Honest Advice for people selling their Gold and Silver in Hawaii

We are on a small Island, here on Oahu, and it seems that there are gold buyers springing up on every corner.   How do you know who to go to when selling your gold and silver?   You can use Google, Bing, or any other search engine, and come up with more nearby gold buyers than you could possibly visit in one week, much less one day.   So, you pick up a phone to call them and narrow down your options.   But what should you ask?

“How much do you pay?”  – This seems like a great question!  But the answer you get will often confuse you more.  Some places will quote a per gram price that seems too good to be true hoping to get you through their door, and then they will offer much less while giving you lots of excuses.   Others will offer you a higher amount per pennyweight that seems like a much better deal, but since pennyweight is a higher unit of weight then grams, what they are offering is not only purposely misleading, but almost always much much less.  Some shops will say they pay more no matter what, some will even give you a percentage as to how much more they will pay (we pay 20% more!), but shrink away from giving you a solid number.  It isn’t that the answers you will get are outright dishonest, but they are deceptive in their purpose to mislead you into believing they will pay you the most without committing to a real dollar amount.  The first question you should really ask is “what do you base your price on”.   The gold buyer that considers your items as jewelry will almost always beat out any scrap gold buyer on the market, and most scrap gold buyers don’t have the experience to value your jewelry properly including their gemstones so they will often remove your gemstones and turn your jewelry into scrap.  The place you want to take your valuables to is not the place that has the biggest ad, or brags to be Hawaii’s #1 gold buyer (don’t they all now?), or the Island’s honest gold buyer (which are almost always guys brand new to the business), but one with the longest track record of trust, performance, and integrity. 

For example, Kama’aina Metals & Jewelry has been voted one of the top three best small businesses in Hawaii according to the Better Business Bureau’s Torch AwardsNo other gold buyer or jewelry store on the island even qualified.  These awards evaluate companies based on Trust, Performance and Integrity.   It is important to note that unlike so many other “awards of distinction” that advertise in local newspapers, this award cannot be bought, nor is it susceptible to influence due to advertising dollars.

We often joke amongst ourselves that we end up seeing our new customers twice.  That is because people that come to us first, and then decide to shop around almost always end up walking back through our doors for our original offer, even after all the other companies have had their chance.   In closing, we hope our advice can act as a much needed compass to help you get the most for your gold on today’s market, even if you aren’t on the Island of Oahu.

What controls the price of Gold?


“What controls the price of gold?”   This is one of our most frequently asked questions.  There are two major factors controlling the price of gold.   The first is supply and demand.  The second is the strength of the U.S. dollar.  When the dollar becomes stronger, the price of gold will seem to decrease.  When the dollar weakens, the price of gold will increase. When the price of gold goes up, check other major currencies.  If the price of gold in the other major currencies has also increased then what you have is actually a higher demand for gold.  If gold goes up in U.S. dollars, but down in other currencies, the move in gold is then caused solely by the relative strength of the U.S. dollar.

Gold demand is controlled by four sectors: technology, investment, official, and jewelry. The technology sector is comprised of: electronics, dentistry, and other industrial.  The investment sector is for the manufacture of coins and bullion.  The official sector is central banks and investment firms.  So the next time you see in the news that gold is on the move again,  ask yourself why! The fluctuation in gold price controls and is influenced by a great many things, and understanding it is a step forward in making a smart investment.


1948 London Olympics Medal in Kamaaina Metals museum!

A glimpse into our Olympic Past: Thelma Kalama – An Olympic Gold Medalist,  A member of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, and Local Hero. 

Olympic Medalist and Hall of Fame Swimmer Thelma Kalama (1931-1999)

Thelma Kalama-Aiu’s Olympic Gold Medal available for viewing in Kama’aina Metals & Jewelry’s Museum!

When the Medal came into the store we believed it was a participation medal, not an Olympic Gold Medal which we have now discovered.   But after a lot of research it was discovered that this medal looked nothing like the one given to the participants, and in fact because of the low budget for the 1948 Olympics, the Gold Medals were made out of Silver!

The photo above shows Gold Medalist David Bond from the 1948 Olympics in a photo with his Gold Medal made out of silver.  It is identical to the one we currently have in our museum.

People in the stands of the 1948 London Summer Olympics.

Sixty-four years ago and against all odds The International Olympic community bonded together to make the 1948 London Olympics a reality. The Summer Olympics were originally to take place in 1940 in London, England, but were cancelled due to World War II.  In 1948 London, England was in shambles, having endured bombings, invasions, and having lost the lives of many soldiers.   Once WWII ended, it was only fitting that the Summer Olympics return there.   England put the 1948 London Olympics together as an International sign of perseverance and endurance, on a shoestring budget, while housing most of the visiting Olympians in their military barracks.

Thelma Kalama at The A.A.U National Swimming Championship

Thelma Kalama swam for Coach Soichi Sakamoto as a part of the Hawaii Swim Club.  She was seventeen at the time, and thoroughly enjoyed surfing as well.  Thelma even taught fellow Olympic Medalist Bill Woolsey (1952 Gold & 1956 Silver) how to board surf!  Thelma graduated from Kaimuki High School on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.  It was so important to the local people that Hawaii was represented in the 1948 Olympics that Duke Kahanamoku, along with the Waikiki Beach Boys, took up a collection to send her to London to compete. She qualified and won the 4×100 m freestyle relay, together with Marie Corridon, Brenda Helser and Ann Curtis.  Thelma Kalama-Aiu was the second female swimmer from Hawaii to bring home an Olympic Gold.   The first was Mariechen Wehselau in 1924.

The year after winning an Olympic Gold Medal, Thelma Kalama-Aiu continued competing.  Along with her 1948 Olympic gold medal, Kama’aina Metals & Jewelry has her A.A.U National Swimming Championship medal for taking 1st place in the 800 m. women’s relay.  Check out this video from the International Swimming Hall of Fame showing the 1951 A.A.U. National Swimming Championship.

Here are some of the other Hawaiian A.A.U. Medals in the Thelma Kalama-Aiu collection:

1948 200 Meter Freestyle (1st)

1949 300 Meter Med. Relay (1st)

1950 1500 Meter Freestyle (1st)

1950 100 yd. Freestyle (2nd)

1951 100 yd. Freestyle (1st)

1951 300 Yd. Freestyle Med. Relay (1st)

1951 1500 M. Freestyle (1st)

1951 100 yd. Backstroke (3rd)

1951 400 yd. Freestyle (3rd)

In short, she was an amazing athlete and an inspiration to all of the future athletes of Hawaii.   In the future months Kamaaina Metals & Jewelry will be putting together a more comprehensive booklet of information about this young Hawaiian Olympian to view along-side her medals in our museum.  We are proud to be housing a piece of her athletic history, as well as other amazing pieces of local history, available for everyone to view in our in-store museum!   So, if you have some free time, and feel like being wow-ed,  please stop by!   We would love the chance to show you all of the amazing things that Kama’aina Metals & Jewelry’s Museum has to offer.

Jackpot! Investing in Silver Strikes Las Vegas Gaming Tokens

Las Vegas Silver Iolani Palace Ten Dollar Gaming Token

"Iolani Palace" Silver Las Vegas Ten Dollar Gaming Token or Silver Strike

The longer Silver Bullion stays up in the market, the more we see a grey area growing between favored bullion types like Silver Eagles, Maples, Pandas, and what we call generic bullion – like those stamped by Johnson Matthey, Wallace, NWT, The Sunshine Mint, Franklin Mint, etc.  The consumer market has always favored government issued silver bullion for two reasons: because it’s content and weight is guaranteed by said government authority, and because government mint issued bullion often imitates previously issued currency and can accumulate a fan following.  So because of the premium that is now being paid on some government issued bullion, folks are trying to find another way to invest.  And a lot of folks are looking to Las Vegas.

Silver Las Vegas Gaming Tokens - Silver Strikes

Silver bullion comes in many forms, these are just a few examples of Las Vegas Gaming Tokens, also known as "Silver Strikes".

These gaming tokens were often won through play of a certain slot machine called “Silver Strike” which is why you might hear the tokens referred to as “Silver Strikes” in the industry.  Because these little beauties are so “Vegas” they can sometimes get pretty collectible.  Luckily, with silver valued on the market at around $30/ oz., the collectible value is just about equivalent to the silver value.  I’ve had many folks ask me if investing in Las Vegas gaming tokens was in fact a good way to buy silver bullion without paying a premium for it’s demand.  The answer is this:  if you can get a good deal on it (not more than 10% above spot price) then investing in silver is always a good idea!

$10 Silver Strikes have a .999 Silver center insert outer ring is Brass, and though it is often said the approximate Silver weight is 0.60 troy ounces of Silver (or about 18.6 grams), our own testing shows that the silver in the center does vary, but the older ones have more, and the newer silver gaming tokens contain about half an ounce of .999 silver.  In 2009 CLAD (no .999) $10 strikes appeared, but those that aren’t silver clearly are not marked “.999 fine silver” on the brass outer ring like the Silver strikes are.

$7 Fine Silver Circus Circus Gaming Token or Silver Strike

$7 Fine Silver Circus Circus Gaming Token / Silver Strike

$7 strikes are .999 Silver with approximate weight of 0.65 troy ounces (or about 20.2 grams) and have no brass ring.   They are a bit thinner than the $10 tokens.  These tokens have been discontinued and the machines that dispensed them are no longer in play, so many of them do have collector’s value.

All of the Silver Strike Las Vegas Gaming tokens have themes.  Some of the favorites are: “Man’s 4 Vices”, “American Outlaws”, and of course, “Hawaiian Islands”.  One of my favorites is The Blues Brothers!  They also have a classic cars series, the zodiac, Chinese new years, and plenty more!  Unfortunately where ever there is a good active collectable market, there will be counterfeits.   For more information on Las Vegas Gaming tokens, Silver strikes, or how to identify counterfeits, check out the Silver Striker’s Club!  They have a wealth of information on their website including the most comprehensive catalog you will find on silver strikes!  If you are interested in learning more about Las Vegas Gaming Tokens, also known as Silver Strikes, please give us a call!   We’d love for the opportunity to show you what they look like in person.  Whatever your favorite type of silver investing, we hope you hit the mother-load!

What is Junk Silver?

Junk silver is a term for any silver coin in fair condition that has no numismatic value above the value of the silver it contains.  People seeking to invest in silver in particularly small amounts often choose to purchase junk silver.   The world “junk” refers only to the value of the coins in that they are not collectible, and not to the actual condition of the coin.   Junk silver is not scrap silver.

Be careful when buying junk silver! 1965 - 1969 John F. Kennedy Half Dollars are 40% Silver.

Junk silver ranges from a purity of 35% to 90%.  Silver bullion prices do not apply directly to junk silver because silver bullion is 99.9% silver, whereas junk silver coins are always 90% and below in purity.  Because of this it is often a little confusing for a new investor to decide what the appropriate cost of junk silver should be.  A majority of all silver coins will fall in the 90% silver range,  however there are war nickles (35% silver) and other types of US Minted and Foreign coins which are less than 90 percent silver.  The term “coin silver” (which many war-time jewelry items are made out of due to the scarcity of silver) refers to 90 percent silver alloy.  Most of the junk silver coins below 90% are much less desirable to investors, and as such are often sold at lower rates.

To best understand how junk silver is sold to investors, we have to understand some basics.   All junk silver is issued by a government authority which means two things:  The weight of each type of coin is regulated by them (which means every newly minted Franklin half dollar weighed exactly 12.5 grams.) And the silver content is regulated. (Every one is 90% silver.)  Given this information we can guarantee that  every Franklin half has approx .36 oz of silver depending on the amount of wear the coin has.  Because of this fact we can determine the amount of silver in any junk silver coin by looking up it’s weight and content.  This means that virtually all junk silver can be purchased at a specific rate.   Many sellers of junk silver choose to sell by “times face”.   They will sell you quantities based on the face value of silver currency for instance $5 worth of junk silver coins.  Example: 10 half dollars, 20 quarters, 50 dimes or a mixture thereof for 20 times face will cost you $100.

Junk Silver sold by the bag - often containing a mixture of silver coin denominations

Here are some guidelines we like to provide investors who come to us for information about junk silver. It is important to confirm when you purchase junk silver that all of your coins are 90% silver (for US Minted coins they would be dimes quarters and half dollars year 1964 and below.)  There is a price difference depending on how much you are going to buy.   Many places offer a discount for buying junk silver in bulk.  When you are pricing around www.kitco.com is a good gauge at how much you should be paying.  Make sure, however, to factor in that buying online from kitco means that you will be paying for shipping as well.  For us folks over here in Hawaii, that makes a big price difference.

So why should you buy junk silver?  There are two reasons why people would purchase junk silver.   The first is that junk silver allows a bullion investor to purchase silver in smaller increments.  Junk silver coins are less expensive than silver bullion because of the quantity purity and condition of the us minted coins.  Another reason to invest in silver is as a long-term investment.   I like to purchase junk silver coins for children as birthday presents and Christmas presents because while it may not be another toy to unwrap under the tree (which they probably wont miss) it is an investment in the child’s future that the parents appreciate.   In twenty years time the value of a silver coin is sure to increase, even if the current market deflates.

Walking Liberty Half Dollars, Roosevelt Dimes, War Nickles JFK Half Dollars, Mercury Dimes, and Franklin Half Dollars!

The second reason why a person might want to purchase junk silver is a little more complicated but can be summed up in two words: survival purposes.  Investors who purchase junk silver for survival purposes fear the worst.  Those fears include the US dollar losing all value.   The sad reality is that once a country’s currency system is no longer backed by gold and silver politicians opt to continue printing paper money up until the point in which it is worthless.  This has proven true in history in the past. For fear of the financial meltdown of our economy, many people are choosing to convert their paper currency savings into silver and gold bullion. In a time when they believe our paper money will become worthless a person will need increments of silver and gold value to purchase things like food, gas, and supplies in order to survive.   In this way our monetary system would revert back to the way it was originally intended:  The money used to purchase items in our economic system would not just be a representation of the valued amount, but would actually carry that valued amount in the material it was made from.

Whatever your reason may be for investing in junk silver on today’s market, it is now easier than ever to own a myriad of different US Minted silver coins anywhere from fifty to a hundred years old for the cost of their metal.  We hope you enjoy collecting and investing as much as we do.  And if you have any questions feel free to contact me at Kamaaina Metals & Jewelry as I would love to hear from you!



The Difference Between Money, Coins, and Bullion

The current gold and silver markets have been booming these past five years and there are hundreds of businesses that have just started purchasing gold and silver. Unfortunately this means there are also hundreds of options for the average public to sift through when trying to sell an item. Although for the most part the value of the metal an item is made of is usually higher than the numismatic value it has, it is important to know what you have before you make the decision to sell or keep it.   We have found that many of our customers were unaware of the differences between the types of money and bullion out there in the world today, and what it can mean to a buyer or seller.  When we meet with an investor or collector that is new to the trade we try our best to offer them this knowledge.

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar with rainbow patina. Some collectors value the patina of a coin very highly. Collectors will de-value a coin if it has been cleaned in any way.

First, a few definitions. Numismatic value is defined as the collector’s value of an item.   This applies to coins, tokens, and paper money.  Numismatic value is an amount the item is valued above the monetary amount printed on the item by government authority.  Example:  If a $2 bill in very fine condition is to have numismatic value, the value of the item according to how collectable it is must be above $2.  Numismatic value is determined by three things:  The rarity of the item (how many were made?), the demand of the item, and the condition of the item.  For instance, Carson City silver dollars are almost always valued higher than other mintages due to collectors favoring the history of this mint location.  This is an important factor to remember about numismatic value: an item’s age does not determine it’s value.   Just look at all the 8 Reales from the 18th Century you can find on Ebay for under $100!  Some are even for sale for under 40!   You would think something over two hundred years old would belong in a museum, but if there were a lot of them made then they are not considered rare or very valuable.

Not all silver coins have numismatic value. Most Washington Quarters are worth more in Silver value.

Money is any medium of exchange, measure of wealth or means of payment stamped by government authority and used as common currency.  Coins are a form of this medium, and are valued by their face or monetary amount which is determined by government authority.  In history, coins were sometimes made out of metals that are now considered precious and as such exceed their face value today.  A coin can also be made out of other metal mixtures that do not necessarily represent the face value of the coin. Most importantly: because of the rarity, condition, or demand for certain coins they can sometimes exceed the metal value in which they are made of. It is important when looking to sell a coin that you look up the value yourself, or bring the coin to an expert who can evaluate the grade (or condition) of your coin for you and tell you what it is worth.

Early Commemorative Half Dollars

Early Commemorative Half Dollars are a great place to start your collection! They are plentiful and have varied prices.

Commemorative coins come in many forms.   Some commemorative coins were used as currency and issued by a government authority.  Some were issued by a government authority but were always considered a “special edition” and not issued for currency purposes.  Commemorative dollars and half dollars have been issued since the late 19th Century.  Originally they were purchased at celebratory gatherings for a little more than their monetary worth as a memento of the event.  Later on U.S. commemorative coins were available only by direct purchase from the U.S. Mint.  Most of these were specially decorated forms of currency used to commemorate an anniversary, historical figure, or event.  Usually these coins are made of silver, zinc, copper-nickel, or a mixture of these metals.  Because they are issued by government authority these coins may have numismatic value that exceeds the metal value.


Sterling Silver Presidential Medallion

At first glance this item looks like it might be issued by the U.S. Mint as .999 Silver Bullion, upon closer inspection it is discovered this is actually a 925 Sterling Silver medallion issued by a private company.

Medallions (also called “medals”) are round metal items that are often mistaken for bullion or coins. Medallions are issued by private mints, clubs, and companies, but are never issued by a government authority. They very often have commemorative purposes such as bi-centennials, local events, historical events or figures, award ceremonies, and sometimes they are replicas of actual government issued coins. Medallions issued by companies like the National Baseball League and the Franklin Mint sometimes fall into this category. Medallions are not .999 pure metal and as such cannot be qualified as bullion by mint authorities.  (It is important to note that the same companies often issue bullion as well.)  Some come with certificates stating a less then pure metal content, some do not. Medallions have been issued in gold, silver, bronze, brass, copper, zinc, nickel, and all sorts of mixtures of these common metals. Sometimes companies will make it seem like medallions currently have or can acquire numismatic value with time, however this is not the case. Even when these items are numbered (sometimes marked 136/500 etc.) if their mintage cannot be proven by a trusted authority (like a government), and they were never used as currency, they will not appreciate with time.

24k gold bullion

Some designs for gold bullion can be intricate, and may sell for a slightly higher premium because of the favorable design.

Bullion value is considered by weight and purity of metal commodity rather than monetary amount even though it may have a monetary amount assigned to it.  Bullion will also have it’s purity levels (.999) and what metal commodity it is made out printed on it and guaranteed by the government or assayer it was issued by.  Bullion comes in rounds (not to be mistaken for coins or medallions), ingots, and bars. Bullion will very rarely have any numismatic value above what it’s metal value is due to it’s purity and the fact that most bullion is relatively new.  Finally, money is always government issued and regulated where as bullion can be issued by a government or any other certified assayer.

Check back with us next blog for more information and advice on money, coins, and bullion!