're concerned. The METAL DETECTOR that you walk through will detect them (since they are metal). Don't carry them on your person.
The XRay machine (that you run your bag through) should not be able to distinguish ordinary coins from gold. The energy of the beam is not high enough. I'm saying this as a radiologist... I see chest Xrays from kids all the time with swallowed coins. They all look the same. The only way I could distinguish a penny from a dime or nickel (which I don't generally do, because it's a waste of time) is to make detailed measurements of them.
The donkeys manning the xray machines are looking for GUNS and KNIVES. They will never in a million years notice that some of your coins are slightly thicker or larger than normal coins. An iron rule of radiology is that if you aren't looking for it, you won't find it.
If you are bringing gold bars, they will notice that, because it's a bizzare finding. I remember once I packed my lead radiation safety glasses in my carryon... the trolls went nuts over those because they had never seen a dense set of glasses before. But, again, they will never notice dense coins, because dense coins are normal.
OK, so I took the risk, and here is the description of what happened:
I hate flying and love driving, I'm a complete petrolhead. So given the choice between driving from my house in south east England all the way to my hideaway in south west Switzerland, or paying for a cab to take me to an airport, where I'm treated like abbatoir waste, followed by having to link two trains and then either an expensive taxi or more public transport... I'll drive, thanks. And I'll damn well enjoy it, even in my completely inappropriate car (my favourite is my Lotus Exige. And since they're Federalised these days, and sold in the USA, I'm assuming that the Americans here aren't going 'huh?' at the mention of the car... any American car enthusiasts here will know *immediately* what I'm talking about, and probably consider me insane for *relishing* a thousand mile drive in a tiny English plastic sports car)...
However, driving over *is* a bit tiring for the passenger. For me, the driver, it's 9 to 11 hours of concentration (depending on how far I want to bend the rules), but I get so wound up by totalitarian airport security that I'm *more* strung out by a 1.5 hour flight than a 10 hour drive. Since my girlfriend isn't *quite* as extreme as me re: airports, she wanted to fly over this time rather than drive, because she was convinced that the cab - airport - flight - train - cab - bus combo would be a shorter journey by a useful number of hours.
OK, now we've tried it, the public transport method (without any airport delays) is only 2 hours faster than the car method... and critically, it's actually significantly more expensive. So from now on I'm getting my way with the car. But I digress.
On the way over, I put a selection of my favourite coins in a pill container and chucked it in my laptop bag. I only had hand luggage. The bag went through the scanner and there was no problem at all (this is going out from England to Switzerland). On the way back, I'd put the coins in the bag, but forgot that I'd put my lucky 20 peso piece and my lucky 1 Bitcoin (it's a brass round with a private key embedded inside that can be redeemed for a Bitcoin, which is currently worth around £3) in my trouser pocket. I was also wearing a watch and my belt had metal studs and loops (not 70s-punk style, may I add). Simply forgot, and ended up having a spiky conversation in French with the Swiss security bloke (this was Geneva airport, so francophone mostly) - he was cross because he thought I should have obviously removed the belt and watch and wallet, and I was wasting his time having to check me over.
But he was Swiss, so he wasn't an asshole. Instead of full pat-down searches etc., he just rolled his eyes at me as I put the watch and belt in the tray, he took my wallet from me, and I walked backwards (managing to avoid the temptation to moon-walk Michael Jackson style) through the scanner and then forward back through. Whilst I was pinging through the scanner again, he was looking through my wallet, which I wasn't happy about.
Firstly I guess I was lucky that there weren't any drugs in there ;) but it turned out that the problem was one of my credit cards, which is made of titanium and must show up like a blade in the scanner.
The interesting thing is that I did *not* remove my lucky 20 peso, nor the Bitcoin piece, from my trousers - neither of them set off the scanner when I went through the second time. I'm not convinced it was the watch either.
However, those titanium credit cards could, very easily, be sharpened into viable improvised knives. My girlfriend, who has one on my account, got through without any aggro, maybe because her purse was in her handbag, which was in the tray.
So - results of experiment - a couple of gold coins in your pockets won't even set off the scanners... but the credit cards made out of metal set off their warnings. Is anyone other than Amex doing these at the moment? It's a silly frivolous luxury for me, but I can see their point given that the scanner profile of a sharpened titanium credit card would look identical to its normal, innocent version (unless you had a great angle).
I didn't even *think* about the Amex. I was more concerned about my favourite coins. But given that I was also carrying Swiss coinage, and their 5 franc piece is a big hefty old coin (about the physical size of a typical one-ounce gold coin) - Blorf's advice above suggests that the scanners wouldn't be able to easily distinguish between, say, Krugerrands and 5 CHF coins.
Before anyone in the US acts on my experience, I'm going to sling a load of legalese caveats into this post - YMMV and the border / customs guys in 'greater' Europe (i.e. semi-outsiders like we English and the Swiss) aren't trigger-happy for 'terrorists' (yet). I have no intention of flying to the USA unless my life depended on it, and I'm not sure that I'd get the same treatment if I'd turned up at an American international airport with the same stuff in my pockets. But for European purposes - it seems OK to carry a few coins with you.
Bullion is bullion, but if you wanted to move large amounts of wealth personally, the very valuable numismatic pieces would be the best bet, since I'd bet that the border scanner guys are looking for *volume* and not *quality*. If they let me through with a couple of 'lucky coins' then it matters not what those coins actually *are*. In my case, they were plain bullion coins. But both could be rare-date high-MS-number numismatic rarities, worth a LOT more. And unless someone reports seeing a hired numismatic expert present at airport scanner terminals, this approach seems a reasonably low risk method to move capital from one base to another, at least within Europe...
Still, I'm going to drive next time :)