The way Lloyd Darland sees it, if money isn't backed by gold, it's not worth the paper it's printed on.
Ever since the United States went off the gold standard -- in 1933 -- the dollar has failed to meet Darland's definition of "real money."
So Lloyd Darland prints his own.
Nice $20 bills, a little bigger than the U.S. Treasury's version but not as fancy, pour out of Darland's private mint in his home in Aberdeen, Md.
He has a company that prints money for several foreign countries run them of for him, and whenever he needs cash, he takes a few out of a drawer and signs his name to them as if he were G. William Miller, the secretary of the Treasury, puting his signature on a new batch for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
And it's all legal.
As well as legal tender, Darland calims, because his dollars are backed by gold. For every one he issues, there's a $20 gold piece stashed away in a bank vault.
Darland calls himself "one of the sound money people," an old-fashioned monetarist who lectures on hard money theories at Harford County Community College and makes money as an investment consultant when he's not printing his own.
Darland got into the $20 bill business a year and a half ago after enlisting in the campaign to try to convince Congress that the Constitution requires the government to back the buck with gold.
The Secret Service, which protects the country's currency as well as its presidents, didn't ignore him. They called him into the Baltimore office shortly after they learned he'd gone into competition with the official money makers.
"They told me I was breaking the law," Darland recalls. "'What law?' my lawyer asked them, and they couldn't name one." So he went home and kept right on making his own money.
Secret Service officials confirm that Darland is within the law -- as long as he has the $20 gold pieces that he claims are behind his notes and as long as he redeems them as promised. Darland's dollars are no different than silver or gold certificates issued by metals dealers, who promise to hold the metal for investors.
Printing your own money isn't counterfeiting, Secret Service spokesmen explain, if the money you make bears no resemblence to the kind the government prints. But copying so much as the scroll work around the edges or the typeface from a Federal Reserve note is a crime.
Darland won't say how many $20 bills he's printed, but admits "it's peanuts compared with what the government prints."
The amount of money the government prints is Darland's biggest concern. Printing too much money is what causes inflation, he contends. Inflation is really a misnomer, he argues, because the price of things doesn't go up, the value of the dollar goes down.
That doesn't happen to Darland dollars, or as he prefers to call them, "G-notes." G for gold.
When the price of gold goes up, so does the value of his $20 bills. Behind each one is a U.S. $20 "double eagle" containing slightly less than an ounce of gold. Gold is selling for $700 an ounce, but because double eagles have considerable collector value, Darland's twenties are now going for something like $1,000 each.
Again he stresses that the value of his home-made money isn't going up, the value of the dollars that people buy it with is going down.
Darland insists there are advantages to doing business with his "honest dollars" rather than what he calls "FRNs" or Federal Reserve notes.
For example, he suggests that someone who bought land many years ago for $2,000 and could sell it today for $100,000 write a contract demanding payment in Darland dollars at the original price. Because his twenties are worth about 50 times their face value at today's gold prices, the price in FRNs would be the same.
If the seller got 100,000 dollars, there would be a huge capital gain to pay taxes on; but at 2,000 Darlands, there's no gain and no tax.
Darland admits he's yet to convince the Internal Revenue Service of the wisdom of his argument, but insists the same lawyer who kept him in the money business is willing to take the case.
He won't say whether anyone else has tried this approach, but he says that people have done business in his currency.
Darland says he himselef doesn't make much money making money; he charges a commission of "less than 5 percent" on every $20 he puts out. Each is made to order. When he gets an order, he buys an "almost-uncirculated"-grade $20 gold piece from a coin dealer, puts it in one of several bank vaults he uses in place of Fort Knox and autographs another of his personal "bills of credit."
Because gold has gotten so high -- or the dollar so low, as he sees it -- Darland is planning to switch to silver for his next batch of bucks. Behind each silver Darland there will be an old-fashioned silver dollar. The soft Susan B. Anthony stuff won't do for a hard-money man.
Darland is not the only entrepreneur reviving the idea of investments backed by metal these days. Sunshine Mining Co., the nation's sixth largest silver producer, plans to raise $50 million by selling investors certificates backed by the silver buried in the company's mines.
Sunshine's certificates are similar to any other corporate bond or note, but are believed to be the first corporate paper backed by metal that's been issued by an American business in this century.
Executives of the mining company say they hope to be able to raise capital at a lower interest rate by backing the paper with silver. The certificates will be issued in $1,000 denominations and can be redeemed by investors either for $1,000 in cash or for a specified amount of silver. How much silver has not yet been determined.
The potential advantage of that technique to the investor -- and the risk to the issuer -- was demonstrated last week in France.
The French government in 1973 issued $3.3 billion worth of bonds whose redemption value was tied to gold. Since then the value of gold has soared 721 percent in France, and the government's obligation has become a staggering $25 billion. The bond's can't be redeemed until 1988, however, and it's impossible to predict what gold will be worth then.