First Time Buyers! Learn the essentials of Precious Metals investing.

Looking to invest in Gold and other Precious Metals, but not sure how to get started? That's what this APMEX First Time Buyer Page is all about. The information provided here is a great first step in your journey with Precious Metals. Simply click on an individual tab below that interests you, or read through each for a broader understanding of how to invest in Precious Metals.

Gold, Silver and Precious Metals Basics

Even if you're a complete beginner, you may know more about Precious Metals than you think. Consider phrases like "as good as Gold" and "worth its weight in Gold." Chances are we've all used expressions similar to these in our daily lives to convey time-tested value.

Gold was first refined in 3600 B.C. It built ancient empires in Egypt, Rome and Babylon and currently sustains our modern day economies. Gold and other Precious Metals have been the measure of wealth for centuries and continue to be a store of value to those who possess them.

Precious Metals have become so much a part of our daily lives - jewelry and coins are just two examples. Precious Metals like Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium are also used in electronics, automotive parts, health care and even space missions. Whether in industry or as investments, it is important to understand how Precious Metals are used and how valuable they are to us all.

Know the Lingo

Gold - A precious yellow metallic element (Atomic Number 79) that is resistant to oxidation and is highly ductile and malleable. Used in coinage, jewelry and industrial applications, Gold has long been used as a store of wealth and a standard for currencies worldwide.

Silver - A soft-white lustrous metal, Silver (Atomic Number 47) has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of any metal and occurs both in minerals and in free form. It is used extensively in coins, jewelry, tableware and photography. Its chemically active nature causes changes in color or tones when exposed to air and certain elements.

Platinum - A heavy, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white metal, Platinum (Atomic Number 78) is resistant to corrosion. Platinum is used in jewelry, laboratory equipment, electrical contacts, dentistry and automobile emissions control devices. Platinum coins and bars are now very popular investments.

Palladium - A rare Silver-white metal of the Platinum group. Palladium (Atomic Number 46) resembles Platinum chemically and is primarily used as an industrial catalyst and in jewelry.

Bullion - Bullion refers to Precious Metals products that are manufactured in a bar, round or ingot form by a refiner or private producer and usually having a purity of at least 99.5% or more.

Bullion Coin - A legal tender coin, produced by a sovereign government, the value of such coin primarily depends on its Precious Metal content rather than it legal tender or numismatic value.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Fun Facts:

  • More Gold has been extracted from the Earth in the last 50 years than throughout the rest of history.
  • To be considered "pure," Gold, Silver and Palladium products must be at least .999 fine (99.9% pure), and Platinum products must be .9995 fine (99.95% pure).
  • If all the Gold ever mined was divided equally among the Earth's 7 billion inhabitants, each person would receive less than one ounce!
  • It is estimated about 165,000 metric tonnes of Gold have been mined in Earth's history. Sounds impressive, but it is still only enough to fill three and a half Olympic sized swimming pools.

Resources:

  • Learn about the history and value of silver in The Silver Institute’s video “Silver: The Element of Change” Silver - The Element of Change
  • Find APMEX CEO Michael Haynes’ latest article titled, “Silver Déjà Vu: Are We Ready for Rebound?” published in American Hard Assets magazine here. Download the PDF.
    Silver deja vu Final article

Why Do People Invest In Gold and Other Precious Metals?

Precious Metals Are Considered By Many As A Long-Term Investment

When you invest in physical Gold, Silver and other Precious Metals, you are purchasing products that have been valued around the world since the Roman Empire. It is this long-term storehouse of value that attracts many investors to a position in Precious Metals. Though there may come a time in the future that you wish to sell your holdings, you may plan to hold on to your investment for the long term, which usually means several years or more.

The Role Of Physical Precious Metals In An Investment Portfolio

Now that you understand that physical Precious Metals are considered by many as a long-term investment, let's review their role in a bigger picture: your investment portfolio.

Many investors entering a position in Gold or Silver do so because they believe it will hold its value independently of other types of investments. For example, the value of Precious Metals is not dependent on the Dollar, and, in fact, often increases when the value of the Dollar decreases, providing in part, a hedge against the loss of purchasing power in currency. Because Gold, Silver and other Precious Metals are traded in a global market, no country, no corporation or any other single entity controls the price, rather the global free markets establish price.

The Price of a Gallon

Similarly, Gold and other Precious Metals have historically moved in the opposite direction of stocks and bonds in a non-correlated fashion. This means in a diversified and balanced portfolio, when asset classes like stocks and bonds go down, the fourth asset class in Gold and Silver may go up, or if stocks and bonds go up, Gold and Silver may go down. The concept is that no one can project the future and a balanced portfolio with all of the asset classes has both winners and losers but the overall portfolio should be protecting and growing the total balance.

Index of Gold Prices and S&P 500

Protection from volatility and loss of purchasing power are even more significant when considering your retirement. As a first time buyer, you may not be aware that there is a way to combine the long-term diversification benefits of Precious Metals in an Individual Retirement Account. It's called a Precious Metals IRA, and it's an investment option many of our customers choose. Click here to learn more.

Know the Lingo

  • Portfolio - A group of multiple investments added together for a combined total position and related aggregate value.
  • Hedge - In finance, refers to an investment that counterbalances potential losses or gains of a targeted investment. This term can apply to any combination of currencies, stocks, metals, bonds and more that have tendencies to move opposite of each other under the same market conditions.
  • Purchasing Power - The number of goods/services that can be purchased with a unit of currency. If there is inflation in the currency, it would require more of the currency to buy the very same goods/services. The United States Federal Reserve Bank has a stated goal to inflate the U.S. Dollar by 2% every year, thus reducing the purchasing power of the Dollar.
  • Diversification - Diversification is the idea of reducing investment risk by investing in a variety of assets. Diversification and hedging are two general techniques which savvy investors may employ to reduce overall portfolio risk.
  • Asset Classes - The four asset classes in which people spread their investments are stocks, bonds, cash and tangible assets (like Gold).
  • Volatility - Volatility is the variation of a financial instrument's price over time. High volatility provides investors with opportunities to buy assets cheaply and sell when overpriced, but it also means the risk of a sudden, unexpected price drop.
  • Precious Metals IRA - Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, are a form of a retirement plan. Another retirement plan, the 401-K plan from former employers, can be "rolled over" or converted to an IRA . A Precious Metals IRA is an IRA plan that allows the owner of the plan to hold Gold and Silver, in addition to other investments.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Resources:

  • Watch APMEX CEO, Michael Haynes, speak about diversification into the 4th asset class.
    Asset Allocation
  • World Gold Council is an excellent, independent resource for historical and current facts and data regarding Gold and other Precious Metals.
  • Watch the video "How to Invest in Gold, Silver and other Precious Metals". How to invest in Gold?
  • For more detailed information, Download a free excerpt or Buy The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals: How to begin, build and maintain a properly diversified portfolio.
    The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals

The Advantages of Physical Gold

There are two basic ways to invest in Precious Metals: paper and physical. ETFs and futures markets such as the NYMEX and COMEX are forms of "paper" investments, whereby ownership is referenced through a paper certificate that gives rights or claims to physical Gold or Silver held in an unknown vault location. Paper investing has one distinct disadvantage: you don't actually hold the physical metal. Many people prefer owning physical Precious Metals because they can take actual possession of their investment. Though there are many ways to trade in Precious Metals, purchasing physical Precious Metals is the only way you'll be able to hold them in your hand.

Know the Lingo

ETF - Exchange Traded Fund is an investment fund traded on stock exchanges that track the price of stocks, commodities, indexes or bonds. Investors buy and sell the fund as they would a stock without having to own the physical commodity that the fund tracks.

NYMEX - The New York Mercantile Exchange, operated by CME Group, which offers paper contracts for commodities such as Platinum and Palladium.

COMEX - Chicago Exchange, Inc, operated by CME Group, which offers paper contracts for commodities such as Gold and Silver.

Physical Precious Metals - Refers to actual Precious Metals products that you can hold in your hand.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Resources:

  • Click to watch APMEX CEO, Michael Haynes, compare and contrast physical Precious Metals vs. ETFs.Physical Gold vs ETF

Fun Facts:

  • If you stretched out one ounce of Gold into the thickness of a sewing thread, it would extend for 50 miles.
  • The U.S. Mint has sold more than 300 million Silver Eagle coins since the program began in 1986. And the total mintage for first quarter 2013 exceeded the total mintage for any entire year in the program history from inception in 1986 until 2007.

Types of Physical Precious Metals Products

You can purchase Precious Metals generally in three different forms: bars, coins and rounds. Each type of product provides its own benefits for buyers. Bars and rounds, also known as bullion, are great for investors as they tend to carry the lowest premiums, although they are subject to verification of authenticity. Smaller sizes of these products, such as a 1 oz bar or round, have high liquidity and can be bought and sold quickly because they are priced strictly for their Precious Metals content and have little to no collectible value.

Bullion Coins, on the other hand, tend to carry slightly higher premiums because they have a somewhat higher production cost from the minting process and carry a guarantee by the issuing government of purity and authenticity. Coins can also have numismatic value, which is explained in the next section.

Government mints transform large quantities of refined Precious Metals into the products we buy. These sovereign mints are backed by a government and are able to manufacture coins for currency (U.S. Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, etc.). Private mints (such as Sunshine Minting, Pamp Suisse, etc.) typically don’t manufacture currency, but instead produce other high-quality Precious Metals products. Here is a list of our Top 40 most popular products.

Exploring the Silver Eagle

Investing vs. Collecting

Investors and collectors tend to focus on different types of Precious Metals products. Investors are motivated by the economic incentives of ownership through capital gains, hedging properties and portfolio balance. In contrast, collectors seek numismatic items in order to complete a collection of dates for a series or to upgrade quality in their collection. However, anyone can buy bullion and/or numismatic products, but it is wise to know the difference so that you understand the value of each type and how that value is determined (see definitions for Bullion and Numismatic below).

Collectors readily accept third-party guarantees that grading services provide relating to both the quality and the authenticity. This third-party service increases confidence and enhances liquidity in the collectible market.

Know the Lingo

Bar - Bars and rounds are produced by refiners and other private companies and generally carry a lower premium over the value of the Precious Metal content.

Bullion - Bullion refers to Precious Metals products that are manufactured in a bar, round or ingot form by a refiner or private producer and usually having a purity of at least 99.5% or more.

Bullion Coin - A legal tender coin, produced by a sovereign government, the value of such coin primarily depends on its Precious Metal content rather than it legal tender or numismatic value.

Collectible Coin - Coins that are of interest to collectors for the numismatic value they carry in addition to their Precious Metal content. The value may be determined by the coin's condition, age, rarity, artistry and more.

Grading Service - provide third-party certification of the condition or quality or state of preservation along with authenticity of numismatic products. The top two grading services in the U.S. are the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), but several others exist.

Liquidity - How quickly and easily a product or investment can be sold. If an investment can be sold quickly with a narrow spread, it is said to be highly liquid.

Government Mint - A mint is a government owned industrial facility that processes and manufactures Precious Metals products for sale.

Private Mint - A privately owned industrial facility that processes and manufactures Precious Metals products for sale.

Numismatic - Numismatic products carry what is known as "collector value" in excess of their intrinsic metal value. Older or rarer products, as well as those certified by a grading service, have a higher premium because of their numismatic value.

Premium - Premium is the additional cost of a Precious Metals item above the spot price. This includes costs for fabrication, distribution and a dealer charge.

Round - Rounds appear similar to coins, though they are not legal tender for any government.

Spread - The Spread is the difference between the buying price and the selling price of a product. For example, if a dealer will buy your Silver Eagle for a $1.80 premium that you purchased at a $3.50 premium, the spread is $1.70. The spread is used to measure how far the metal's price needs to move to create an investment gain.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Resources:

  • Video of Basic Terms Explained Basic Terms Explained
  • Read "What The Rest Of The World Knows About Gold That The United States May Not", an article written by our CEO Michael Haynes and published in American Hard Assets magazine. Download the PDF.
    AmericanHardAssets_APMEX_goldarticle
  • For more detailed information, Download a free excerpt or Buy The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals: How to begin, build and maintain a properly diversified portfolio.
    The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals

Fun Facts:

  • The World's most popular Gold bullion coin is the South African Gold Krugerrand, which was first minted in 1967.
  • All dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar coins minted in 1964 or earlier were minted in 90% Silver. So be sure to check the date when someone hands you a quarter; it could be worth more than just 25 cents!
  • The Double Eagle was first minted for circulation in 1850 in response to the increased Gold supply of the California Gold Rush of 1849.

3 Easy Steps to Buying Gold and Silver

How to Buy Physical Precious Metals

Every Precious Metals product carries an intrinsic value based on its metal content in Troy ounces. A product's final sell price is a combination of the spot price multiplied by its actual metal weight plus a premium. Spot prices are composed of two parts — the Ask and the Bid — which are updated minute by minute throughout the day. Each component is important when pricing and comparing different Precious Metals products.

Many first time buyers choose sovereign bullion coins as their first purchase because of the government guarantee of the metal content and Troy ounces they offer. As a first time buyer's Precious Metals knowledge grows, so does the breadth of products they purchase. APMEX publishes buy and sell prices for many of our most popular items so you know what to expect if you ever need to sell. It's our goal to be as transparent as possible throughout the entire process.


Volume Pricing Chart


Know the Lingo

Ask & Bid - The Ask is the spot price used to determine the total price at which a dealer will sell a product. The Bid is the spot price used to determine the total price at which a dealer will buy a product.

Metal Content - The total amount of Precious Metal in a product measured by weight. Actual Gold Weight (AGW) and Actual Silver Weight (ASW) are other ways of noting Precious Metal content.

Troy Ounce - The troy ounce is the most common unit of measurement for Precious Metals and is the current standard for bullion pricing and trading. It is slightly heavier than the avoirdupois, or common "kitchen," ounce, with 1 Troy ounce being equal to 1.097 avoirdupois ounces.

Fineness / Purity - The fineness (or purity) of a Precious Metal is measured in 1,000 parts: A Silver American Eagle has a fineness of .999, meaning it is 99.9% pure Silver.

Spot Price - Spot is the current market price of the metal, which is always changing during global market hours (just like a normal stock changing minute-by-minute throughout the day).

Premium - Premium is the additional cost of a Precious Metals item above the spot price. This includes costs for fabrication, distribution and marketing.

Spread - The Spread is the difference between the buying price and the selling price of a product. For example, if a dealer will buy your Silver Eagle for a $1.80 premium that you purchased at a $3.50 premium, the spread is $1.70. The spread is used to measure how far the metal's price needs to move to create an investment gain.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Resources:

  • This video explains things you should look for before you buy from an online Precious Metals retailer.
    What to Look for

Owning Gold and Other Precious Metals

How To Care For Your Precious Metals

Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium in the products sold by APMEX are generally soft, pliable metals. You should take great care in handling and caring for your Precious Metals to preserve their value. Protective casings preserve your product's value.

Many bullion products from refiners and other mints often come in tamper-evident assay cards that authenticate their weight and purity; tampering with these assay cards can reduce a product's resale value and make it harder to sell. Many of the products sold by APMEX are sold in a protective container or tube. For those products not purchased in a container, APMEX sells capsules, boxes, albums and more to help you protect, store and organize your Precious Metals products.

Some of the Precious Metals products are collectible coins in a condition or state of preservation of uncirculated or perhaps were specially made for collectors in proof condition. If you purchase collectible coins because of their beauty and additional value (above the melt content), then consider these guidelines to follow when handling your collectible Precious Metals coins:

  • Hold the coin by its edges between the thumb and forefinger, so your fingers never touch the obverse or reverse surface. Fingerprints can be difficult to remove and the natural oils on your skin can be corrosive.
  • Hold coins over a soft towel or other soft surface in case you drop them. Even a short drop can cause permanent damage.
  • Avoid talking directly over your coins. Tiny, almost invisible droplets of saliva can drop onto the coin and show up later as spots.

While it may be tempting to clean Precious Metals products and make them look shiny and new, proceed with caution. Cleaning can severely reduce your coin's value! Collectors tend to prefer coins that show the deep coloration of age over those whose surfaces have been stripped away by improper cleaning. . Even the mildest touch can scratch the delicate surface, reducing the coin's luster and value.

Storing Your Precious Metals

You have two options of where to store your Precious Metals, at home or off site. Many of our customers want to keep their purchases close by, while others prefer to store their metals at another location. While there are pros and cons to both, whatever you choose, APMEX has a solution for you.

The main benefit of self-storage is that your metals are close by in case you ever need them. Whether on display or hidden away in a home vault or safe, you know what you own and where it is. Just remember that metals are heavy and can be difficult to handle in large quantities. If not cared for properly, they can become damaged and lose their value. If you choose to go with self-storage, you may choose to protect your holdings and APMEX has capsules, boxes, albums and more to help you protect, store and organize your products.

But what if you don't want to worry about storing your metals yourself? There are many options for offsite storage, including bank safe deposit boxes and third party secure storage. When you buy Precious Metals products from APMEX, you can choose to have them delivered directly to a high-security, private storage facility, managed by one of the world's leading security companies, through Citadel Global Depository Services. Citadel is a wholly owned subsidiary of APMEX that provides maximum security for your Precious Metals. Learn more about Citadel here.

How to Sell Your Precious Metals

We've given you plenty of information about purchasing Precious Metals, but what about selling? As an investor, you want the same confidence when selling as you do when purchasing. You may already know that APMEX is one of the nation's largest online Precious Metals dealers, but you may not know that we also are one of the largest BUYERS of Precious Metal coins and bars in the nation.

When the time comes, you can expect one of the most competitive prices for your Precious Metals, and you can rely on us for a safe, fast and easy transaction. Learn more about selling to APMEX here.

Know the Lingo

Assay Card - A type of tamper-evident packaging typically used for bullion bars. This packaging includes a card that authenticates the weight and purity of the product it holds.

Uncirculated - A state of preservation describing coins that never circulated in commerce. An uncirculated coin will have no wear handling and no damage from mistreatment.

Proof - A method of manufacture whereby the coin is struck by highly polished dies multiple times, resulting in a lustrous, mirror-like finish on the background surface, or field, of the coin. This background provides contrast for the design, or device, to help it stand out.

Luster - The gentle sheen or soft reflective glow of an uncirculated or pristine coin. As a coin is circulated, its luster will fade.

See the Glossary for a complete list of key Precious Metals terms.

Why APMEX?

At APMEX, our goal is to provide the products, services, resources and knowledge to help you reach your investing goals:

  • Speedy Delivery: Nobody puts Gold & Silver in your Hands faster than APMEX. With our QuickShipTM Program, orders paid by Credit Card or Bank Wire will ship within one business day of your payment’s clearing – guaranteed.  Restrictions apply.
  • Transparent Pricing: Spot, buy and sell prices are easily available on our website.
  • Selection: Over 5,000 different types of Precious Metal products. Take a look at our most popular products here.
  • Security: Your transactions are safe and secure.
  • Convenience: Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Plus, you have the option to either have your purchases shipped safely to you or have them shipped for free to a high-security, private storage facility. This new service is available through Citadel Global Depository Services, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of APMEX.
  • Education & Information: Market commentaries are posted on our website three times a day. Additionally, our knowledgeable Account Managers and Purchasers are ready to answer all of the questions you may have though our secure online chat feature or over the phone.
  • Satisfaction Guarantee: We guarantee your satisfaction at APMEX by providing a wide selection of more than 5,000 of the highest quality bullion and collectible Precious Metals products 24/7. Our automated systems go right to work processing your order as soon as it is submitted so you can receive your shipment as soon as possible. Our 98% satisfaction rating speaks for itself. Read what our customers are saying about us.
  • Benefits for Frequent Purchasers: APMEX Club is another way APMEX shows our appreciation and makes it easier to put Gold, Silver and other Precious Metals in your hands with benefits such as free shipping and exclusive offers based on your purchase activity. Learn more about APMEX Club Membership and Benefits.

If you're ready, start shopping!

You can also register or follow us on social channels to stay informed.

APMEX Facts:

  • Gold Ounces Sold:

    1.6 million (50+ tonnes) and counting

  • Silver Ounces Sold:

    Over 65 million (2,000+ tonnes) and counting

  • Gold American Eagles Sold:

    Over 525,000

  • Silver American Eagles Sold:

    Over 21 million

  • Unique Visitors to Site:

    Over 22.5 million

  • Orders processed since website launch in 2003:

    Over 1 million and counting

  • Countries that we have shipped orders to:

    59 Countries and counting

Precious Metals' Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the different Precious Metals products?
    Precious Metals are traded in three forms: bars, coins and rounds.
    • Bars are produced by private mints, can be easily stored and are an easy way to accumulate more metal for your dollar. Common weights range from 1 oz to 100 oz, though smaller and larger may be minted.
    • Coins come from sovereign mints and carry a face value. They offer a collectability factor that bars and rounds do not. Common weights range from 1/20 oz to 1 oz, though they may be produced up to 1 kilogram (32.15 oz).
    • Rounds appear similar to coins, though they have no face value, and can be minted by government or private mints. Common weights range from 1/2 oz up to 5 oz, though smaller and larger may occasionally be minted.
  2. Why is Gold, despite being more abundant than Silver (current estimates place aboveground Gold at around 5 billion ounces and aboveground Silver at around 450 million ounces), so much more expensive?
    The commonly accepted reasons include:
    • Gold being used widely in jewelry
    • Gold being seen as more of an "alternative currency"
    • Gold being in higher demand, both by central banks and individuals
  3. How is the price of Precious Metals determined?
    There are two aspects of a Precious Metals price that you should know: Spot and Premium
    • Spot is the current market price of the metal, which is always changing (just like a normal stock changing minute-by-minute throughout the day).
    • Premium is the additional cost of a Precious Metals item above the spot price. This includes costs for fabrication, distribution and a minimal dealer fee. Rare coins carry a high premium due to collectible value, while rounds and bars carry the lowest premium since they tend to lack collectability.
    When you are looking to buy products strictly for the metal content, it is important to buy your Precious Metals products as close to the current spot price as possible so you can avoid relying on a huge price swing to see a return if you decide to sell your product. When buying numismatic (collectible) products, it is important to understand the ins and outs of the collectibles market to avoid overpaying for an item.
  4. Why should I invest in Precious Metals?
    The value of the dollar (and investments attached to the dollar, like stocks and bonds) has been on the decline. Meanwhile, the value of Precious Metals is not dependent on the dollar, and, in fact, generally increases when the value of the dollar decreases. Similarly, Precious Metals can never completely lose their value.