Good as platinum? Platinum bug? She's got a heart of platinum? Thar's platinum in them thar hills?Sounds strange, doesn't it? Gold has always been the precious metal guaranteed to make sane men crazy and crazy men head for Alaska.

But since the first of the year it has been platinum, not gold, that has been ringing up the profits for metals investors. From an opening price of $496.30 in January to a closing price of $615.70 on May 31 - an increase of 24 percent - platinum has been on a roll. (Platinum was down in the $580 range this week.)

According to Johnson Matthey, the Toronto-based metals company that has a major refinery in Salt Lake City, platinum supplies will continue to fall short of demand not only this year but through 1990.

According to "Platinum 1988, which JM published in May, there was a shortfall in platinum of 220,000 ounces last year, the third successive year in which supply did not meet demand.

To explain what's going on, the New York-based Platinum Guild International (PGI) has scheduled a seminar in Salt Lake City on June 29, 4 p.m., at the Doubletree Hotel. Jacques Luben, PGI executive director will be the main speaker.

Luben said investors seem to be impressed that precious metals, especially platinum, have held up so well ever since last October's stock market crash.

"Platinum's rise in price over the past five months," said Luben, "demonstrates that it can be a highly profitable investment during time of economic turmoil."

A new PGI survey shows precious metals experts remain bullish on platinum, primarily because of continued demand from overseas. Japan, in particular - which bought 1.65 million ounces last year, a 63 percent increase - is a heavy importer for jewelry, automotive (used in auto catalytic converters) and investment purposes.

PGI says Japanese demand, combined with higher than expected industrial demand worldwide and concerns of renewed inflation in the United States is responsible for the price rise.

The average price of platinum last year was $556 per ounces, $94 higher than in 1986. Johnson Matthey said it expects to see the price fluctuating within a range of $50 either side of $500 during the rest of 1988 "but with a fair chance that it will dwell longer above the $500 mark than below it."

Platinum demand last year topped three million ounces for the first time ever, rising by 15 percent over 1986 to 3.32 million ounces.

According to Bernard Savaiko, senior precious metals analyst at Paine Webber, the world economy is stronger now than immediately following the market crash, and that has led to a greater industrial demand for platinum.

Bruce L. Kaplan, senior vice president of A-Mark Precious Metals Inc. cites fear of inflation for driving up the price. "Platinum's spectacular price performance this year is primarily attributable to investors buying the metal as an inflation hedge," said Kaplan.

"In addition, many investors who are taking refuge from the stock market are placing some of their money into precious metals in a traditional flight to quality. Historically, platinum tends to move faster than gold in a rising market, and that is precisely what it is doing now."

PGI said the renewed interest in platinum is evident in the record attendance at precious metals seminars in recent months.

Kevin Cloud, manager of marketing and sales for Johnson Matthey's Mint Division said the JM survey indicates Americans are beginning to adopt European attitudes towards precious metals.

"They are taking a long-term view, buying precious metals as a hedge against inflation and economic recession, and as an insurance policy against economic calamity."

According to the survey, about 8 percent of American adults have purchased precious metals at one time and 89 percent of those prefer buying actual coins and bullion to "paper forms" such as futures, options and mutual funds.