In January 1980, the price of gold hit a record high of $850 per ounce. Then it began a nearly two-decade slide.
By the summer of 1999, gold hit $250 per ounce– a level not seen since the 1970s.
So naturally it was at this point that the British government made the infamously stupid decision to sell the bulk of their gold reserves.
They began dumping their gold on July 6, 1999. And it took more than two and a half years to auction all 395 metric tons.
Gold prices remained depressed during the auctions. The Brits received about $275 per ounce on average.
Almost immediately after the sale, the price of gold started to rise.
By the summer of 2002, gold was over $300 per ounce. It was over $400 in 2003… then $500 in 2005. Gold cracked $1,000 in 2009. And it's $1,350 today.
The British government literally sold most of its gold reserves at the bottom of the market. In retrospect the decision looked completely short-sighted and idiotic.
And taxpayers were rightfully furious.
But as infamously terrible as Britain's decision was, we've been seeing even dumber financial decision-making lately in the private sector.
Case in point: General Electric.
The company founded by Thomas Edison (with a little help from his friend JP Morgan) was long one of the world's most admired firms.
But its fortunes have been falling.
Last year GE lost more than $6 billion. The year before, the company had negative operating cash flow, meaning GE's core business was losing money. The year before it lost another $6 billion.