Where the Gold Business Is Good No Matter the Price
At precious metal dealer California Numismatic Investments, business is up as gold prices have become more volatile.
"We get the whole spectrum," said Ken Edwards, a partner in the company. "The people who are nervous are selling."
At 2:30 p.m. PT on Monday, there was a line out the door. Inside, a TV showed the latest from the Boston Marathon, and monitors showed the continuing plunge of both gold and silver prices.
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CNI sells gold for about $75 above the spot price, and buys it back for about $25 above. On Monday, as gold closed around $1,360 an ounce, the monitors listed U.S. Gold Eagles as selling for $1,430. The firm would buy those same Eagles for $1,380. Silver coins were being sold for about $3.25 above spot price, and bought for $1.25 above.
"Up until the recent drop, which is the end of last week, beginning of this week, I would say that we were definitely selling more, especially silver," said Edwards. "Now that's really balanced out. We're seeing more sellers come in the market in the past couple of days."
One man carried in a total of 1,607 ounces of gold, much of it in bars. While he is a believer in the precious metals, and claims to have a lot more gold at home, he felt the price was being "manipulated" and wanted to cash out a portion of his stash.
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Most of the other customers were buying, not selling. John Garton was buying silver, as he has been consistently while silver prices have fallen. He's now preparing to buy gold.
"Obviously it'll will go down maybe another $100," he said, "and then it will start its way back up."
While 80 percent of CNI's business is done by mail, 20 percent is conducted in person. Edwards said he has one regular customer who flies in from New Zealand, landing at LAX just down the street.
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The latest market moves mean CNI's 18 employees are busier than usual these days, Edwards said.
"When the market's flat and not doing much ... you can procrastinate," he said. That changes when prices suddenly make a big move. Customers are constantly ringing CNI's phones. "They don't want to wait until Friday, because the market may be completely different."
—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: