BANGOR, Maine — A depressed economy, high unemployment rate, and a gold price hovering around an all-time high have made it an ideal time for cash-strapped people to sell the precious metal.
And if you have the money, it’s also a good time to buy gold, area coin dealers say.
“The overall number of sellers and buyers are higher these days, but they’re pretty even in terms of the two groups,” said Barrie Jenkins, owner of MCN Coins LLC in Rockport and a coin and collectibles dealer and appraiser for more than 50 years. “I think a lot of people who can afford it are sitting on it before selling.”
Both Jenkins and Paul Zebiak, owner and operator of Maritime International, a coin and collectibles shop in Bangor, have been amazed by gold’s soaring value.
“Gold’s gone up $150 an ounce in one week,” Zebiak said Thursday. “It’s toying with $1,800 an ounce right now. When it hit $1,000 an ounce, that was the benchmark. I think it’s been over that for three years now.”
Gold actually surpassed the $1,800 mark last week for the first time, causing both J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and the Certified Gold Exchange to update by 39 percent — to $2,500 per ounce — the price they think the metal will reach by the end of the year.
“As people get scared with what’s going on in the world, they have more confidence in gold because they see it as a safe haven for their money. The stock market seems pretty risky,” Zebiak said. “I think most people are trying to protect value rather than speculate on the metal. Most people, including myself, may not be geniuses in predicting the price of metals down the line, but they know it won’t lose its value.”
The most recent surge is due, at least in part, to American investors’ desire to find a safer haven for their money after the U.S. government raised the debt ceiling. Recent stories and reports cite fear factors as pushing investors away from dollar-backed assets.
The price per ounce for gold Monday closed at $1,755.50, according to The Associated Press.
“The price of gold never really goes up. It’s more the value of the dollar, which has gone down,” Jenkins explained. “The U.S. is printing so much paper, I don’t know how it can hold its value.”
Even with spare funds — and change, for that matter — in shorter supply for many Americans, there are still several so-called “recessionproof” items that fetch top dollar, regardless of gold’s wildly fluctuating value.
“In my field — older, rare coins and truly rare items — the market is as good or better than it’s ever been,” Zebiak said. “Other market items — middle-value items like antique furniture, glassware, coins and such — are slower, but what I call the stuff kings play with — that stuff is still selling.”
While Jenkins is seeing even numbers of buyers and sellers come into his shop, Zebiak is noticing an imbalance.
“More people are selling than buying,” said Zebiak, who has been in business for more than 30 years.
He has noticed, however, that there’s more interest in gold from people who were never interested in it before. “But at the level I’m working at, I’m not seeing speculators,” he said.
Jenkins concurs, noting more buyers are going with coins as opposed to bullion.
“They like American Eagles. That’s what we sell the most of,” Jenkins said. “With sellers, I think the price has gone up and some people want to see what they can get for their stuff.”
Still, not everyone who comes into the Bangor and Rockport stores with gold and coins to be appraised ends up selling them.
“I would say the surprising thing for me is that most of the items I see these days is of fairly recent vintage,” Zebiak said. “I think there’s an instinct by people who don’t have to sell that this is not a good time to sell a rare item.”
That doesn’t apply to all people, some of whom are being targeted by businesses through a barrage of recent Internet, radio, TV and newspaper ads offering big payoffs for gold and collector coins as well as unused or broken gold jewelry.
“Everyone claims to pay more for gold, and it really runs the gamut,” said Zebiak. “I’ve been trying to brainstorm some way to let people know that a lot of these Barnum and Bailey type radio and TV ads should be checked out thoroughly.”
Both Jenkins and Zebiak said that as gold’s value keeps rising, so will the number of people trying to separate owners from it — for a less-than-fair return.
“We’re going to see more charlatans come out of the closet and people need to be more savvy when trying to sell rare items or gold,” Zebiak cautioned.