Can Gold be Hazardous to Your Wealth?

If you watch any of the financial or news channels, you have certainly seen the gold and silver commercials –there’s one in every break! Their job is to scare you to death and entice you into making what could be a very poor financial decision. They come on and tell you that the world is coming to an end, and the only way to protect yourself is to buy gold or silver (depending on which one they are selling of course!)

Do you ever wonder where all the money comes from to pay for those commercials? By the time I tell you this story I will be willing to bet you can figure that out.

We can have a debate about the merits or non-merits of using precious metals in an investment portfolio. The long and short of that might come down to the simple fact that there are no good or bad investments, because just about everything you can invest in does well at times and poorly at others. But that’s not what I will be talking about today. My story deals with how you can play this game and start out with such a disadvantage you may never catch up.

A good friend and client of mine recently got a case of “gold fever.” Nothing I said could dissuade him from taking some of his hard-earned money and investing in gold. The salesman convinced him to spend his money on gold coins. The actual price tag of the coins was $33,778.  The total of the gold in those coins was approximately 15.25 ounces. He paid $2,215 per ounce.  The spot price of gold on the date was $1,391. Why did he pay over 59% more for gold than the spot market price on that day?

The answer in a nutshell is gold coins.

Normal markup for gold bullion is from 2 to 10%. If you’re around the 2 to 5% range, that wouldn’t be bad but he was at a 59%markup! What seems to get lost somewhere in the sales presentation is that when you purchase coins, you are not only buying the gold, you are paying for the numismatic value of the coins as well. Just what is numismatic value? In its simplest form it is the added value that a coin brings because of its value as a collectible or as a piece of art. So about half of that 59% was established based on how rare and how pretty the coin might be. The rest of the cost comes from the simple fact that the spread – the range between how much a dealer pays for a coin and how much it sells for – is from 17 to 33%. My friend spread on this particular order was a mere 24.94%.

So how much were those coins worth when valued approximately 2 months later? $20,630.20 — a loss of $13,148.55, or 39%!  What about the spot price of gold on the same day the coins were valued? $1,361 – down $30 from where it was when he purchased the coins – that’s about a 2% loss. The selling company provided the value for the coins when they were appraised. We have no idea what they would actually sell for in the open market. The value of gold bullion was very easy to find for the same dates on the Internet.

The moral of the story? If you decide you want to buy gold – or any precious metals – make sure you truly understand what you are buying and how much it will cost so you don’t start out so far down it would take a huge market rally just to get you back to what you paid!

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