CASPER — If economists want to tabulate people’s fear factor in the economy, they might want to check in with a coin shop.
Justin Foster, owner of Colonial Coins & Currency in Casper, knows when the latest headlines about war, elections or other perceived “world-ending” events have hit the air waves, internet and social media feeds.
“There is always a war, so the last three years people are just fear buying, just buy, buy, buy,” he said about people’s urge to stock up on rare metals to prepare for a post-apocalyptic existence. “I always say it’s like .22 shells, when they are $18 a brick people sell a few of them, but the minute they hit $40 — you can’t make enough of them. There has just been a lot of panic and fear buying.”
That buying would be good for gold and silver holders who bought when the market was down. On Wednesday, the spot price for gold was $2,035 an ounce, down from the previous day but staying well above a 52-week low of $1,938. Silver was at $24.37, down 19 cents from the previous day but also well above a 52-week low of $20.15.
Fox News this week featured this headline: “US economist predicts 2024 will bring ‘biggest crash of our lifetime.’”
That should fire up more business.
Advice For The Panicked
From his store on the south side of Casper, and in travels through the West and to other regions of the country to coin shows, Foster sells and buys rare and vintage coins, as well as silver and gold.
While his latest coin show was slower than normal and the shop is not seeing a big influx for the holidays, he has witnessed the panic buyers in recent months.
His advice to people investing in precious metals and coins — calm down. Though his business is selling coins and precious metals, he sometimes talks people out of buying or “doing too much because they are just buying it because they think the world is going to end tomorrow.”
“A lot people come in and just want dimes because when everything collapses they need something to make change with, to trade,” he added. “I think we have a long way to go before that.”
But there is another side of the coin business.
Retirees Who Sell
Foster said he is seeing retirees coming in more to liquidate some of their holdings of precious metals.
“There are a lot of people selling because the economy is so bad,” he said. “One thing you notice is a lot of older people that are selling their gold because their (retirement income) is insufficient, it’s not keeping up with inflation.”
However, he believes there is wisdom in investing in metals for the long term. Metals can be a hedge against inflation and contain real value. That’s why $20 gold coins or silver half dollars are worth much more today.
At his shop, buyers can find proof silver 1-ounce coins, silver half dollars minted before 1964, 1/10th to 1-ounce gold coins, tiny platinum bars, and silver bars in various weights — some melted and created by Foster.
Gold coins from before 1933, including a 1924 gold $20 piece and some others from the late 1800s, are also available.
The Start Of His Journey
Foster began is metal journey as an 18-year-old when his grandmother was going to sell some of her silver and precious metals collection.
“She was going to sell some to a coin dealer and it was significant family stuff,” he said. “I said I can buy that from you, so she got a quote and I matched what the guy was going to pay. Then I just started buying silver, and then I would buy a coin and just started going from there.”
In his shop are cases full of coins, mostly from U.S. mints, and even some were used in the nation before there was a mint. That’s why his shop is called “Colonial Coins.”
“I like a lot of those coins and the variety,” he said. “It’s pre-U.S. mint stuff that we used here. Pretty much anything interesting I will buy.”
One coin he recently sold online and gets through his shop are Fugio cents that the Continental Congress created to replace British and Spanish coins. Historical accounts generally give Benjamin Franklin credit for designing the currency. It contains the Latin word “Fugio” which means, “I flee,” alongside the words “mind your business.”
Melting Silver And Copper
As part of his business, Foster also melts down his own silver bullion and copper into bars and other shapes. He said his experience working in an extrusion plant along with a lot of “trial and error” have been part of that process.
He sells some items on consignment, especially when someone walks in with a significant inheritance they want to cash out.
“When I first opened, I think my first gold consignment was $130,000 worth of stuff, just an inheritance thing,” he said.
Unlike some gold and silver dealers who rely on the “premium” above spot price to make their money, Foster tries to keep what he buys and sells at a reasonable markup and price. He doesn’t look at where the spot price is when a customer walks into the store to sell.
“I pay enough to where I don’t have to do that. I go off a price guide. I do price matching,” he said.
Low Margins, High Volume
“It’s a low-margin, high-volume business,” he said. “A lot of these half-dollars, I will make 50 cents each on them. But if I sell 200 of them, that’s kind of how it goes. My margins on gold are 3% to 5% and $2 an ounce on silver.”
That philosophy has kept him in business for three years, with many repeat customers. A few of those customers who come in buy out his current supply of gold and silver on any given day.
“One guy said his budget this year is $350,000 for the silver he wants,” he said.
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.