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Coin Predators

Published October 11, 2004
Written by Alec Nevalainen

In yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a traveling estate buying company purchased two full-page ads offering to pay cash for your old coins, jewelry, and other tangible items of value. They've rented the conference center at the Holiday Inn for the next 7 days where a "team of experts are prepared to spend $2,000,000 in cash."

I've seen these visiting companies before, but I've never seen them purchase two full pages. At the very top of their list of wanted items are silver dollars (1935 & older), silver coins (1964 & older), and silver bars. They are also looking for silver jewelry, silver flatware, silver tea sets, and "all kinds of silver antiques". In the center of the page, there's another box saying, "Will pay up to 700% on Silver Coins."

I don't have a problem with anyone offering a marketplace to exchange items for cash. In fact, this can be a great place to have a coin appraised and provide liquidity in a small dealer market. However, there's a short note in the upper right hand corner of the second page that makes me question their integrity:


During the past few years, low interest rates, war, and an uncertain stock market combined to push many collectible prices to their highest levels ever. Now, rising interest rates are starting to hurt the gold and silver markets and some collectibles. We have studied the investment and collectibles markets for decades, and in the past when interest rates go up and inflation remains low, there are dramatic price declines in many areas of jewelry, coin, and collectibles markets.

Which is why this may be the best time in decades for you to sell, for some of the highest prices ever.

Instead of ripping apart their ad, or their economic advice, I'm going to drive down to the Holiday Inn this week and ask them in person why this is best time in decades to sell my coins. Of course I'm skeptical, but I'm really interested in their buying pitch. I'll bring a handful of pre-1964 quarters and ask the following:

1. Tell me more about these quarters, I don't even know for sure that all of these have silver in them.

(I know this is unfair. Leading off with this question will certainly allow the buyer to size me up...but I want to see how low of an offer they will give me without being obvious.)

2. You actually have buyers for this stuff? Or will it be melted right away?

(The question doesn't even make sense.)

3. Your ad mentioned this may be the best time to sell these, can you explain that? I was thinking about holding them longer for a higher price. I don't want to sit on these though if they're going to be worth half as much next year, know what I mean?

(I'm sure they'll say, "Interest rates are going up, that means more people will start saving money and not spending. I think your coins could lose more than half their value.")

I'll write their responses in an upcoming wrap-up. Maybe I'm all wrong about these people. Maybe they're performing a wonderful community service. We'll see.

One more thing. The pre-1982 penny has a slightly higher intrinsic value than Friday. The 97.5% copper/2.5% zinc penny has a metal value of $0.01003 with today's close.

Alec Nevalainen

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