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Knowledgeable Gold Buyers Wanted
June 08, 2010

I had a call from a married couple yesterday. They did not identify themselves to me, though it is possible they did so when they first reached my colleague Debbie Bradley.

After the call was transferred to me, it was the wife on the phone. She wanted to know if there was such a thing as a $50 gold piece.

I told her about the $50 American Eagle one-ounce coin.

I explained that these coins had been struck by the U.S. Mint since 1986 and that they were then sold into the bullion market, priced and traded at the current price of gold plus the mark-up.

She wanted a ballpark figure, so I said $1,250 plus the mark-up, which I said fluctuates.

She wondered why she couldn’t find this information in her book, though she never told me what it was. Perhaps she would have, but her husband was asking questions in the background and finally his wife gave him the phone.

He wanted to know about $20 gold pieces and what they were worth. I told him they traded among collectors based on condition.

He was impatient with that. He asked what’s the base price if the coin was in terrible condition.

I said it was worth the gold price or roughly $1,250 because it contained 96 percent of an ounce of gold.

He retorted that that’s what I had told his wife was the base price of the gold $50.

I said that’s because they are both approximately the same weight.

“You mean the $20 weighs the same as the $50? How can that be?

More or less, I replied, because the $20 was struck 1933 and before and the American Eagle was struck to a different standard starting in 1986.

He couldn’t seem to wrap his mind around the concept of the $20 and $50 coins being roughly the same weight and repeated the same questions.

Then he threw in the statement that someone was offering him coins for $500.

I replied that if they were one-ounce coins they were probably fake. I suppose I could have said stolen, but I didn't get that far before he blurted out:

“I don’t buy fakes,” he exclaimed indignantly.

I asked why anyone would sell a coin to him with a base value of $1,250 for $500.

He was silent and still indignant.

He did not volunteer the identity of who was offering him the coins or what this person or firm claimed the coins to be.

After 10 minutes of this, he was ready to go, said good-bye and hung up.

I fear that the callers are going to end up having less money at the end of the week than what they started with.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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