Now is the time to buy gold and silver. But from whom do you buy? Fortunately, precious-metals investors never had more options than they have today. You probably have one or more coin shops in your hometown, and you certainly have your choice of several within reasonable driving distance. But often, your best bet is to deal with the national retailers of gold and silver, whose big size give them economies of scale that translate into lower prices. In this article, Silver Monthly reviews ten major online dealers of bullion products, and ranks them in order from best to not-so-great, based on the following criteria:
- Business reputation
Without further ado, here are the rankings and company profiles.
APMEX is the American Precious Metals Exchange. Although the firm makes no promises to have the lowest prices around, its prices are competitive, and – unlike many other dealers – APMEX doesn’t hit customers with hidden charges. As of March 5, 2012, APMEX was selling 2012 Gold Eagles at $1,787.59 – $81.59, or 4.8% above spot. You could buy fifty one-ounce 2012 Silver Eagles at $18.33 – $3.57 over spot. U.S. shipping is $24.95 for orders between $1,000 and $25,000.
APMEX is among the largest bullion dealers. This heavy volume allows it to make little on individual transactions and still stack remarkable profits. APMEX has economy of scale, and it passes on these savings to its customers. It also buys gold and silver from customers, in a hassle-free process. One customer we interviewed was even able to orchestrate a silver-for-gold trade – after speaking with an APMEX rep, he simply sent them the silver, and they gave him an equivalent amount of gold, with the difference paid in cash.
APMEX also offers financial-planning services. The firm says it is dedicated to protecting the hard-earned assets of its clients, as well as helping clients build new wealth. APMEX believes everyone should keep a minimum of 10-20% of their assets in precious metals, such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. This, APMEX says, serves as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty.
APMEX has great service. They are open twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week to accept orders. APMEX makes two-way markets in all products it sells, and is available to buy Monday through Friday, from 7:00am to 5:00pm, central time. The firm is consistent with its low prices, and has an excellent reputation for reliability. Over the past three years, APMEX has had fifty-one Better Business Bureau complaints, which isn’t too bad considering the size of the company and the number of transactions it has made in that time. The number of satisfied customers greatly outweigh the few unhappy ones. In fact, the BBB gives APMEX an A+ rating.
APMEX has an ultra-wide variety of products. It sells gold, silver, platinum, and palladium products. APMEX’s website has special sections for IRA products, clearance and specials, and gift ideas. In addition to bullion, it sells Pre-1993 U.S. gold coins, silver coins, jewelry, “elite” $2,500+ coins, and old bank notes. Its gold products include American Gold Eagles, gold bars, Canadian Gold Maple Leafs, Austrian Gold Philharmonics, South African Gold Krugerrands, Gold Buffalo coins, Chinese Gold Pandas, Mexican Gold Pesos, and many, many more. Pretty much anything you could possibly desire can be acquired from APMEX.
Staring in 2010, Money Metals has made significant progress becoming a top online bullion dealer. Stefan Gleason started Money Metals while serving president of a financial newsletter subscription company. He understands the value of connecting with customers using content. He believes, as we do here at Silver Monthly, that investors should buy precious metals at or near the spot price of the metal. Low prices like that have helped Money Metals Exchange’s rapid growth.
Money Metals has the basics and more. For investors looking for staples such as American Silver Eagles or rounds, Money Metals has the basics covered at prices that often beat other bullion dealers. What’s more Money Metals has an investors starter pack bundled together. This bundle includes 120 ounces of silver and 1.1 ounces of gold all fundamental coins in one purchase. This will set an investor back a few thousand.
Outside of a large investor starter pack, Money Metals offers a monthly savings plan. Save starting at $100 a month and choose from the most popular bullion products. Money Metals will either ship directly to you each month or you can choose to store bullion directly with them.
Large downside for Money Metals remains the fact that free shipping happens only after purchasing more than $1,000. Not a high bar with the current price of gold or silver, but a high amount for many beginning investors.
ProvidentMetals.com is a subsidiary of Provident Metals, LLC. The website was founded at the request of customers who were looking for an online destination as reliable as Provident’s trade-show business. Provident’s numismatists are members in good standing of the American Numismatic Association, as well as the Texas Numismatic Association. Provident Precious Metals itself is a member of the Professional Coin Grading Service, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the Numismatic Conservation Service, and the Paper Money Guaranty Corporation.
Provident Metals promises fast, courteous, and complete service. The Better Business Bureau backs this up, giving Provident an A- rating. This means that Provident has a commitment to make a good-faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. Of six complaints filed against Provident Metals, all were resolved to customers’ satisfaction.
Provident Metals has a huge selection. In addition to the coins and rounds you’d expect, one particular noteworthy product on the Provident Metals website is the Ron Paul 1/10-ounce gold round. These were selling at around $200 over spot, per-ounce, or roughly $20 over the spot value of each 1/10-ounce round. By contrast, APMEX was selling 1/10-ounce gold Eagles for roughly the same price, (actually about $0.30 more per coin).
Other products include gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and copper products – one-ounce copper rounds can be purchased for less than $1.30. Provident sells U.S. and foreign coins, wholesale bullion products, and IRA bullion products. Finally, Provident also sells food and survival products, for those of us who believe Hyperinflation Meltdown is more than apocalyptic fantasy.
4. JM Bullion
JM Bullion new to the bullion space made waves by speed, service and sales they’ve done in a short amount of time. Located in Lancaster, PA, however, the online store front remains most impressive. With one of the cleanest shopping experiences, JM Bullion showcases the basic silver bullion coins needed for most all bullion investors. While the selection didn’t compare to the selection of APMEX or Provident Metals, JM Bullion still carried enough for the bullion investor.
JM Bullion gave three size selections for the Silver Eagles, 1 oz, 20 oz tube, or the green monster box. Silver Eagles were about $3.30 over spot, cheaper than both APMEX and Provident Metals. As for silver rounds, JM Bullion has a mid level selection of rounds. The most popular silver rounds are covered–there’s more than enough different rounds for the bullion investor. Apart from silver eagles and silver rounds, JM Bullion has a limited selection of silver coins.
JM Bullion remains average with customer reviews. While the Better Business Bureau gives JM Bullion a high mark, customers rate JM Bullion near average. While most customers rated JM Bullion on competitive pricing, great customer service, a number of customers noted a few orders had longer shipping times than expected.
Westminster Mint has offices in Minneapolis, MN and Madison, WI, but it also sells via the web at coin-rare.com. The website is not the most visually appealing, but Westminster’s business record speaks for itself: it has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, although it doesn’t have a great design, the rare-coin.com website does have a lot of content, including a pictorial breakdown of how Westminster Mint makes its fine silver bars.
Westminster Mint sells some gold products, but its selection is not that great. It has random-year Krugerrands, Canadian Maple Leafs, Austrian Philharmonics, and Chinese Pandas; 2011 Gold Buffalos; 2010 American Gold Eagles; and a couple of gold-bar products. Its prices are a little high, though: its 2010 Gold Eagles were selling at $180 above spot. Westminster’s silver selection is much greater, with twenty-one coin products and sixty-two silver bullion (including rounds) options. Here, Westminster’s prices look better, as it is selling 2012 Silver Maple Leafs for $0.28 less than APMEX. Coin-Rare.com also has a copper section, where Westminster Mint sells copper rounds at $1.50 apiece, or in 500-round monster boxes for $750.
Westminster Mint also offers a depository service. Customers can sign a storage agreement that is insured and safe – Westminster does not do any silver leasing. All assets are held in the customer’s name and off the balance sheet of the depository. Since the depository is based in Delaware, there are numerous tax advantages. Fees start at $50 per month, but go up based on account value. There are also additional charges for withdrawals from the depository.
6. SD Bullion
SD Bullion (aka Silver Doctors) is an online dealer of precious metals which was founded in 2012 by the Silver Doctors network (SilverDoctors.com). Their website offers a wide range of gold, silver & platinum bullion that includes various types of coins and bars.
The parent company SilverDoctors.com was founded a year earlier in 2011 as a valuable resource for investors to keep up with current world events, precious metal markets, and other news. After the success of their original website, the founders of Silver Doctors (known as “The Doc” and “Bull Run”) set out on a mission to educate everyone on the importance of protecting financial assets. Both “The Doc” and “Bull Run” saw there was a large need for a low-cost top rated bullion dealer in the market and decided to launch SD Bullion.
What started as a hobby of two successful doctors, has turned into a much larger mission. SD Bullion is now one of the fastest growing bullion dealers in the United States. SD Bullion debuted in March of 2012 as a service to our readers with the goal of providing the lowest cost bullion available. All sales were completed via telephone with the motto, “Nothing Fancy. Just a Telephone and Low Prices.” More importantly, buyers were 100% satisfied with their bullion transactions according to a post purchasing survey. An online website purchasing option was added in the later part of 2012 and SD Bullion has continued to gain industry market share to where we stand today as one of the premier, low-cost online bullion establishments in the country.
Gold & Silver, Inc. runs GoldSilver.com, which is headed by gold and silver expert and promoter Mike Maloney. Maloney is probably most famous for writing the Rich Dad Advisors’ Guide to Investing in Gold & Silver, which is definitely one of the best books on the subject you could ever hope to read. Maloney is affiliated with investment guru Robert Kiyosaki, and has been a supporter of Ron Paul in his political efforts. But how does Gold-Silver stack up to other bullion dealers?
Gold-Silver is unique in that it is an education-first company, providing information and education on gold, silver, and finance, free of charge. Gold-Silver is also not just simply an online bullion site, but an investment company that invests in gold and silver right alongside its customers. The company also offers secure storage and IRA services.
2012 American Gold Eagles sell at Gold-Silver for $104 over spot, or about $16 more than APMEX. Other gold products at Gold-Silver include fractional Gold Eagles, and gold Buffalos, Maple Leafs, Krugerrands, Austrian Philharmonics, and various bars. Silver Eagles can be purchased in twenty-ounce minimums, at prices that were about $1.50 per ounce higher than APMEX as of March 11. One interesting product sold by Gold-Silver is the Rich Dad silver round.
Gold-Silver has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. It has just five complaints against it in the past three years, all of which were closed to customer satisfaction. The BBB withheld an A+ rating from Gold-Silver because of its comparative lack of time in business. The BBB does say, however, that Gold-Silver has few complaints for a business its size, has responded to complaints and resolved them adequately, and has provided sufficient background information to the BBB.
Since the 2008 collapse of the U.S. housing market and its far-reaching economic effects, every type of investing has become cautionary. Consumers are a little afraid to let go of their money, but they want to try proven investment vehicles to turn their hard-earned dollars into something of higher value. That’s where investing in silver and gold comes into play because it’s time-tested. Precious metals hold their value over time, but their worth is sensitive to global financial markets.
Silver.com is among the newest, but don’t let that keep you from trying them out. Established in 2014, the site has already earned a solid reputation and has quickly become one of the most popular options. The question, though, is whether or not it’s right for you.
Silver.com also has some of the lowest rates around for shipping, which is always insured. Orders from $0 to $299 ship for $5.95; orders from $300 to $999 ship for $8.95; orders from $1,000 to $2,999 ship for $12.95. Finally, orders totaling $3,000 and up ship for free.
The bottom line on Silver.com is that although it’s a relative newcomer, it’s a solid choice for numismatists, investors and casual collectors alike.
10. Amagi Metals
It’s nice to be able to buy the majority of the bullion you need from a single source. Like many dealers, Amagi Metals offers free shipping on bulk orders. In their case, your order must total at least $5,000 to qualify. At any rate, thanks to the dealer’s vast selection, reaching that threshold is pretty easy.
While there are many options for buying gold and silver online, if you are purchasing small-to-large quantities of more standard gold and silver products, you can’t go wrong with APMEX. If you’re looking for other specialty services, like help with precious-metals IRA products, then companies like Provident Metals may be your best option.
But let’s not forget the offline, brick-and-mortar coin dealer. While their prices and scruples may vary, a good, reliable dealer you can meet and establish a relationship with can be worth his weight in gold. Shopping offline also lets you save on shipping charges, which can make up for the potentially higher prices on smaller buys. Getting in good with a local dealer also allows you to sell your coins and rounds back at better prices – possibly because he’ll give you a better deal, but definitely because you won’t have to pay the return shipping.
In all honesty, a diverse approach is probably best when in the accumulation phase of your gold and silver products: buy some locally, get some from the big retailers like APMEX, shop smaller sites for specialty products, use companies like Gold-Silver for larger buys. This way, all of your bases are covered. Good luck!