What To Do When A Family Member With Precious Metals,Gold And Silver Coins Passes Away

Many families possess old silver and gold coins that have been passed down from generation to generation. They might also have gold and silver bullion such as 1, 5, 10, and 100 oz. bars, for example. On occasion when a family member passes, the members of the family will find coins or tokens in an old shoebox, safe, or even buried in the backyard.

The question inevidibly comes up, “What do I do when I need to sell my valuable collection of coins?”

Before you act, be aware of the pitfalls outlined below!


The family will often take the gold to a Pawn Shop. I am very familiar with Pawn shops, since I have shopped them for many years to collect silver and gold coins. As a matter of fact, I am a coin consultant for one of the largest national Pawn Shop chains to value the coins that are bought from the Public.

Recently I was called by a Pawn Shop in Northern Denver to examine and value an 1889 CC Morgan Silver dollar. This coin is extremely rare because the original mintage by the Carson City Mint was less than 294,000. Being very rare, the coin value was $500 for Good condition or $1500 for Very Fair condition. The coin indeed was real and not a fake. The Pawn Shop purchased the 1889 CC Morgan Dollar for melt value; the melt value is what the silver content (spot value) is worth at a point of time in the day. For an example: If silver is worth $24.00 an ounce at this time, the pawn shop might offer you 40% or 50% of the melt value. The pawn shop might pay the consumer 40% of the $24.00 = $9.60. The Pawn Shop will turn around and put the coin on their retail shelves for twice or triple what they paid for the silver dollar.

Another example: An unknowing consumer might bring a gold coin that weighs 15.8 grams (1/2 ounce), that is .999% gold to a Pawn shop. The pawn shop employee will weigh the coin and announce to the seller of the gold coin, “Yes, the gold coin weighs ½ ounce of gold; however, it is 14 karat! 14 karat is 58% of solid gold, not the .999% that is stamped on the coin. The Pawn shop will take advantage of the consumer because many times the consumer does not know what they have! In this case the seller of the coin is losing 42% of the value of the gold coin. The Pawn shop will then put this gold coin on their retail shelf for at least the spot melt (currently daily value). Let us just suggest the spot is worth $1,300 as of today for an ounce of gold. The Pawn shop paid $1,300 divided by .5 times (1/2 half an ounce) = $650, times 14 Karat (58%) = $377.00 for the Seller. The Pawn shop will sell the gold coin for at least $650 (current spot price) and neatly pocket a nifty profit of $270.00.

The traveling hotel Buyer of silver and gold coins who they advertise in the newspapers. We have all seen the 1/2 page or full page ad in the weekend edition, “We will pay you top DOLLAR for your coins!”

BEWARE of the traveling Circus! These companies can be as bad as or worse than the Pawn shops. They spend thousands of dollars on advertising and pay 15% to 20% of the silver/gold content. For example: a silver American Eagle has a silver content of .999% of an ounce. The coins are worth $24 (daily spot value of silver). The traveling hotel Buyer might offer you 15% of $24 =$3.60 for the silver coin. The Seller might reject that offer and say that is not enough! The hotel Buyer will commonly say, “I will double my offer to $7.20. The unknowing Seller thinks, “I just doubled my money on this silver coin.” The hotel Buyer just made a profit of $24.00 – $7.20 = $16.50. I would assume the Traveling Hotel Circus would make a profit of $16.50 times 4,000 or 5,000 silver coins or $16.50 x 4,000 = $66.000, just to be conservative. Just think, that does not include the hundreds of gold coins they purchased by unknowing Sellers. What is your recourse if you feel taken advantage of? Are you going to follow around a company that is in a different state every night?

How about the advertisements on late night television: “Contact us by telephone, we will send you a self-addressed envelope to send the gold or gold coins to us.” “WE PAY TOP DOLLAR, because we have our own gold refinery!” Again beware: I have seen where the owner of an ounce of gold has submitted to these types of companies via mail and the fly-by-night company returns less than $100. The value or spot value of gold was around $1,300 the day the envelope was mailed to the late night TV Company. What is your recourse if you have been taken advantage of? These types of companies change their companies name on a weekly basis, there is no a recourse!

So, what are the owner of precious metals, silver, gold coins to do? My number one suggestion is to converse with other relatives or friends that have dealt with a coin dealer or coin broker that has demonstrated honesty and trustworthiness in the coin arena. Ask for a referral from a family member or friend.

Contact a local, regional, or state coin club member for a recommendation for a coin expert or precious metals expert in your area.

Contact a member of the American Numismatic Association for advice on who may be of assistance to you.

If I can be of assistance, please contact James A. Browning at 303-668-7053. Coin Dealer since 2001, member of the ANA (American Numismatic Association) since 2005.

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