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What's Right for You?
May 05, 2008

When precious metals come off highs as they have in recent days, the logical question in the minds of gold and silver owners is when is the right time to sell?

Should I have sold gold when it hit $1,000? Should I have sold some silver when it passed $20? Every owner is probably asking himself or herself those very questions.

I thought of this at lunch yesterday. I was transiting through the Miami airport. I met a couple from a small town outside of Tulsa, Okla.

We were thrown together in a crowded restaurant. We got to talking. Neither was a collector, but they owned some coins that they had acquired or saved years ago.

The husband said he had about 30 silver dollars. He wondered what the price was. I replied that they were currently probably worth about $15. Then he told me a story about 1980. He had had them then. When the local coin dealer was offering $30 apiece, he decided he would sell them when they reached $35. He said he checked every day. They inched a bit higher, but never made $35. Then the plunge started and no sale occurred at all.

Here we are 28 years later. Bullion is making headlines but silver dollars are still not as high as 1980. He can always keep them, but the one thing that has changed is that he has worked for 40 years and is nearing retirement. He is older. Does he have the time to wait?

That is the question.

Gold may be eternal, but its owners are not. The time to sell is dictated as much by personal circumstance as it is by the long-term outlook. It pays not to forget that.

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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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