Precious Metals: A Prepper’s Guide to Gold and Silver
By Anonymous 411
Have you been reading about all the recommendations that preppers stock up on precious metals? If you want to buy gold or silver or have some you want to know more about before you sell then this article is for you. Many people have gold, silver, or coin and paper money collections they inherited and know next to nothing about the items. You need to educate yourself on what you have before you try to sell them so you can get the best price. And if you are looking to buy, you don’t want to pay too much.
Some people accumulate and keep 90% silver U.S. coins, silver bars or gold coins and bars. They keep these coins as a “store of value” for several reasons.
- A speculative investment in hope of higher values in the future.
- A hedge against inflation. Some say inflation is minimal now, but my grocery bill has more than doubled over the last 7.5 years. Has yours?
- A hedge against the collapse of the dollar and other economic disasters (like that narrowly averted event 8 years ago).
- For future use in barter situations.
As of right now, the value of silver coins is based on their “Spot Price”. Here is a quick and easy list of precious metals spot prices provided by Kitco.com. These prices are updated approximately every 5 minutes.
Before you deal in precious metals you MUST know what you have, exactly! This is true to a lesser extent with other barter items.
For 90% silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars (U. S. coins dated 1964 and earlier) first you must know how much silver your coins contain. This is sometimes called Actual Silver Weight (ASW).
- Circulated 90% coins contain about 0.715 troy ounces of silver for each $1 face value.
- Un-circulated (BU) 90% coins contain about 0.723 troy ounces of silver for each $1 face value.
Now you must determine how much $1.00 face value is worth.
This is calculated:
Spot Price * 0.715 = “Factor”, for example: $15.52 (Spot Price) * 0.715 = 11.09 (Factor)
Count the face value of your coins and get a “total face value”.
To determine “Melt Value”: Face Value * Factor = Melt Value. For example:
$1.00 (total face value) * 11.09 (Factor) = $11.09 (Melt Value)
$2.00 (total face value) * 11.09 (Factor) = $22.18 (Melt Value)
$2.75 (total face value) * 11.09 (Factor) = $30.50 (Melt Value)
$5.00 (total face value) * 11.09 (Factor) = $55.45 (Melt Value)
In the above calculations I used 0.715. This is a good number for circulated (not new, worn) US silver dimes, quarters, and halves. Uncirculated (new, sometimes called BU (Brilliant Uncirculated)) actually contain 0.723 (Troy ounce of pure silver).
The actual price a dealer will pay for 90% silver varies upon how much demand there is from buyers and on whether the price of silver is going up or down. If the silver price is moving down, as it is as I write this, the lower the dealer’s buy price will be. Today, probably $1 (per $1 face value) below Melt Value, or maybe a bit lower. If the price of silver is moving up rapidly, then dealers may pay more than Melt Value. The difference between what a dealer will pay and what they will sell for is called “the spread”.
40% Silver Half Dollars
Half dollars made between 1965 and 1970 were only 40% silver. You can use the same formula above, except use .28 rather than .715. For example: $15.52 (Spot Price) * 0.28 = 4.34 (Factor).
$1.00 (total face value) * 4.34 (Factor) = $4.34
$2.00 (total face value) * 4.34 (Factor) = $8.68
$2.50 (total face value) * 4.34 (Factor) = $10.85
$5.00 total (face value) * 4.34 (Factor) = $21.70
What I said about “the spread” above is also true about 40% silver half dollars, except more so as these 40% coins are not as popular as 90% silver coins.
The value of Silver Dollars (1935 and earlier) is calculated differently. These silver dollars actually contain more silver than $1.00 face value of dimes, quarters, and halves. Whereas $1.00 face value of uncirculated dimes, quarters, and halves contain 0.723 Troy ounce of silver a new Silver Dollar contains 0.77344 Troy ounce of pure silver. $15.52 (Spot price) * .77344 = $12.00 (melt value). However, demand for silver dollars causes their value to be greater than their silver content. As I write this the price of a reasonably decent circulated, common date silver dollar is around $15 each. Dealers at coin shows generally ask $20. As you can see this is 1 ½ to 2 times the melt value. This higher value is called a “premium”.
When you go to buy or sell U.S. silver coins you should calculate the Melt Value and try to determine the market value before you meet with the coin dealer or pawnbroker. Coin dealers usually offer the highest prices. The best place to sell silver coins is usually at a coin show because of the competition between the dealers causes them to offer higher prices.
If you are buying silver (and gold too), dealers will demand payment in full, in CASH. But cash is good for the buyer too. This way if you are buying, you are anonymous.
Bullion Silver Bars and Rounds
Silver can be bought and sold in one troy ounce bars, 10 troy ounce bars, and 100 troy ounce bars. These must be marked “.999 fine silver” or “.999” and give the number of ounces, or don’t buy them. Melt value is much simpler here, it’s just the spot price times the number of ounces.
Silver rounds are typically only available in one troy ounce size. The Silver Eagle rounds are made by the U.S. Mint and usually sell for $3 over silver spot price. Other types of silver rounds sell for close to silver spot price.
Most sterling silver is in fine flatware, i.e. forks, spoons, etc. ALL sterling silver is marked with the word “sterling” or marked “.925” or “925”, usually on the back of each piece. This is because is sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver (fineness). Sterling knives are only partly silver. The blades are stainless steel and the handle, while sterling silver, is hollow. The handle is generally assumed to be a ½ troy ounce, although smaller handles are 1/3 ounce. Some coffee and tea sets are sterling silver, i.e. trays, coffee pots, teapots, sugar bowls, creamers. Again, they will be marked “sterling”. If any of these are marked “silver plate” or something similar or have no marking, then they are not sterling silver and for the purposes of discussion here, are worthless. Sterling silver jewelry is usually marked “925” although some are marked “sterling”. If it is not marked with either, it’s not sterling silver.
Gold is more valuable than silver.
Gold Bullion Coins
Many country’s mints make today (or have made in the past) gold coins that trade near the spot price of gold. These coins contain varying amounts of gold.
Below is a chart of many of these coins:
|Country||Name of coin||Actual Gold Weight/Troy Ounces|
|Canada||$50 Maple Leaf||1.00|
|$25 Maple Leaf||0.50|
|$10 Maple Leaf||0.25|
|$5 Maple Leaf||0.10|
|½ ounce Panda||0.50|
|¼ ounce Panda||0.25|
|1/10 ounce Panda||0.10|
|England||Sovereign (new and old)||0.2354|
|France||20 Franc, Rooster||0.1867|
|2 ½ Pesos||0.0603|
|Swiss||20 Franc, Vren||0.1867|
U.S. Collectible Gold Coins
The following U.S. gold coins were minted during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some dates/mints sell for near the spot gold price. Better grade specimens and scarce date and mints are collectible and sell for premium prices.
|Face Value||Actual Gold Weight/Troy Ounces|
|$3 – all are collectible||0.14512|
|$2 ½ – all are collectible||0.12094|
|$1 – all are collectible||0.04837|
Bullion Gold Bars
Gold bars can be found in one troy ounce, less than one troy ounce size bars and 10 troy ounce bars. A number of counterfeit 10-ounce bars have been reported in recent years, so I wouldn’t buy any of those.
All gold bars will be marked with their fineness and weight or don’t buy them.
Gold jewelry is typically 18-karat (18K), 14-karat (14K) or 10-karat (10K), although other fineness’s exist.
- 18K gold is .75% gold (fineness)
- 14K gold is .585% gold (fineness)
- 10K gold is .417% gold (fineness)
Like sterling silver, all gold must be marked with it’s fineness, typically 18K, 14K, or 10K. These marks are inside the band and may be well worn. If it says “gold fill” or “GS” then it’s just gold plated and for the purposes of discussion here, it’s worthless.
Weighing Gold Jewelry and Sterling Silver
First, let me say that the “troy ounce” is different from the normal cooking ounce. There are 12 troy ounces per pound vs. 16 for cooking ounces. With all precious metals, we are using troy ounces.
To calculate the melt value of gold jewelry or sterling silver, you must first weight them, typically in grams. If you don’t have a gram scale, you can buy one or ask the dealer what the weight in grams is. To calculate the value: weight in grams / 31.1 (grams per troy ounce) * fineness * gold spot price.
10K gold = 8.5 grams / 31.1 * .417 * $1,222.90 (Spot Price) = $144.29
14K gold = 12.2 grams / 31.1 *.585 * $1,222.90 (Spot Price) = $280.64
18K gold = 13.1 grams / 31.1 * .75 * $1,222.90 (Spot Price) = $386.33
Sterling silver = 125 grams / 31.1 * .925 * $15.52 (Spot Price) = $57.70
Selling Coin and Paper Money Collections and Hordes
The most important thing is to know what you have. By that I mean, buy a “Red Book” and look your coins up so that you know what is collectible and what is common. The name of the “Red Book” is “The Official Red Book, A Guide Book of United States Coins” by R.S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett. This book can be purchased at local bookstores for about $16, and typically less at some coin shows. The Red Book shows relative, retail prices. Many coin dealers sell at prices lower than listed in this book so don’t expect any buyer to offer you the prices in this book because they won’t. Be sure to read the “Introduction” to this book before you look your coins up! Especially read the page on Conditions of Coins. The condition, or grade, of your coin is the second most important aspect of pricing. The date and mint mark of the coin is the most important.
How do you sell precious metals?
Sell for cash, when possible.
If you are selling gold or silver coins or bullion bars, rounds, or coins you should be aware that the prices of these precious metals vary minute by minute just like the stock market. Typically the price you are offered is good for that moment only as the price for gold and silver could be higher or lower tomorrow, or even this afternoon.
- If you want to sell everything at once, your best bet is selling to your local coin dealer. Those coin dealers that attend local coin club meetings and show an interest in and are knowledgeable about coins and current dealer prices. These dealers usually don’t have a coin shop and therefore no overhead and can offer much better prices than pawn shops. These dealers typically will make you an offer for everything you have for sale.
- If you want the maximum money for your coins, selling them will take some time. Try selling at the local coin club auction as your overhead there will be low. Next, try selling at bigger coin shows. The bigger coin shows are typically at major metropolitan areas so you may have to travel and have travel and meals and possibly hotel expenses. These expenses will likely offset any higher prices you may receive. Just walk around and show your items to various dealers. Dealers at shows will likely pick and choose what they want from your coins, although some will buy all that you have if you tell them that’s what you want to do.
- If you have some really high-end coins you might want to consider auctioning them through one of the national auction companies. The auction company fees can be quite high so make sure you understand their fees and get this information in writing before you submit your coins to them for auction.
- Your last choice for selling coins should be a pawn dealer. The prices offered by pawn dealers will be lower than the options listed above. In some cases, you may be offered much less than half of what you might receive from other sources.
Today’s U.S. paper money is known as “small size” measuring 6 1/8 inches by 2 9/16 inches and are series 1928 and later. Only some small size U.S. paper money is collectible.
“Large size” U.S. paper money, with certain exceptions, measures 7 3/8 inches by 3 1/8 inches and are series 1923 and earlier. All large size U.S. paper money is collectible.
The words “paper money” and “currency” are both used to mean the paper money issued by governments and the terms are interchangeable. A “Note” is a single piece of currency or paper money.
For detailed information on U. S. paper money, the book to buy is “Paper Money of the United States” by Arthur and Ira Friedberg. This book contains detailed retail pricing on all the paper money described below. Dealers pay much less than retail prices.
Series on Paper Money
Paper money is dated by a “series” number and not an actual date as on coins. The series is always on the front of the note and is labeled with the word “Series”. On small size paper money, the series is usually near the bottom and just to the right of the portrait. On large size notes, the series can be anywhere on the front. A series number may include one letter after the number.
High Denomination Notes
$500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 notes Series 1928, 1934 and 1934-A – are quite collectible.
These notes were removed from circulation by President Nixon in the War on Drugs but many $500 and $1,000 notes remain in private hands and safe deposit boxes. Although far fewer $5,000 and $10,000 notes were printed, with consequently higher values, some are still in private hands. Large size $500 and $1,000 notes do exist and are more valuable. All high denomination notes all are collectible.
During the Civil War, both the Confederate government and each of the Confederate states issued Confederate paper money. There were also a few coins issued but these are quite scarce, although some restrike coins were made from the original dies after the war and are also collectible. Numerous bonds were also issued. The Confederate government did not have the equipment or expertise to print currency so the actual engraving and printing was contracted out to various printing companies. Because of this there are 72 different generally recognized types designated T-1 through T-72 in denominations from 50 cents to $1,000. All Confederate money is collectible.
Between 1863 and 1935 national banks were able to issue currency in their own name with their name, city, state, and national bank charter number printed on them. Over 12,000 banks nationwide issued these notes called National Bank Notes or simply Nationals. Both large and small size notes were issued and are divided into 11 series. Not all banks issued all 11 series. All National currency is collectible.
The U.S. government did not print paper money before 1860. All paper money printed before 1860 was printed by individual banks, and all are collectible.
Finding Dealers and Coin Shows
Finding a coin dealer, coin club or coin show in your area won’t be easy unless you live near a major metropolitan area.
For coin dealers, the obvious place to look is in the yellow pages, but you will only find dealers with a shop and they may not be as generous on their buy price as you would get at a coin show. Try calling them and asking when the next nearby coin show is. You should also ask about a nearby coin club. They may give you a contact name and number for one or the other.
Call your local library and they may be able to help you find a local coin club. The club I attend meets in a suburban library once a month. You may have to call the local library in all the suburban areas around your city. Don’t give up.
You can try these websites, but you will probably have better luck trying the above methods first.
*This article is for general informational purposes and is not an offer to purchase or sell.