Holiday Central

EBay users are snatching up precious metals

Inside eBay's war room

Forget gadgets and toys. Some consumers are loading up on precious metals this holiday season.

EBay said it frequently moves $1 million to $2 million of bullion from top sellers in a day, with volume increasing as the holidays approach. On Thursday, the online marketplace offered two daily deals on gold bars, and sold about one $1,000 bar per minute, generating just under $1 million in sales.

EBay's gross merchandise volume for bullion has spiked 60 percent from last year, and 27 percent from October, with about a quarter of sales on mobile devices. The company attributes the rise partly to a slump in the price of gold, which traded near a six-year low on Friday.

"When the spot price of gold and silver drops, bullion purchases tend to rise," said Ryan Moore, an eBay spokesperson. "A drop in the price is often what drives those who have been considering investing in bullion off the fence," he said.

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EBay is leveraging increasing interest in precious metals on its platform this holiday season. The company is marketing branded coins as the perfect stocking stuffers, an alternative to the traditional lump of coal. The company is offering deals on DC Comics' Superman, Disney's Snow White coins created by Royal Canadian Mint and a LucasFilm Star Wars coin from ModernCoinMart.

Silver is also a hot commodity among eBay's users. EBay offered a Thanksgiving deal on 100 1-ounce Silver American Eagles coins priced at $16,665. Its sellers sold the silver weight equivalent of twenty-five fifteen pound turkeys on turkey day.

Last weekend in just one day, it sold 2,500 rolls of 20 Silver American Eagles through a daily deal. That translates to more than $850,000 in gross merchandise volume and sales of 50 ounces of silver every 60 seconds.

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In addition to individual sellers selling bullion on the site, the company has teamed up with some of the biggest online precious metals retailers, including Royal Canadian Mint, APMEX and Bay Precious Metals.

Most bullion buyers on eBay are males between 40 and 65-years-old. But eBay is touting its global user base of 150 million for reaching non-traditional buyers.

"For those who purchase on bullion on eBay, we're seeing a significant number of these same people make repeat purchases," said Moore. Eighty percent of eBay's bullion buyers last week were repeat customers, purchasing an average of 2.5 items.

Buyers include collectors, investors and those people buying precious metals to melt them down to make jewelry. EBay's average take rate is 10 percent but the company has a significantly lower take rate on bullion, said Hal Lawton, who oversees all aspects of eBay's North American business.

While eBay said the long-term value of the metals increases their allure, it did not say if a recent increase in geopolitical tensions contributed to the sales jump.

Still, the top-selling Thanksgiving Daily Deal on eBay was a more traditional item — a $100 eBay gift card for $95. The company sold 15,000 of those. The goal is to get people onto the site in the hope they will stick around and spend more than the $100 value of the gift card. Gift cards are always popular around the holidays, and in the coming days eBay plans to roll out other deals from a variety of big box retailers, including Target, iTunes and Lowes.

And the biggest shopping days of the holiday season are still to come. Ebay predicts Dec. 7 will be a big day as shoppers log onto the site to snag last minutes deals that will still ship by Christmas.