Phone: 989.631.9080
Fax: 989.631.9195

Before You Sell Your Gold or Silver

When selling your old gold it pays to know a little about what you are selling!

Here are some basic facts, in non-technical language, to help you understand what you have and what it is likely to be worth. With a little knowledge and a little help from the prices on this web site you should be able to make a fair estimation of the value of what you have before you begin to comparison shop. Knowledge is power, and it will pay you to educate yourself, even a little, about Gold and its alloys before setting out to sell what you have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to selling precious metals

Silver is often considered to be a “poor cousin” to gold. After all, gold is worth over 50 times what silver is worth! But still, if you have an old sterling cutlery set or a genuine sterling silver tea service it can be worth from several hundred to several thousand dollars in silver value, well worth understanding.

The big question: is it really sterling silver?

Silver, like gold, in its pure form is all identical. Silver is an element and is consistent wherever it occurs, be it in US or Italy or on some distant planet. Unlike gold the “karat” system is not used to determine purity, but like gold, pure silver is almost never used to make an actual product. Even silver coins are made from an alloy, normally of silver plus copper although other metals in small amounts, known as “trace elements” may be used to give the final alloy some particular characteristic.

So, is that old tea service worth anything?,

It may actually be worth quite a bit, but the first thing to determine is whether it is “sterling silver” or merely “silver plated” over a base metal. Sterling silver is an actual alloy of silver, generally 92.5% silver the balance being copper. Sterling is sometimes marked “.925″ to represent the percentage of silver in the alloy. There are lower grades such as .800 (80% silver) which are also valuable. Silver plate, sadly, is of no recovery value because the only silver present is a microscopic layer deposited on the surface of a base metal item. A piece would have to be very old and very unique to have collector or antique value. The vast majority of old sterling is melted for its silver value.

First we need to make a physical examination. Flip the piece over and read the tiny engraving on the bottom. It needs to say “Sterling” or “.925″ or “.800″ or words to that effect, together with the manufacturer’s trademark to be sure it is sterling silver. A common mark would be “Wallace” but there are many others.

What we don’t want to see are markings like “EP Steel”, EP Copper, “Triple Plate” or no marking at all since all these are silver plated. “EP” stands for “electroplate”. Another sure test is to bring a magnet in contact with the item. If it sticks, it’s steel and is certainly not sterling silver.

Knives are a special case, as are many serving pieces. These items are typically a silver handle with a stainless steel blade. But the problem doesn’t stop there. The stainless blade has a long steel shank that is inserted inside the handle and the silver part of the handle itself is the thinnest imaginable silver foil, filled with a variety of materials to make the handle firm and heavy in the hand. We have seen casting wax, plaster and even beach sand used to fill knife handles!

Having said all that, a good sterling silver set of flatware or hollow ware can often be worth several hundred dollars and is well worth obtaining an evaluation.

Platinum: the Cadillac of precious metals, or is it?

For years platinum was consistently worth more than gold, ounce for ounce of pure metal. The “gold/platinum ratio” was always in favor of platinum and seemed like a natural law, until a couple of years ago. When the world was suffering the worst of the Great Recession after the financial crisis, gold behaved like a safe haven investment, rising steadily as people and institutions bought gold bars as a hedge against currency devaluation. Platinum, on the other hand, began acting more like an industrial metal. After all, most of it gets used in the automotive industry to make catalytic convertors, and we all know what happened to the automotive industry!

So for a couple of years now the gold/platinum ratio has been upside down with platinum actually worth less than gold. In very recent months platinum has recovered somewhat because of labor problems and mine closures in South Africa, where most of the world’s platinum comes from, restricting supply, otherwise the price of platinum would be even lower!

Can you get a fair price for old platinum?

People are often surprised that old gold dealers are not particularly excited about platinum jewelry. At AB&L we do buy platinum, but there are some good reasons why many dealers will not, or offer a low price for it. The reasons break down into two basic problems: time and money.

The first thing to understand about platinum jewelry is that the “intrinsic” value really is greater than most gold jewelry for two reasons: Platinum itself, gram per gram, costs about the same as gold but the alloys used to make platinum jewelry are richer. Most gold alloys range from 10 karat (about 40% gold) to 18 karat (75% gold) while the platinum alloy used to make jewelry is typically 95% platinum.

Having said that, dealers have a problem with platinum jewelry because it is relatively rare, but the quantities required to begin the refining process are quite large. So when a dealer buys your platinum ring today he will literally have to keep it for weeks or months while he accumulates more platinum from other sellers to reach the minimum required to start a platinum refining melt. During that time the money spent to buy platinum is tied up in inventory and the dealer is exposed to the market. What if the price of platinum drops? He could lose any profit he might have gained just in the market loss.

The second problem is that the refining process itself is very long. A dealer can recover the cash value of a gold lot in a short time: from a few hours to a few days. With a platinum lot the dealer will wait about 2 to 4 weeks to be paid. More time to tie up money and be at risk of market loss.

So don’t be too surprised if dealers are resistant to buying platinum, but you can sell it and you can get a fair price. Check AB&L’s prices for platinum and check other dealers to get the best deal. At Asset Brokers & Loans in Midland, Michigan, we pay IMMEDIATELY!