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Eat your heart out, Hannah Montana. Gold as an investment vehicle has seen the kind of meteoric rise in fame normally associated with the stars of stage and screen. The notorious king of pop, Michael Jackson, knew a golden opportunity when he saw one: royalties. Jackson made a shrewd investment in royalties when he outbid Paul McCartney for a catalog of Beatles song royalties back in 1985.
When it comes to gold, Fools may have a similarly golden opportunity for long-term gains through royalties. Unlike high-profile miners like Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , bullion proxies like the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD ) ETF, and physical bullion, gold mining royalties remain an obscure -- though potentially golden -- investment vehicle.
Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD ) is one such vehicle, and the company's addition last year of royalties from a number of mines operated by Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) has brought this stock some overdue attention. Royal Gold delivered earnings last week for the fiscal second quarter 2009, featuring free cash flow that represented fully 79% of revenue. For a challenging period during which gold sank to near $700 and base metal prices collapsed dramatically, Royal Gold remained profitable with $3 million in adjusted net earnings. The Barrick portfolio pitched in $4 million in revenue for the period.
As any one-hit wonder from the music business will attest, the true value of royalties is realized over the very long haul. With a business model that commits up-front capital to acquire long-term royalty interests, Royal Gold is more suited to the patient Fool than to the swing trader. That being said, this is potentially a real growth story in the making.
Of the company's 25 producing royalties, two of the most noteworthy mines are still ramping up to full commercial production: Goldcorp's (NYSE: GG ) world-class Penasquito mine and Minefinders's (AMEX: MFN ) promising Dolores property. An additional nine mines remain in the development stage, and the potential confluence of their transition into production while gold remains in this multi-year bull market is generating some excitement among investors. With a royal twist on the silver stream model employed by fellow Penasquito beneficiary Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) , Royal Gold offers Fools one more way to participate in gold's historic run.