Why You Can't Buy Gold or Silver At Spot Price
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Why You Can't Buy Gold or Silver At Spot Price

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez
Published October 05, 2020
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Let’s admit it, gold and silver stackers, wouldn’t it just be grand to buy silver at spot price? Think about that pile of metals in your vault growing ever higher, all at the price of what silver is really worth. Eliminate the middle person—no numismatic premiums. And all the while that silver or gold keeps appreciating in value day after day, month after month, year after year.

So, why can’t you buy precious metals at their spot price (melt value)? Why do you need to pay dollars over spot to acquire a silver bar, round, or coin? It’s not like you’re collecting those silver pieces for their rarity or artistic merits... It’s silver, right? Buy it, store it, sell it, make your money, and move on.

silver-american-eagle-bullion

Silver American Eagle bullion coin

Of course, everyone wants a deal. But for some silver stackers, buying silver at spot price isn’t necessarily about saving a dollar or two on an American Silver Eagle. Many are prospectors at heart, hunters in spirit. They want the “prize” of obtaining a chunk of precious metal at its spot value, without paying the extra premium. It’s less a matter of greed and more about a mindset—a particular type of outside-the-box outlook on life. There may well be a correlation between this philosophy and the fact that a significant number of silver stackers also identify themselves as survivalists, prepared for whatever this ever-changing world throws their way.

This “takin’ care of business” perspective comes down to buying silver bullion… Why pay more for silver than what the bullion ticker says it’s worth? Ultimately, it comes down to the cost of doing business. Coin dealers and bullion brokers are financially unable to both buy your bullion at spot price and sell it at spot price, too. That would be an unsustainable business model—businesses need to make a profit. And what is more, they need to pay the overhead, including rent or mortgage, electric, gas, marketing, payroll, insurance, and—of course—earn some profit, too.

There’s No Santa Claus in Bullion

You may have heard the old saying, “There’s no Santa Claus in numismatics.” Of course, it’s a phrase that means you’re not just going to get a bunch of free deals in the arena of buying and selling coins. Everyone wants to earn their share. That’s why silver stackers do what they do, too. However, this is not to say you can’t find an occasional deal when buying silver bullion.

Many bullion dealers offer silver starter packages that contain 10 to 20 ounces of silver at the price of spot. Other dealers will sell a current-year American Silver Eagle at spot—or at a much lower price than fair market value anyway. But there’s a catch to such deals… They are usually one-time offers for new customers only. They’re offers that many in the business world call “loss leader specials.” The strategy behind this is to build a client base by selling silver coins or other bullion products at prices below the retail market rate. Then, once the customer is established, they’re charged the “regular” price.

This sales practice isn’t unique to bullion. You probably see it every day. Remember the Columbia House ads in the 1980s and ‘90s that sold 12 cassette tapes or CDs for a penny? How about those CD-ROMs you may have gotten in the mail years back offering 50 hours of free internet from AOL? That first-month-free rental apartment or storage unit? How about those specials at the local fast-food chain where you pay full-price for a sandwich and get a free fry and drink?

These are all types of loss-leader specials. But you can’t keep getting those free fries and drinks forever… At some point, you’re going to pay for them. And that’s the case with paying spot silver prices through an advertisement. There’s no Santa Claus in bullion, either.

santa cartoon

Santa Claus cartoon

In fact, if you sign up for one of those introductory deals where you get silver coins at spot, watch out. Get yourself into a contract situation of some type with one of those bullion outfits, and you may end up paying a lot more than you bargained for. Many of these companies can afford to offer these specials only because they charge much more than fair market value for their products. Remember, nothing is free! Not even silver coins.

Bear in mind that legitimate bullion dealers tend to operate on very thin profit margins. This means they have very little wiggle room to offer enticing discounts.

So, What’s A Fair Price for Silver? And Where Should You Buy It?

What is a reasonable premium over spot for silver? The answers to these questions depend on what you’re buying. Silver bars carry the lowest premium, followed by silver rounds. Silver coins generally have the highest premiums. Quantity also counts. Usually, you see lower premiums on bulk orders. Bulk usually meaning something north of 10 ounces (or units), and typically closer to 100 ounces (or units) and up.

A fair premium for silver bars is typically 5% to 8%, while silver coins usually trade for 12% to 20% premiums above spot. Silver rounds register in between those premium points. Prices can be higher or lower depending on the mint that produced the round and its popularity in the marketplace.

Of course, you get what you pay for, too. Ordinarily, the more popular bars, rounds, and coins—the ones for which you may pay a slightly higher premium—are also more widely recognized and in demand. In other words, they’re generally more liquid and more likely to help fetch you a higher price when the time comes that you wish to sell your silver bullion.

silver bullion

silver bullion

Finding a place that will sell you quality silver bars, rounds, and coins at a fair price isn’t hard if you know what to look for. Turn to a bullion dealer who receives high marks by the Better Business Bureau. Also, look for one that is a member of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets—a leading organization for the world’s premier bullion dealers.

You also want a dealer who has many inroads with the best numismatic organizations. These include the American Numismatic Association, Certified Coin Exchange, Professional Coin Grading Service, and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. And a dealer who is an authorized distributor for the world’s major mints. These include the Perth Mint, Royal Mint, Monnaie de Paris, the Australian Mint, and of course, the United States Mint. After all, such well-affiliated dealers try hard to be the best at what they do. They are not going to want to do something to mess up their solid reputations.

Finally, make sure you choose a dealer who offers a return policy and stands behind both their products and service. Peace of mind is what silver stackers want—it’s why so many are stocking up for an emergency. Buying silver bars, rounds, and coins from a reputable dealer who offers their products at fair prices and also pays reasonable prices for the silver they buy from you is a winning combination—one in which you are always the winner. If you want to find the cheapest place to buy silver online, look no further than Gainesville Coins!


Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.

More articles about buying precious metals:

Best Way to Buy Silver: A Guide to Buying Physical Silver

How To Tell If Silver Is Real

Gold and Silver Stacking: Expert Guide

How Much Is a Gold Bar Worth?

American Gold Eagle Values: How Much Are They Worth?

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