Institutional Metals

Northwest Territorial Mint

800-344-6468Ask for the Institutional Division

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by the "fineness" or "purity" of precious metals?

The purity of precious metal is measured in parts per thousand and is called its "fineness." This indicates the proportion of pure precious metal actually contained in the refined product verses its remaining alloys. A bar that is 999.9 fine is 99.99% pure gold and 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. They are Beauty, Utility, Rarity, Indestructibility, Portability, and Inherent Value.

No other elements known to man manifest all the characteristics, and it is for this reason that mankind has always considered these metals precious.

How do I sell back my precious metals?

Selling gold or silver back is as simple as buying it.

Simply call or meet with your Advisor and he/she will inform you of the current market price and the process to sell your metal. Once the metal is verified and sold, your account will be credited the funds.

The sales process can be influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Whether the bullion was originally bought at Northwest
  • The size and type of bullion being sold
  • The physical appearance of the bullion being sold

What is the difference between "Allocated" and "Unallocated" Gold?

Allocated gold is bullion held by an institution, like a bank, on behalf of the owner. The gold is separated from other metal that may be held by the bank and is identifiable by its unique bar numbers.

Unallocated gold is a claim on the Institution for the ounces entitlement to a specific quantity of gold bullion.

Are bullion coins legal tender?

Yes, if they are government issued bullion coins with a face value. This nominal face value allows the coins to travel across national borders without the taxation or fees otherwise imposed by many countries on bullion itself.

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 coins or ingots. The bullion itself, in effect, bears its own “certificate” from whichever mint or refiner produced it. Gold, specifically, is an element with a unique specific gravity, and other attributes which are easy to test for authenticity. The ancient Egyptians pioneered the “acid test” for gold, and any jeweler or pawnbroker can demonstrate the basics of gold.

Do you recommend European Gold Coins?

We recommend British Sovereigns as an alternative to gold bullion for those customers seeking low-priced “bulk gold.” They offer the benefits of modern gold bullion and are priced by their gold content.

Was gold illegal to own at one time?

Yes, in this country, from 1933 to 1974 U.S. citizens could not legally own gold bullion without a special license. In 1975 these restrictions were lifted and gold can now be freely held without any licensing or restrictions.

Can I put bullion in my IRA?

Yes. You do need a custodian, a qualified third party such as a bank, to actually hold the qualifying bullion in your name. Some qualified depositories will do IRA storage of physical metals for you. Annual storage fees are usually involved, and an initial fee to set up the account.

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

Private gold ownership in the United States has no size limitations. You are limited only by your budget and common sense.

Are bullion transactions of $10,000 or more reported to the government?

Only if they involve cash or cash instruments such as cashiers checks which total over $10,000. No report on transactions involving single checks or bankwires are required. Currency regulations involving amounts over $10,000 were designed to thwart money launderers and drug dealers.

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

No branch of federal, state, or local government has specific interest in how much gold you might own. The U.S. Mint, a division of the Treasury Department, strikes the gold Eagle bullion coins, and supports their sale with national advertising, sales brochures, gift boxes, and so on, but they do not keep track of who is buying it from their dealers.

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

Yes. If you hold precious metals bullion as an investment, and later sell it at a profit, you will have either a long-term or short-term taxable gain,

What is the best way to store bullion?

For anyone new to bullion investing, the question of how and where to store precious metal bullion coins and bars can be a perplexing one. When making this decision, investors should consider the following three factors: size, security and liquidity.

Bullion products come in a variety of sizes and weights, which 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 the services of a registered precious metal storage facility. Those looking to keep their investment closer at hand may want to consider purchasing smaller sized precious metal bars or bullion coins, which can be stored and transported more easily.

If an investor's greatest concern is security, registered storage facilities, as well as many banks, offer vaults devoted exclusively to safeguarding bullion commodities. Typically, these facilities offer additional insurance policies for a nominal monthly fee.

The major attraction of owning physical metal for some investors is its liquidity. For those who put a premium on having ready access at all times to their bullion investments, home storage is certainly an option. However, with the advent of modern technology, many bullion banking facilities offer investors 24-hour access to their private accounts. Investors can check their account status, or buy and sell bullion online from the convenience of their home or office computer.

What sizes do gold bars come in?

Gold bars, like other precious metal bars, are typically measured in units of weight as opposed to their linear or physical dimensions. Precious metal bars are "assayed" or evaluated by professionals to determine their exact weight, and this value is generally stamped on the obverse or front of the bar itself.

Although the metric system is commonly used to identify denominations for gold bullion bars traded throughout the world, the Troy ounce is a widely recognized standard unit of measurement. One Troy ounce is equal to approximately 1.1 ounces. Standard denominations for retail gold bullion bars are 1,5, and 10 Troy ounces. Smaller gold bars (weighing less than 1 Troy ounce) are often measured in grams.

How much are my old silver coins worth?

The value of circulated U.S. silver coins, such as Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars, is determined by several factors, including their silver content, their overall physical condition or "grade," and the rarity of the specific coin.

Silver Content
Circulated U.S. coins in a variety of denominations and from several distinct periods in American history are sought out by investors for their silver content. Prior to 1964 in the United States, dimes, quarters, and half dollars minted for circulation contained up to 90% silver. Morgan Dollars, which were first struck by the U.S. Mint in 1878 and produced until 1921, also contain 90% silver. The value of these and other circulated coins, based on the silver content alone, is determined by the fluctuating price of silver on world markets.

Silver coins are also evaluated or graded based on their physical condition. Generally, coins can be classified into two distinct categories: circulated and un-circulated. The American Numismatics Association (ANA) recognizes 11 different grades for circulated coins, ranging from AG-3 at the bottom of the scale to AU-58 at the top.

Market prices for circulated silver coins can vary widely depending on the rarity of a particular coin design or date of issue. The Mercury Dime is the perfect illustration of this point. Minted from 1916 to 1945 at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver Mints, it weighs about 2.5 grams and contains 90% silver. While the 1944 Mercury Dime retails for approximately $1.50, the much rarer 1921-D ("D" is the mark of the Denver Mint) sells for more than $500.

For more information visit the U.S. Treasury Coins FAQ.