T Nation

Gold and Silver as a Hobby


Not necessarily investing. I have recently picked up buying coins/bars as a hobby (mostly egged on by my grandfather who has collected coins for the past seven decades, mostly U.S. coins).

Anyone, do this as a hobby?


I do it because I don't trust banks not to fuck me.


Same here, but just Silver. Be careful, there's a LOT of counterfeit gold out there, thanks to the Chinese. They're getting pretty slick about it too, using non-magnetic allows and such.

They've even started counterfeiting Silver Eagles, but if you've got a sharp eye for detail you can spot them. Also, Silver Eagles, Canadian Maple leaves etc. have a standard weight and dimensions that are precise to thousandths of an inch and gram. It would be virtually impossible to get both size and weight exactly right using different metals.


Good info! I've got a local business that I deal with exclusively that I trust. I am also primarily into silver as well, but I do have a few gold coins that I bought before the price went through the roof.


So long as you know the density of an element, you should always be able to confirm its identity.


I've got a few guys that I trust that I buy from regularly, but I also like to swoop on deals that pop up on Craigslist occasionally. But I stick with coins that I'm familiar enough to be confident with. Fortunately the Chinese copies are pretty bad on the Silver Eagles. The thing to study is the Stars and Stripes in the Flag's folds on front and the Eagle's feathers on the back. Also they fuck up some simple shit like dates and such. But if the price of silver hits $50 an ounce like it did in 2011 they'll probably up their game.

Funny thing is the best places I've found to buy Silver are Pawn Shops. Private sellers always want way more than it's worth, but some pawn shops will sell for the spot price. Guns are the opposite, pawn shops always want way too much for those.


That would work, but if you look up the Silver Eagle they've got the standard dimensions on line so you don't have to do the math. All you need is a good pair of calipers and a digital jeweler's scale. With the counterfeit bars they sometimes make them a little thicker so the weight will come out right. Also, from what I've read, different commercial mints will be off on the weight of their bars by a few milligrams, whereas the government mints are always dead on.


Markets More: Gold
How A Manhattan Jeweler Wound Up With Gold Bars Filled With Tungsten

In March, certain corners of the Internet exploded when a one-kilo gold bar was allegedly found to have been "salted" with Tungsten, a metal with a similar weight but far less valuable.

In other words, a gold bar was filled with a much cheaper metal to defraud buyers. An ounce of gold is worth $1,766, while an ounce of Tungsten is worth about $360.

An alarmed, if skeptical, post from Felix Salmon first drew attention to it.

A more breathless take from ZeroHedge, referring to another alleged incident in 2010, sent conspiracy theorists into a frenzy:

So two documented incidents in two years: isolated? Or indication of the same phenomenon of precious metal debasement that marked the declining phase of the Roman empire.

Both the 2010 and March cases were subsequently debunked by the Perth Mint in Australia.

But in no way has that ended speculation of a vast conspiracy that the world's gold supplies are being debased by filling gold ingots with tungsten.

A gold dealer in Manhattan's Diamond District on 47th Street discovered last week that an evidently certified gold bar was in fact more than 75 percent Tungsten.

Today we decided to follow up.

Ibrahim Fadl came to New York from Egypt in the mid-70s to earn a Masters in chemical engineering from Columbia University. He's almost certainly the only guy on 47th Street with the periodic table of elements hanging in his office:

Eleven years ago, he opened his shop.

Recently, he said, a fellow merchant on 20th street drilled into a 10-oz. bar he'd been sold to check its quality â?? and learned it was salted with tungsten. He warned Fadl to do the same.

Ten ounce bars are thicker, making them harder to detect if counterfeited â?? the standard X-rays used by dealers don't penetrate deep enough.

Plus, the bars had been sealed and numbered. So whoever did this must be running an extremely sophisticated operation, Fadl said.

"It's a shame. This business is built on trust."

The FBI and Secret Service are investigating the incident, but Fadl wonders whether it's within their power to curb the practice, given the incentives involved.

"With the higher price, I am sure there's a lot of this stuff," he said. "People are bringing in anything shiny and trying to sell it."

But there's a difference between selling anything, and this level of forgery.

As Felix Salmon noted in his post from March:

...the economic incentives here are so enormous, for people looking to make a fortune in the fake-gold-bar industry, that I very much doubt no one has tried. And statistically speaking, if a bunch of people have tried, then some subset of those people will have succeeded.

Fadl says he bought the counterfeit from a Russian merchant who'd bought from him previously. He did not provide the merchant's name and said the man had already returned to his home country.

We talked with several other merchants on 47th Street who said they heard about Fadl's ordeal but remained unconcerned. Most said they only buy from merchants they know.

Of course, that was also true of Fadl.

At the same time, many told us there are a host of non-reputable dealers on the street who probably wouldn't hesitate to sell salted metal.

Fadl said he contacted the media to get the word out to other reputable merchants that there is no precaution too great to ensure their business doesn't get hosed.

"They put doubt in everybody's head."

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/tungsten-filled-gold-bars-found-in-new-york-2012-9#ixzz38n4GtXP5


Yeah, I was looking for that article. Also of interest look up Fake Silver Bar on google. That's why I love Silver Eagles, the engraving is far more sophisticated and therefore harder to fake. The Canadian Maple leaf is very nice also, but everyone always wants too much for the ones I come across.


Since neither really has that much intrinsic value if being held as a hedge against currency failure, shtf, eotw scenarios - I suggest upping the lead holdings in your portfolio. Keep in mind that I am speaking of physical inventory, not stock certificates nor mining shares.


Ha! I'm way ahead of you buddy. I've got several hundred pounds of lead waiting to melt down for round balls for my flintlock. As I can get 30 balls to the pound I've got the next few generations of my family covered.

If you're talking about the copper jacketed variety I've got a nice pile, but I enjoy shooting so I have to top it off frequently. I'm not too worried about SHTF, I just like to buy when prices are relatively low.


I saw that too. I also think Germany has being trying unsuccessfully to repatriate, a ton of gold they were storing at a Fed vault in New York.

Anybody know the story behind that one?


Well...I was more think hobby, not all these letters. Just fun, not trying to repair for an event that is not going to happen anyway.


I usually get silver from banks. Usually about 1/14th of spot price, but I usually don't bank in America. :slight_smile:


Was just funning with you.

My dad fancies himself an amateur numismatist though. He has some cool stuff that I think he probably overpaid, compared to either their collector or meltdown value - but it's his money.


Come on now. You have to elaborate a little on a scheme that good.


That's usually what happens with numismatic coins, higher premium. My grandpa has a Morgan dollar (meltdown is 20.56) and I have had offers for $200 for it. I also collect lunar AU coins and they basically double each year.


Go to banks, ask for all the half dollars (or buy a stack of half dollars (I have seen some guys collect $2000 worth of half dollars every two weeks)) and look for half dollars from 1970 or earlier. They will have 40% silver, if you get one that is 1964 or earlier, that is 90%.

If you get one from 1965 to 1970 you'll have about $3 of silver and if you have pre-65 you'll have $7.50.

I don't have $2000, so I just go around the 20 banks in town and ask for half dollars and pull silver, then return the alloy coins back and sell silver on ebay and take the profits to buy silver. This helps because at the moment, I don't make any money so not much money to buy silver with.