Buying Silver Bars Locally Versus Online
People thinking about investing in silver bars often ask if they ought to buy online or stick to local, brick and mortar dealers. It' a fair question. Any online shopping requires a certain amount of trust, whether you're buying socks or diamonds. Any merchant could rip you off, but most are honest, real businesses that are deeply concerned about their reputations.
But when you think about it, are you really any safer buying goods locally? If you shop at a store you've never patronized before, you could arrive home to find the item you purchased had flaws or failed to work as advertised. If returning it to the store results in denial of a refund, you just got as fully hosed as if you had bought the thing online.
Each method of acquiring silver bars carries its own advantages. Stocking up on precious metals will never be without some risk. Once in a blue moon, even the honest, long-time professional dealers find a fake in their inventory. But that is quite rare, and the reputable dealers will always make good on it should it somehow end up in your supply.
The message here is this. Do your homework. With the internet full of information, you can educate yourself on just about every aspect of silver bullion investing and go into any transaction with your eyes wide open.
Because banking, government and industrial markets, the real big boys, must have access to pure silver and will not tolerate any guesswork when trading, plenty of firms across the world must keep their supplies clean or they'll go out of business, and maybe to jail.
Since plenty of profits can be made without resorting to fraud, mints, refiners and brokers have all the incentive they need to make trade in precious metals as risk-free as possible.
Having said that, we don't want to be idiots, either. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you come across an offer so good that it makes your knees weak, it's probably very suspicious. Don't jump on deals that are so far out of the normal offerings that you start seeing dollar signs in your eyes. Crooks know how to appeal to our greedy side, and they can pass off fake bullion at prices far below market.
Where To Buy Silver Bars Online
When preparing to buy silver bars online, I recommend the following:
- Visit the official websites of the various mints and view their products. They may not sell directly to you, but you can familiarize yourself with what their coins, bars and rounds look like and the listed features. This gives you a baseline by which to compare the same product on dealer sites. If the dealer's products don't quite match what the mints describe, be very wary. Be sure, though, that you are comparing apples to apples.
- Search the BBB and review sites first and in that order. Then visit the more highly-rated sites such as SD Bullion and click through their menus, not just product listings. See what they have to say about themselves. Read their educational articles. If they have none, they are either too new in the marketplace or may not have real metals experts on board. I would be leery of these sites, too. Honest dealers want to help you understand the market and the processes. They know that well-informed customers become repeat customers.
- Spend the extra fees and shipping costs the first time out to make a small purchase from several sites you like. Doing this will help you decide which dealers make investing with them easy and which ones don't. Then test your products to verify their authenticity. Several websites demonstrate how to do this without scraping or damaging your silver bars. Plus, you can take them to a local dealer for authentication, which also serves to acquaint you with your local dealers.
- Until you become a total expert, I highly recommend you never buy your silver from eBay, Amazon or any third-party sites. I'm not saying you can't find honest trade on those sites, but the opportunity for fraud seems a lot higher to me.
Where To Buy Silver Bars Locally
If you prefer to spend your investment money locally, here's how to find a trusted dealer.
- Ask your friends, family and co-workers if they know of a good dealer in town. If people you know have good relationships with a dealer, the odds are better that you'll latch onto a good one, too.
- When visiting their shops, look for the PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild) or ANA (American Numismatic Association). If you don't see any evidence that they belong to legitimate professional associations that require members to maintain the highest levels of integrity in their businesses, then ask. If you get a song and dance, cross them off your list.
- Check online for shops with excellent ratings and reviews. However, some long-time dealers, usually one-man or mom-and-pop shops, who've built up a sizeable client base through referrals may not have an online presence. So, if you come across one from a referral, definitely check them out anyway.
- Bring along your own scale, calipers and knowledge of exactly how much your target silver bar should weigh and it's exact dimensions. An honest dealer will not only permit you to authenticate his stock, he'll welcome it. He knows you need to trust him before becoming a regular "stacker" customer.
It's good to have options. Buying your silver bars online can mean great prices and almost certainly a tremendous selection of investment silver bullion. But you'll have wait times for shipping and for payments to clear, if not purchasing by credit card.
Buying locally puts your purchase in hand instantly. Plus, you can develop long-lasting friendships with your local silver bar dealer who can continue to educate you as you extend your investment. However, a local shop quite likely will have a very limited selection. Either way, it comes down to trust, comfort and price.