Selling gold is harder than it looks if you want to get the best price for it. With so many companies offering cash for your gold, where do you start? How do you know you are dealing with a bona fide company?
We get asked about gold frequently and we also receive a lot of it. So, our experts have gotten together to create this brilliant ten step guide for you.
Antony Charman has been buying gold and other vintage items since he could walk. No really, he’s always been a real magpie.
In this guide we’re going to take you through these steps:
Step One: Decide if you want to sell your gold
Everyone has belongings that have sentimental value. Often we place a higher value on these items than the market would. Having said that, it’s not uncommon to have things handed down through your family, forgotten in a drawer somewhere.
To help you decide what is sentimental and what could be sold, get all your items together and sort them into three piles.
- Gold belongings you can not bear to part with – these should be carefully put away so they don’t get confused with your other things.
- Items you think might be valuable – you should get these valued or tested before you decide to sell them.
- Things you know you want to get rid of. Odd earrings, old broken rings, broken chains, that kind of thing.
Here are some important things you should know before you sell your gold
- You might think of your gold item as rare and valuable, a precious metal dealer might think of it only in terms of its scrap or melt value.
- If you remember what you paid for your gold item, you could be disappointed to learn it’s now worth a fraction of what you bought it for.
- The ideal pieces of gold to sell are those you never wear, that have no emotional attachments or pieces that are damaged or broken.
So now you’ve decided you definitely want to sell your gold. What next? In the rest of this guide we’ll show you how to make sure your metal is gold. How to get a valuation for the items you aren’t sure on selling and how to sell safely both online and on the highstreet.
Step Two: Make sure your gold is real
There are a few basic checks you can do to determine whether your items are gold.
- Do a visual test. There should be hallmarks that tell you about the purity of the gold
- Check for any discolouration in areas of high wear and tear, if there is discolouration the item may be gold plated
- Look for scratches. Gold is a fairly tough metal you’d only expect to find light surface scratches on an item that is real gold. If it’s scratched or worn and you can see a different coloured metal underneath it’s probably gold plated.
If your gold is more modern, you can expect to find hallmarks. These are usually good enough to identify the metal as gold and give you some idea as to its purity. It is possible for hallmarks to be faked but this is rare.
If your gold item is old and has no hallmarks, it’s better to get it valued first. Some antique and vintage pieces might have unusual or missing hallmarks.
How to tell if your gold coins are real gold
Only an expert will be able to confirm this with any certainty for you. However there are two checks you can do to rule out replicas:
- Look for wear or scratches. Gold is quite a tough metal but it does wear down over time.
- If the coin is a different colour in areas that are worn or scratched it may be a replica coin.
- Use a search engine to look up your coin on the internet. If you had a gold sovereign for example you should compare it to pictures of real gold sovereigns and look for differences.
Step Three: Check the hallmarks and purity of your gold
There are strict rules around the manufacture of gold items. This helps to prevent fraud, but can also make it a little more difficult to assess the purity and value of your own gold items.
Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know about assessing the purity of your gold. We’ll also explain how to interpret any hallmarks on your gold.
Pure gold is expensive and so it isn’t commonly used in the manufacture of jewellery and other gold items. Gold that isn’t pure is mixed with other metals like zinc and copper. This produces an alloy material that is stronger than pure gold.
Sometimes gold is mixed with different base metals to enhance or change its colour. For instance, gold plated silver looks more yellow and a little brighter than standard 18ct gold.
Gold karats are a fractional system used to define the purity of a gold alloy. The fraction states that a karat is given for every fine part (the gold) to 24 parts whole (the alloy material).
So the higher the karat the more gold the item contains up to a maximum of 24 karats which is considered pure gold.
For example 9 Karat gold is 9/24ths gold or 37.5% gold. Different prices will be paid for different karats because they contain different amounts of gold. The more gold something contains the more valuable it will be.
This is a system used to denote the purity of gold and other precious metals. This system can be used as a replacement for the gold karat system or is sometimes used alongside it.
Where this system is used, the amount of gold is expressed in parts per thousand. For example the numbers 375 may be stamped on a 9 karat gold piece of jewellery. This means 37.5% of that jewellery is gold.
The higher the millesimal fineness the more gold the jewellery contains.
The most common numbers to find stamped on gold items include: 375, 585, 750 and 916.
Hallmarks on modern gold items
It’s a legal requirement in the UK to hallmark gold. Hallmarks are used to prevent fraud as they show the quality and origins of the gold. Attempts at incorporating a hallmarking standard began as early as 1238. The standards that govern us now though were put into place in 1973. (you can find out more about the history of gold hallmarking here)
It is not possible to tell by sight or touch how much gold is in a certain piece. Therefore hallmarks are a legal requirement for items to be sold as gold. A hallmark can only be applied by an independent Assay Office and it is an offence to sell gold as a higher karat or fineness than it is.
A gold hallmark is made up of three compulsory symbols:
The Maker’s Mark or the Sponsor’s Mark
These marks indicate what company or manufacturer has sent the gold item to be hallmarked. They are usually made up of letters like this:
Anyone who has a sponsor’s mark has to register with the Assay office which keeps a record of all sponsor’s marks.
The metal and fineness mark
This indicates how much gold is in the item. Usually the fineness is depicted as the items millesimal number and the type of metal can be determined from the shape of the mark itself. When the precious metal hallmarking rules were first introduced the fineness mark looked like a weighing scales.
Modern fineness marks look like this:
Assay Office Mark
The Assay Office Mark shows where the item was tested and hallmarked. The most common marks to find on modern UK items come from the 4 Assay Offices in the UK – London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield. They look like this:
Some hallmarks contain a fourth symbol known as the date stamp. As it’s name suggests it shows the year the piece was made. The date is represented by a letter. The shape surrounding the letter changes every 26 years when the alphabet is re-started.
Here’s some from the last few years:
Hallmarks on old or foreign gold items
Some vintage, antique or foreign gold items may have different hallmarks.
Gold hallmarks are varied and relatively complex. Experts who deal in precious metals will often use reference books to help them identify unusual marks. These are just a few of the books we use here at Vintage Cash Cow:
Some of the more common foreign marks are shown in the picture below:
Some gold items might be stamped with a commemorative mark. These are usually made for royal jubilees and coronations like these:
Gold hallmarks come in all shapes and sizes. If the hallmark looks unusual it’s best to take your item to be expertly valued. Often the hallmark is difficult to see with the naked eye and can be open to misinterpretation.
Gold with no hallmarks
Hallmarks can wear off gold for all sorts of reasons. If the mark is stamped in a place of high wear and it’s worn often – as with a stamp inside the band of a wedding ring. The marks may wear down or become unreadable. The higher the purity of the gold ring, the faster these markings will fade, because the metal is softer.
If you take a gold item to be repaired or re-sized the hallmark may be removed, although it is generally considered bad practice for a jeweller to do this.
In very old jewellery it wasn’t necessary to have a hallmark. Some older jewellery may be gold but not have any hallmarks.
Step Four: find out what kind of gold you have
Gold comes in various alloys. Because it’s such an expensive material there are many ways of using it to produce gold jewellery that is cheaper than solid gold alternatives. Once you’ve assessed the hallmarks and the fineness, find out if it’s plated, rolled, gilt or solid gold.
Is gold plate, filled gold, rolled gold or gold gilt real gold?
You may have heard terms like gold plated or rolled gold before. This doesn’t mean the item doesn’t contain gold. Some of these types of gold are valuable. If old they may have a resale value. Sometimes they can be valuable as a stand alone piece if they are vintage or rare items.
Gold plating is when a base metal such as copper is covered with a layer of gold. This is done using electroplating. A complicated system involving chemicals and a small electrical current.
Gold plated items tend to tarnish easily and show signs of wear quite quickly if used or worn often.
Modern gold plated items are not usually worth very much. This is because there will only be a few microns of gold in the plated layer. Often the cost to recover the gold from such items is higher than what you would make on the gold.
An exception to this is hard gold electroplate which is usually electroplated with 100 microns of gold. It’s usually marked with HGEP or HEP and can be found on things like watch casings, pocket watches and old spectacle frames.
Rolled gold is where a sheet of base metal like copper is covered with thin layers of gold and then fused together using heat. As a general rule, rolled gold must contain at least one 40th of it’s weight in gold, so it is worth more than gold plate.
You’ll usually find the following markings on rolled gold: RGP, RO, RG, GO. There may also be a number followed by a k. This will tell you the Karat of the gold that was used.
Gold filled items are those where the base metal has been bonded with a layer of solid gold using pressure. Filled gold does not tarnish as easily as gold plate and is far more resistant to to wear and damage.
It’s common for filled gold items to have a more valuable core metal like sterling silver, rhodium or brass.
Filled gold pieces are more valuable than gold plate or rolled gold. They must contain at least 1 20th of their weight in gold.
If you are selling your filled gold items as scrap, the gold content can be recovered from the item and can be sold by weight. If the base metal is also valuable you’ll get a price for that by weight too.
Gold gilt or gold gilding
The term gilding refers to a method of using gold leaf as a decoration. In this process thin sheets of gold leaf are transferred to surfaces such as wood, stone and metal to decorative effect.
A gilded object is referred to as being gold gilt.
Gold gilt items will only be valuable if they are rare, antique or vintage. The gilt is not usually valuable as its weight in gold.
Gold leaf is easy to forge and typically doesn’t contain much gold. If you want to sell gold leaf and you know it’s definitely gold you’d have to sell in bulk to make any money. If you aren’t sure it’s gold, you may be better off selling it as a crafting material.
Coins have been produced for many reasons throughout history. There are times when coins have been minted that contain real gold.
As with all coins, forgeries are not that rare. So you should get your gold coins tested or appraised so you know what you are dealing with.
Selling gold sovereigns and half sovereigns
The sovereign is a gold coin with a face value of £1. Before 1932 it was used as legal tender. The half sovereign is a gold coin with half the value of a full sovereign. Today it is used more as a bullion coin. It can sometimes be found in rings and jewellery like this:
Sovereigns have become a form of bullion gold because of the fineness of the metal used to mint them. Real gold sovereigns contain 7.315 grams of pure 24ct gold. They are prized by bullion dealers because they are consistent in weight and purity.
Provided they can be verified as real coins they can be a good investment and can make good money when they are sold.
There are different types of sovereign. Older sovereigns may be worth more than the gold content. When selling your sovereigns and your sovereign jewellery make sure to get them valued first.
Research the best places to sell them. Some companies that buy gold for cash will do just that. They don’t always have the expertise to tell you if your gold sovereign is worth more than it’s scrap or melt value.
At Vintage Cash Cow we have years and years of experience with vintage and antique items. We even have a dedicated coin specialist. We can easily tell you if your gold sovereigns are worth more than their scrap or melt value. Our free service was established to help people be more savvy about what they are selling.
Selling gold bullion coins
More common types of gold coin are bullion coins. These are coins not intended to enter general circulation. They are produced as either commemorative coins or coins that can be bought and sold as gold for investment purposes.
The Royal Mint in the UK produces three types of coin that aren’t intended for circulation: Proof, Brilliant uncirculated and bullion.
Gold proof coins
Gold Proof coins are more valuable than brilliant uncirculated gold coins and bullion gold coins. They are handcrafted and stamped and produced to the highest standard possible. Because so much time, care and attention goes into creating each gold proof coin they are made in smaller numbers. Proof coins are rare but are prized among collectors and are usually worth more than their weight in gold.
Brilliant uncirculated gold coins
Brilliant uncirculated gold coins are more valuable than gold bullion coins. Their dies are hand crafted but they are machine fed into the stamp. They don’t have such a detailed finish as a proof coin. They are less rare because they can be produced faster than gold proof coins. Brilliant uncirculated gold coins may be worth more than their weight as gold. Their value will be determined by their scarcity and age.
Gold Bullion coins
Gold bullion coins are usually bought for their intrinsic metal value. They are produced to the same standards as the coins that currently circulate as legal tender. Bullion coins are rarely likely to have value exceeding their weight as gold. Gold bullion coins are usually purchased for investment purposes because they are easy to store and care for.
Selling gold Krugerrands
Gold krugerrands were the first bullion coins to ever be minted in 1oz weights. Krugerrands are produced in South Africa and have been since 1967.
Krugerrands are legal tender in South Africa, though they don’t have monetary face values.
1oz Gold krugerrands weigh 33.93 grams and contain exactly 31.10348 grams of pure 24 carat gold.
Krugerrands can also be found in jewellery:
Provided they are real coins they can be a good investment and make good money when they are sold.
There are different types of Krugerrand. Older Krugerrands may be worth more than the gold content. When selling your Krugerrands and Krugerrand jewellery make sure to get them valued first.
Research the best places to sell them. Some companies that buy gold for cash don’t look at the value of an item beyond its weight in gold. This means there is a potential for rarer and more valuable items to be sold for less than they are worth.
Step Five: Research your gold
You should always weigh your gold before you sell it. Remember, dealers have to weigh precious metals on specially calibrated scales. This means if you weigh it on your kitchen scales you may get a slightly different weight. It’s very easy to mix gold plated items up with your gold items if you are in any doubt as to what they are call vintage cash cow who can help you.
It’s very unusual when selling just a few small pieces of gold to come across the term Troy Ounce. However, this is the standard among dealers for weighing precious metals. One Troy Ounce is equal to 31.1035 grams.
Selling scrap gold
If you have broken or damaged gold, you might sell it as scrap. That means you’ll be given as much money as the gold content is worth. The heavier and better quality the gold the higher the price.
Gold is a precious metal that is relatively scarce, this means it has intrinsic value. During times of economic downturn gold is still seen as a good investment. This is because it tends to retain its value over time.
Don’t be fooled. Just because a piece is broken it doesn’t mean it’s not worth a few pounds. Make sure you know who you are dealing with. There are many online sites and high street stores offering cash for gold. Often though, they will treat your gold as scrap because they might not be able to spot something rare and therefore more valuable than its scrap price.
Vintage Cash Cow is a great place to use if you aren’t sure your gold items are scrap. Our vintage experts can tell you if your gold items are valuable antiques or vintage pieces. If they aren’t we’ll also be happy to buy your items as scrap or send them back free of charge.
Step Six: Find out how much your gold might be worth
Here it’s worth mentioning the price of gold. This changes twice daily, there is a morning gold fix and an afternoon gold fix.
The price of gold is called the spot price and it can be found on the London Bullion market.
The difference between the spot price and the selling price is called the premium or the spread. The premium includes a profit for the seller, production and minting costs and insurance and shipping costs.
The premium can changed based on the demand and the availability of gold.
Unless you have an awful lot of gold and you are selling direct to a bullion dealer, you are unlikely to get spot price for your gold. This is because whoever you sell it to will eventually sell it to a bullion dealer themselves or will have to get it melted down and minted. All of these have associated costs which are passed on to you, the seller.
Professional valuation of gold
If you are in doubt and you want to know if your item is gold, only an expert will be able to confirm this with any certainty for you. They can test the metal with acid or a metal testing ‘gun’ that detects the purity of a metal.
If you are getting your item valued, shop around. Make sure you know what type of valuation you are getting. Retail value, insurance value and regional values are not the same thing. If you got an insurance valuation for an antique item you won’t necessarily be able to sell it for that price.
At Vintage Cash Cow we offer free returns, because we need to see your items in person to accurately value them.
Are gold coins legal tender?
It’s rare to see real gold being used as legal tender. Where gold is used by the Royal Mint it’s usually in commemorative coins or coins from the pre-decimal era.
In the 19th century, gold coins were legal tender to any amount, so gold coins from this era were at one point legal tender, but aren’t now.
The Coinage Act of 1971 made gold sovereigns legal tender for any amount. Although the value is not usually mentioned on them, the face values of gold coins are 50p, £1, £2, and £5, although they are usually worth more as gold than their face value.
Are gold bullion coins legal tender?
Gold bullion coins that are minted in the UK are technically legal tender in the UK. This is due to laws that allow us to trade in whatever materials are acceptable to the selling party. While gold bullion coins are technically legal tender they are not meant for general circulation.
This means they can’t be used as legal tender in shops, banks and other places where money is exchanged for goods and services.
Step Seven: Decide where to sell
There are plenty of options when it comes to selling gold. From online to highstreet, here’s everything you need to know about selling your gold in the UK.
How do you know you are selling to a reputable buyer?
If you are selling gold on the high street, look for the hallmark assay guide – in England and Wales it’s legally required to be displayed in any premises that deal in precious metals.
When you go to a high street store, your gold will be tested and weighed. Make sure you can see your gold being tested and that you see it’s weight on the scales.
When selling on the high street make sure your items don’t leave your sight. Unfortunately scams happen. One that is common on the high street is that your items will be taken away to be tested. When they are returned, you might not notice they have been replaced with a cheaper metal.
At Vintage Cash Cow we have strict processes around opening customer’s boxes. Our appraisal bays are all clearly marked and cleaned down after every box is inspected – to make sure we don’t loose anything. We have a state of the art CCTV system with a camera over every appraisal bay. Find out what happens when your box arrives by watching our new video.
Don’t ask for quotes over the phone. A reputable dealer will only be able to give you a price once they’ve seen the item.
Shop around. If you visit a number of high street stores you’ll start to get a feel for the prices you are offered. This will help you see if there are any stores giving substantially low prices.
Online reviews are a great way to get to know a company. Some review sites like Trustpilot have strict rules that mean a customer must have used the service to leave a review. This means you can be confident they are genuine.
Selling gold online
There are many online companies that offer to buy your gold. Key things to bear in mind when selling gold online:
- Make sure you know you are dealing with a reputable buyer
- Check what type of buyer they are. Will they just buy your gold for scrap value or will they be able to tell you if you have something special?
- Shop around. Many sites that accept only gold and precious metals will have some kind of calculator. Beware though. If you don’t know the purity of your gold or if the weight you enter differs to their scales once you’ve sent the gold you could get less than the calculators price.
- Check out returns policies. Some companies have an incredibly high spread or premium. If you send your gold off and you are unhappy with the price you need to know you can get your things back.
- Look for hidden fees. A lot of websites will let you send your things in for free but charge you if you want your items returned. Look at the terms and conditions to spot any hidden charges.
You can sell your gold items to Vintage Cash Cow with no fees. Because we need to see your items in person to accurately test and value them, should you decide not to sell your gold items we’ll return them for free.
If you have other things to send in. Costume jewellery, old currency, watches & pocket watches, vintage toys, medals or anything old and vintage. You can pack them all into a box with your gold items. You can send them to us for free or we’ll arrange a secure door step collection.
Once we’ve have your items we’ll tell you how much we’ll buy them for. We’ll also tell you if your gold items are worth more than their scrap value. If you are happy with your offer you’ll get an instant payment or your items returned for free.
Selling your gold items on an auction site
There are usually fees for this type of selling, so compare a few different websites before you sell. It’s good to know how much you will pay in fees before you set the price of your gold items.
If you are selling for a fixed price, make sure you know how much your items are worth first. There are always people on auction sites looking for bargains. Some people actively search eBay and other sites for products with misspelled titles. Because so few people find and bid on them they end up buying your gold at a fraction of the price.
If you know how much your gold items are worth, and you are selling on an auction site, consider setting a reserve. You may have to pay extra for this service, but it means your gold items won’t sell for less than the reserve amount.
Auctions are great, just be aware there are fees, postage fees and that you’ll have to wait for your money at Vintage Cash Cow we eliminate all that.
Consider how you will send your gold items to their new owner. If you use a courier service and pay to insure your gold items, factor these costs into your selling price. Some websites will allow you to add the price for your item and a separate price for postage. Also consider the auction fees you will have to pay.
Selling gold on the high street
If you’d prefer to sell your gold closer to home there are no shortage of options. Jewellers, auction houses, pawn brokers and cash for gold shops are some good places to start.
If you aren’t sure your items are gold, it’s worth checking this with an independent expert before selling them. This will allow you to protect yourself against disreputable buyers. While it’s less common than it used to be, scams still happen.
An expert will likely look at your piece with an eye glass, they may test your gold with a little acid or a metal testing gun. Once they’ve tested and weighed it they’ll give you a price.
Selling gold at auction
Selling at an auction house can take a little while. Your gold items will be appraised by an expert who will tell you what they could be worth. You can find an impressive step by step guide here.
Once you know how much your gold is worth you may wish to put a reserve price on it. That means it won’t be sold for less than the reserve price. If your gold item sells, your fees will be deducted from the final selling amount and the auction house will pay you the remainder.
Where to sell gold coins and gold bullion coins
There are many ways to sell gold coins and gold bullion. You should always get your coins appraised before you sell them. This is the only way to know whether your coins are worth more than their melt value.
At Vintage Cash Cow appraisal is part of the free service we provide. If you send your gold coins to us we will carefully inspect and test them. We’ll let you know what they are worth and we’ll tell you why. You can then decide if you want to sell them to us or if you would like your gold coins returned for free. One of the reasons we started Vintage Cash Cow was to help people understand what they were selling before they sell it.
Step Eight: clean your gold
If your gold items have changed colour, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are poor quality. It’s common to get a residue on gold jewellery from perfume, sweat, hairspray and makeup among other things. Most jewellers would be able to clean this off for you without a problem.
Specialists can identify the key information they need no matter the condition of the piece. It’s highly probable that a dealer will want to clean the gold item themselves to avoid potential damage.
If you are planning to sell your gold items privately it’s a good idea to clean them first. Any potential buyer will want to know the items are gold and the more clearly they can see the piece the more confidence they will have in what you are selling.
If your gold needs a clean use hot soapy water and a soft cloth. If there are any prongs or stones be careful not to catch them with the cloth. Never clean your gold jewellery over an open plug hole.
There are gold polishes you can buy on the high street but these are specialist substances and should really be left to the experts.
Step Nine: photograph your gold
Photograph your gold items against a white or black background. Plain dark colours work best for gold items.
Try to take the pictures in natural light as artificial lights may distort the colour of your jewellery in the picture.
Make sure you take plenty of up close pictures of any markings, anything unusual or anything damaged. This way the seller knows what they are buying and it will reduce any customer service action needed on your part later on.
Take a clear, detailed picture of the hallmark if there is one. This may be difficult because hallmarks are usually so small. But it’s worth doing so your buyer knows what they are getting.
Take a picture of your gold item on a weighing scale. This shows your potential buyers the weight of the piece.
Take a picture of your gold item next to a ruler or tape measure. This shows your potential buyers how big the item is.
Step Ten: what to do once you’ve sold your gold
Once your gold item sells, send it as soon as you receive payment.
Be wary of scam buyers on auction sites. Only send an item that’s been paid for. If you don’t opt for a courier delivery, make sure you send the item by recorded or signed for delivery.
check that your parcel is insured for the value you sold it for. If it goes missing in the post it means you shouldn’t lose out on the money. You can check with your local Post Office if you have any concerns.
Make sure to message your buyer to let them know you’ve posted their gold items and when they can expect them to arrive.
Keep an eye on your inbox. If your buyer has any questions they’ll email you. So make sure you are able to see when they’ve messaged you.
Once you’ve exchanged your item for cash, spend or save as you see fit 🙂
This exhaustive guide, is here to help you get the best possible selling price for your gold. This guide will be your companion throughout the sale process.
Speaking of money, if you want to just skip straight to getting cash for your gold sign up here. We’ll buy your gold no matter what condition it’s in. We even buy costume jewellery and gold plated jewellery.
Did you get a great price for your gold? Let us know!
This is the second part in our new selling guide. Sign up so you don’t miss our future guides – next up – The monster 10 step guide to selling medals.
Did we miss something? Let us know!
If we can help you with any aspect of the process, let us know here in the comments. We’re happy to help 🙂