First off, I don’t buy a lot of precious metals. I don’t have much in a way of precious metals. Most of my purchases are for my grand kids. Each of them receives a one ounce silver coin when they are born and one for each Christmas and birthday. With four grand kids, and another on the way (congrats to us!), that works out to be about eight ounces of silver per year.
Initially, I was very hesitant to buy anything like this online. Instead I shopped every place I could find locally that dealt with bullion (I just like saying that word). In the process I found a shop that was located fairly close to where I was working, that had decent prices and nice folks working in there. Over the course of time I developed a bit of a trust with them and they, in turn, would on occasion, give me a little extra discount when I needed it.
Of late, however, they never seemed to have what I needed/wanted when I needed/wanted it. On top of that my job changed and I no longer work close to there. Making a round trip to their location now takes half a day and a fair amount of gas. I shopped around and founds another dealer with decent prices and a better selection in a location closer to some of my current customers but I have never had a warm, fuzzy feeling about them.
For the most recent purchases I decided to try some of the online dealers. Specifically APMEX.com and JM Bullion and I thought I would share my thoughts with you.
The first online seller I tried was APMEX.com. They seemed to have decent reviews from what I could tell (most reviewers had them as a sponsor) and decent pricing.
Note: For those who have not purchased precious metals yet most sellers offer their products at the current “strike” price of the metal involved plus a surcharge. The strike price is pretty consistent since it is set by “the market” but the surcharges can vary widely. These charges vary a lot based on a lot of factors.
Like most online dealers they have different pricing depending on how you pay. The cost to purchase with a credit card is higher than check for example and I am sure this is to cover their cost of such transactions. I am OK with that but it is fairly annoying to place an order online then have write a mail a check to them, wait for it to clear and then have the order ship. The good news is that after an initial transaction of some size or another you can use an “eCheck” and the transaction is completely electronic, much faster and easier.
Shipping costs when buying online can quickly add up and make buying online more expensive. For domestic orders over $99 they offer free shipping. Unfortunately, the free option uses the US Postal Service. In my experience USPS has a less than stellar record in every way. They rarely deliver when (or even sometimes where) they say they will and I have had several packages “lost” by USPS. APMEX does insure the package so if it is lost I am not out any money (a big concern whhen buying something like this online).
As I mentioned their prices seem to be pretty good, lower than I would find locally. Their selection is incredible. I can always find what I am looking for there and their website seems to be pretty well designed and easy to use. They even have a fairly nice feature that helps track you investments. Purchases through APMEX are automatically added to you “portfolio” and purchases made elsewhere can be manually added in. It’s really nice to see at a glance how much your investments are worth. I also like the fact that I can, if I am OK paying a little extra, put my purchases on a credit card. I won’t do that often but it is nice to have it as an option.
The one complaint I have with APMEX is turnaround time. It seems that every step in the process takes a couple of days and in some cases (including transit time in shipping) it may take a couple of weeks to get your order. I can live with it but would really prefer a faster turnaround.
I wasn’t planning on making any additional purchases and I was pretty happy with APMEX but someone called my attention to a “special introductory offer” from JM Bullion offering ten ounces of silver with no premium over the current strike price. I checked around a bit and decided to give it a shot.
The experience I had with JM Bullion was very similar to APMEX. Different prices depending on how you pay and free shipping (unfortunately also with USPS). The website is not as easy for me to navigate and they don’t have the “portfolio” feature that APMEX has but it is still decent and I can still get done what I need to do.
There are a couple of advantages in their favor though. First, they are located in Texas (well, sort of it’s actually Dallas and outside of Austin that is the least Texas portion of the state). Second, their turnaround time (at least on this one order) was really good. Despite placing the order several days after the order at APMEX it actually arrives several days earlier. Third, the prices appear to be slightly better (ignoring the special) than APMEX.
Purchasing precious metals online is a reasonable and seemingly safe alternative to purchasing locally. The prices are a little lower. The insured shipping mitigates the risk of purchases being lost in transit. In fact purchasing online may be slightly safer. The packaging is nondescript and it is not readily apparent what’s inside and I don’t have to drive around town with cash or precious metals on my person. I do miss the personal interaction and prefer to support local businesses but JM Bullion is only slightly further away than the “local” shops I have used in the past.
I would not hesitate, at this point to recommend either one of these sites if you are planning on purchasing precious metals. Of the two I will likely lean towards JM Bullion for my next purchase (it will be time to buy Christmas coins soon and grand baby #6 is due towards the end of the year) due primarily to the faster turnaround time and slightly lower prices.
What are your experiences? Have you purchased preciouls metals online? Are you willing to admit it on the InterWebz?