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Precious Metals

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Collecting and purchasing precious metals

Well before the advent of credit cards, wire transfers, electronic stock trades and even stock markets themselves, humans relied on rare, prized metals to secure monetary value. Gold and silver are two of the best-known and oldest precious metals with the longest history of use as currency, but your options extend far beyond those two. In addition to different types of precious metals, there are different formats, including bullion and collectible coins, to consider. Gain a deeper understanding of what s available in this product category to make the best purchase for your investment or coin-collecting goals.

Collectible coins vs. bullion

Before you start shopping, it s important to determine what your goals are in purchasing precious metals. Are you interested in numismatics, or the collection of currency as a study or hobby, or do you want to invest in precious metal as a purely economic decision? Hobbyists should choose collectible coins, perhaps with some bullion thrown in for good measure if you want to diversify your precious metal investment. If the collectible coins you choose are made from solid precious metals, their base value won't deviate much from that of bullion.

Both types of precious metals are subject to valuation changes due to the price volatility in a given market. However, bullion s value is more directly tied to the current trading price of the metal in question. Collectible coin values can fluctuate based on trends in the collector s market and whether any buyers are currently interested in purchasing that specific coin. The intrinsic value of a collectible coin can theoretically grant it higher monetary value than an equivalent piece of bullion, but this isn't necessarily the case. This is especially true if you purchase collectible coins that were struck in large quantities.

Precious metal varieties

Just as with stocks and bonds, it pays for investors to diversify their holdings with precious metals. International commodities markets can have a huge impact on the value of a particular metal, and at any given time, one may be high while the others are low. Gold and silver are a good place to start if you're new to the world of precious metals, but don't forget that other precious metals are available as well. You can find bars, bullion and collectible coins in a variety of precious metals, including:

  • Gold

    Pure gold is very soft and malleable, which makes it less suitable for use in jewelry and coinage. This means that if you want to invest in the purest gold you can find, bullion in the form of bars or rounds will be your best bet. Also known as fine gold, the high-purity gold sold as bullion tends to be 99.9 percent pure. Some governments may mint collectible fine gold coins, but these are generally presented in collectible cases and are not intended for circulation.

  • Silver

    Like gold, pure silver is quite soft, which means that fine silver traded on commodities markets is slightly under complete purity. Also generally sold at 99.9 percent purity, these bullion pieces are often referred to as .999 in accordance with international Good Delivery standards. Sterling silver and other silver used to create jewelry, home decor or art pieces is generally an alloy of fine silver and other, less valuable metals, making it unacceptable for trade in the same context as bullion.

  • Platinum

    Prized as one of the finest metals available for jewelry making, platinum has a less-certain presence as a precious metal for investment. International demand for platinum tends to cycle quite dramatically in response to its use, and if the past 30 years are any indication, buying platinum when it s available can lead to a big payoff down the road. Because platinum comes with a higher risk of volatility than gold or silver, it can be considered a riskier investment. However, it's one that comes with a potentially large payoff depending on when you buy and when you sell.

  • Palladium

    Discovered in the 19th century, palladium is one of the newer precious metals on the scene, but that doesn't mean it isn't a valuable investment. Thirty-year value trends for palladium reflect similar pricing to platinum, though palladium may be less volatile moving into the future due to its widespread industrial usage and applications in electronic devices.

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