Christmas is a season for many things … and it’s also a time for commodities. No, I don’t mean the jewelry you’ll inevitably buy your sweetheart. I’m talking the old-time commodities like gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Those were the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus.
In one form or another, these commodities, or their replacements, are still highly sought-after more than 2,000 years later.
Investment 1: Gold
Gold is the commodity that everyone knows. And yet, it’s also misunderstood. The three wise men didn’t give Jesus gold so he could bling it up. They gave it to him because gold represents eternity — it lasts forever.
As long-time readers certainly know, I couldn’t be more bullish on the long-term outlook for gold. This year alone, it’s currently up 28%. To me, it sure looks like all the pieces are coming together, too. We’re heading into another explosive gold rally on the horizon.
Investment 2: Frankincense
Frankincense is a tree resin with a woody, fruity smell. When burned, it gives off a sweet-smelling white smoke. In biblical times it was used in religious rituals. And it’s still used in modern Catholic masses. In its heyday, frankincense was as valuable as gold. It came from the region around the fabled lost city of Ubar.
Fun fact: Scientists rediscovered Ubar two decades ago, using satellite imagery.
Changing weather patterns caused the land of Ubar to dry up. The city was built over a limestone cavern, and when that cavern emptied of water, the earth literally swallowed up Ubar.
(Ubar was located in what is modern-day Oman. Oman is now better known for another important commodity: oil. Interestingly enough, satellite imagery — the same technology that found lost Ubar — is now revolutionizing how we look for new oil deposits.)
Frankincense was also used for medicinal purposes and is still used that way in Asia. In a way, frankincense was an early biopharmaceutical — very expensive and highly sought-after for health reasons.
Investment 3: Myrrh
Myrrh is a bitter-smelling, flammable resin from a gum tree native to Arabia. In biblical times, it was used both as a perfume and to anoint the shrouds of the dead. Its flammability made myrrh popular in religious ceremonies. It was often converted into oil.
The sky-high price of myrrh was its own worst enemy. The ancient people of Judea and Egypt discovered that flammable, oily bitumen, which floated up in big chunks from the bottom of the Dead Sea, could also be burned in religious ceremonies. Bitumen was quickly substituted for myrrh.
We now know bitumen as oil sands. That’s the stuff that Canada is digging up, refining and shipping around the world.
I’m thinking that if Jesus were born today, one of the three wise men might be hauling a barrel of bitumen.
The three wise men gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh because they honored a king. Gold has endured as a commodity. And while you may not be investing in frankincense and myrrh, their modern-day descendants, biopharma and bitumen (oil), are great investments for the long haul.
No matter what investments you stuff in your stocking this holiday season, I hope the holidays are a special time for you and your family. And remember … some of the most timeless investments are also usually some of the smartest.
All the best,