October 16, 2023

At Muzeum, we cater to a host of different customers, each with varying levels of experience with silver. Of course, while we’re always happy to help long-term clients and other veteran collectors, buyers and sellers, we’re also here to provide a professional, welcoming experience for the first-time seller — to someone just dipping their toe into a world of hallmarks, maker’s marks, bullion and beyond.

If this sounds like you, then welcome!

Welcome to the World of Muzeum

First, know that we’re excited to see what you have — no matter if that silver item is brand new, damaged or broken, or very, very old indeed. This means silver bullion (as you’d see in bar format, for example), all types of jewellery (rings, bracelets, pendants, charms and more), silver dollars from North America and across the wider world, silver used for dining (either as flatware, like utensils, or holloware, like pitchers, gravy boats, tureens and ladles), and any other silver antiques and oddities that come your way.

Second, we’re here to reassure you that you’ve come to the right place, and that you’re in good hands.

One of the first things that pops into mind for anyone hoping to profit on silver — no matter if they’re cashing in on 99.9% pure bullion from the Royal Canadian Mint, or they’re simply selling unwanted jewellery — is the concern that they might be scammed. After all, this is a complicated field; people aren’t born experts in troy ounces, magnetic testing or rare coins. How can you know if you have something truly rare or valuable if you don’t know the first thing about the subject?

If you’ve ever watched any Canadian Antiques Roadshow or pawn-related television, you’ll see that most sellers are just ordinary people who rely on professionals that they believe are experts (historians, specialists, numismatists or otherwise) to give them honest evaluations — basically, to not get ripped off. And you’ll see just how much trust goes into every transaction.

A ‘scam’ can take several forms, of course. One of the most common and well-known scams in the world of silver involves counterfeit coins. Counterfeiters won’t be able to replicate valuable coins exactly (they don’t have historical government mints at their disposal, for example), and experts will be able to evaluate the precise weight and sizes of coins. But bad actors can still be quite convincing when they try to pass off a coin for a collectible that will sell for more than precious bullion value.

This type of ruse can dupe those who are buyingsilver. Here, we’re focused not on silver coin scams or buyer’s remorse, but on the best practices you can take to avoid a scam when selling your goods.

A shallow wooden box sits on a checked tablecloth; the box is filled with stacked silver coins in plastic sheaths, and a few coins are scattered on the table nearby. A human hand hovers above the box; already holding a few coins, it is positioned to pick up more.”

Is There Transparency in All Evaluations?

First, silver can, and should, be evaluated right in front of you. You should be warmly welcomed to the evaluation process and explanations should be in depth and accommodating. If your silver’s taken to a back room for a private look, you should take it home right away.

Second, proving the value of silver can be fun. It’s like solving a small mystery. Individuals who run scams won’t walk you through the things silver buyers look for. These include how to check for and read a hallmark (which indicates purity and weight), or the more specific version called a ‘maker’s mark’ (telling you where and when it was made). It could be an understanding of how silver items (unless they’re plated or fake) won’t be attracted to the pull of a magnet. Or it could mean insight into XRF, or x-ray fluorescence, technology, which is a safe, science-based method to determine the purity of your item.

A respected silver buyer will explain to you the difference between precious metal purities. A higher level of purity will mean a greater degree of softness, so the precious metals need to be alloyed with less valuable metals to be functional. Jewellery, flatware and other silver objects need to be made durable (less likely to be bent or scratched during use or wear), so they’ll be alloyed with zinc or copper. Items with a higher purity of silver will get a better price for the same weight. Make sure you’re working with a buyer who can explain all of this, and show you the purity of the silver you’ve brought in.

If you’re selling an antique or vintage item, a good buyer will also go far beyond discussions of purity and weight. They’ll be eager to hear about the piece’s story (and ownership history) and can help you fill in the blanks about its origin; they’ll understand which hallmarks indicate special value or quality; they’ll help you determine age and rarity; and they can help you find a collector who might be keenly interested in your specific item (more on this below).

The same goes for coins, which may offer added value due to their collectability.

Is There Transparency in All Pricing?

The greatest indicator of a potential scam is a buyer who does not advertise their prices. Imagine retailors with blank price tags on products, or a gas station that lists question marks instead of clear prices per litres. Buyers who don’t advertise their prices are either inexperienced themselves, or they’re trying to take advantage of inexperience in their customers.

At Muzeum, we broadcast live updates on spot prices for .999 one-ounce silver coins and bars per piece, and .925 sterling silver, .800 silver, and .500 silver by the gram (and we’ll also pay a premium for .9999 silver). The buyer will add their own service fees to this baseline, but this means there’s far less guessing and no whims.

As we spoke of above, we’ll also give you individual prices for individual items. All top silver buyers do this. Don’t trust buyers who offer you a group or bulk price for widely divergent items, of differing purities and weights, all weighted together — it’s a common tactic and a telltale sign of a scam. Don’t sell your coin collection, for example, without an individual, piece-by-piece scan of every single coin.

Are There Networks of Experts Instead of Individual Buyers?

Anyone can build a website or post an ad online (as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre will tell you). Can you trust the individual behind the HTML? What happens if you ship your silver and never receive payment? Or what happens if the shady username simply says they never received your package?

You can sidestep the overt scams of the digital era when dealing with brick-and-mortar locations. But analogue antique dealers and pawn shops are also frequently run by individuals with haphazard understandings of silver. Maybe they’re knowledgeable about antiques in general, but it’s rare to find true expertise in this precious metal. Second, dealing with an individual means you’re stuck with one person’s opinion, which will often fluctuate according to whims: their mood, the date, and how much they think they can squeeze from you.

Muzeum isn’t an individual — we’re a team. We have experience built “over years, countries, and cultures” (over 50 years in the business, in fact). Over those decades, we’ve built industry partnerships in North America, Asia and Europe. We have a vast collection of experts and collectors built over 10 years travelling across Canada, Europe and Asia. So, if you stump us with an item, we turn to our partners, who can help us fill in the picture, help find a buyer, and get you an incredible price.

A close-up of two right hands. There’s a silver ring on a finger on each hand.

Are There Amazing Reviews?

Check for glowing customer reviews. It’s a good practice for most products and services, but it takes on a special importance when you’re trying to navigate an uncertain world with plenty of opportunities to be misled.

Common complaints from customers who buy and sell silver (and who learn how to spot shady buyers) include pushy or impatient staff, convoluted or mysterious processes, sketchy or seedy locales, arrogant behaviour, and outright deception. If you read multiple accounts of any of these indicators on a local listing — or of any poor customer service in general — then walk away.

Check different customer platforms, of course. When you do, you’ll see Muzeum’s got rows of five-star reviews across Google Reviews and Yelp, and we’ve been given an A+ rating over at the Better Business Bureau (BBB). We’re so proud of the reviews we receive, we literally provide a link to them at the bottom of our homepage. Here are just a few snippets from satisfied customers over the past few weeks and months:

  • “Honest and professional service … without pushing to buy or blind inspections like other gold buyers.”
  • “I would definitely recommend them. They are very professional and polite.”
  • “Efficient, friendly and made us comfortable about selling bullion …”
  • “The work done is completely transparent, so you know you’re getting a great deal.”
  • “I received sound advice that helped me make decisions I felt good about. I am very sensitive to the pushy ‘know-it all’ sales approach, and trust me, this experience was far from it — these guys are friendly, warm and respectful.”

Where Do We Go from Here?

Ultimately, the most effective, reliable way to avoid any scams is quite simple: and that’s to sell your silver to Muzeum.

Our store on Cumberland Street in Toronto is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. It’s a two-minute walk to Bay Station and is surrounded by a plethora of above- and underground parking options. If you’re not ready to come by in-person, feel free to pick up the phone and give us a call (1.800.746.0902), fill in our online contact form, or send us an email at info@muzeum.ca.

We hope this gives you some food for thought for avoiding scams when selling your silver — and we hope it means we’ll be seeing you soon!

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