Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by the “fine,” “fineness” or “purity” of precious metals?

The purity of precious metals is measured in parts per thousand and is called "fineness." It is defined as the proportion of pure precious metal actually contained in the refined product verses its remaining alloys. A gold bar that is .9999 fine (the highest level of purity) is 99.99% pure gold and is referred to as "four nines" gold.

What makes precious metals “precious?”

Gold, silver, platinum and palladium possess six innate attributes that render them unique in all of nature: beauty, utility, rarity, durability, portability and inherent value. No other elements are known to possess all of these characteristics, and it is for these reasons that gold, silver, platinum and palladium are considered precious.

The key characteristic that has historically distinguished precious metals from their non-precious metal counterparts is higher economic value attributable to scarcity.

How do I sell my precious metals?

Contact your Financial Advisor to determine if it is a precious metal that we support. Once we confirm the product, you will send it to our storage facility, where it will be documented, verified and prepared for sale.

Before sending your coins/bars, make sure they are packed tightly within a box so that there is no slippage that could scratch or damage the metal. The pieces’ exteriors should also be taped as a precautionary measure. If there is any damage to the package, the storage facility will not accept it and it will be returned to you.

Each parcel should include a packing slip with the following information:

  • A heading that states “for account of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management”
  • Client name, address, social security and account number
  • Financial Advisor name and phone number
  • Detailed list of package contents
  • Reference to total number of shipments (package 1 of 5, 2 of 5, etc.)

Before shipping, provide a duplicate copy of each packing slip to your Financial Advisor, who will send a copy to Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s precious metals trading desk prior to shipment.

Send the package by registered mail with insurance and a return receipt. The maximum amount of insurance provided by the U.S. Postal Service is $25,000, so more than one package may be necessary. There are also weight limits, which can be confirmed at the post office.

What is the difference between "allocated" and "unallocated" gold?

Allocated ownership means that the physical precious metals (bars and coins) you order from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s Precious Metals Trading Desk are purchased and stored on your behalf, but no specific metal bar or coin is specifically identified as belonging to you. Your precious metals will be stored together with precious metals that are owned by and stored for other customers. Storage costs are generally higher for allocated metal than for unallocated metal.

Unallocated ownership means that your investment is held in book-entry form in your Morgan Stanley Wealth Management account and cannot be physically delivered. Storage costs are generally lower for unallocated metal than for allocated metal. Holders of unallocated metal are subject to the credit risk of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. This means that if we were to default on our obligations to you, your investment could be at risk, and you could lose some or all of your investment.

Are bullion coins legal tender?

Yes, if they are government issued bullion coins with a face value. The coin’s market value, however, will be reflective of the underlying market price of the precious metal and not the coin’s face value.

Do bullion coins come with a certificate of authenticity?

Yes. A maker’s mark and statement of weight and fineness is stamped directly onto the bullion, whether it is a coin, bar or ingot.

Was it illegal to own gold in the United States at one time?

Yes. From 1933 to 1974, U.S. citizens could not legally own gold bullion without a special license. These restrictions were lifted in 1975, and gold can now be held without any licensing or restriction.

What are the limits on how much gold I can own?

There is no limit to the amount of gold or other precious metal that a U.S. citizen may own.

Do I have to report my gold coin purchases to the government?

Currently we are not aware of any federal, state or local government law requiring you to report how much gold you purchase or own.

Do I have to pay taxes if I sell my bullion coins for a profit?

Bullion is classified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a collectible, and the gain on the sale of a collectible held for more than one year (long-term) will be taxed at the special long-term rate for collectibles, currently 28%. The gain on the sale of a collectible held for a year or less (short-term) is taxed at ordinary income rates.*

What is the best way to store bullion?

Once purchased, you can choose the method of storage for your physical precious metals that best suits your needs. You can either take direct possession (physical delivery) or use a storage facility. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management will charge a fee to deliver your metals, and some states will charge a sales tax on delivered precious metals.

For a fee, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management can also arrange for storage of your metals holdings. Your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor can provide you with more information about storage options. When considering storage options, investors should consider the following three factors: size, security and liquidity.


Bullion products come in a variety of sizes and weights, and the size of the product often determines their suitability for certain storage locations. Some precious metal bars, for example, can weigh up to 70 pounds. For practical reasons, those interested in purchasing bulk quantities of bullion will probably want to enlist Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s storage services. Those looking to take possession of their investment may want to consider purchasing smaller sized bars or bullion coins, which can be stored and transported more easily.


If security is your chief concern, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management can arrange storage for your precious metals. Stored metals may be subject to additional fees. Please contact your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor for more information.


Liquidity is a major attraction of owning physical precious metals. If ready access to your bullion investments is a priority, home storage is certainly an option. The Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Precious Metals Trading Desk is available to take orders placed by you through your Financial Advisor between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). Spot metal prices are affected by the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and COMEX futures markets, which close between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., EST, depending on the metal.

Precious metals can be purchased in your existing Morgan Stanley Wealth Management brokerage account, allowing you to monitor their performance on your consolidated statement, or more frequently via the Internet.

What sizes do gold bars come in?

The troy ounce is the widely recognized standard unit of measurement, and one troy ounce is equal to approximately 1.1 conventional ounces. Standard denominations for retail gold bullion bars are 1, 5, and 10 troy oz. Smaller gold bars (weighing less than 1 troy oz.) are often measured in grams.

* Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and its affiliates do not render advice on tax and accounting matters to clients. This material was not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer under U.S. federal tax laws. Each client should consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor to learn about any potential tax or other implications that may result from acting on a particular recommendation.