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Silver and gold

Al Notowitz and his son Jacob know a little something
about silver and gold.

As owners of Numis International in Millbrae, the family has been buying
and selling gold, silver and fine jewelry for nearly 50 years.
With the down economy the past few years, Numis has done well in
buying as its customers have sold off coins and bullion to keep afloat but
not so well in selling as fewer have the money to buy.
“We are a bit resistant to recession because we get to buy more for less
but then it is harder to sell,” Jacob said, who has worked at Numis since
he graduated college in 1992.
When the economy is down, “buyers get good deals because we are
anxious to sell,” Jacob said.
The store opened in San Mateo originally before moving to Millbrae in the
late 1960s. Jacob practically grew up in the store, Al said, and is an expert
in appraising jewelry and watches.
Gold and silver, Al said, is one of the safest investments someone can
“I used to beg people to buy silver at $2 and $3 an ounce,” he said.
Prior to 1971, gold traded essentially at a fixed price of $35 an ounce.
“If you bought then and held on you would be happy,” Al said. “You don’t
buy gold for a quick profit.”
Yesterday, gold finished trading at $1,621.80 a troy ounce and silver
finished trading at $28.28 a troy ounce. In August 2011, gold reached a
new record high of $1,908 a troy ounce.
Al Notowitz thinks gold will one day trade at $10,000 an ounce.
“It is liking buying an insurance policy. You have to protect your assets,”
Al said.
Numis also makes loans on the precious metals and fine jewelry but stays
away from items such as electronics since they lose value quickly.
“We see everybody, from the person seeking a $10 loan to a $100,000
loan,” Al said.
Every once in a while, maybe twice a year, someone will come in with an
actual gold nugget in their hand to sell, Jacob said.
Some of the company’s most loyal and best customers are local
contractors who seek loans so they can make payroll, Jacob said.
“They will come in with a Rolex or jewelry to make payroll and buy it back
when the big paycheck comes in,” Jacob said.
Customers from Atherton and Hillsborough will also bring in large
diamonds, precious metals, rubies and emeralds to sell.
“When you buy from us you are going to save a ton of money,” Jacob said.
Retailers will sell the same piece of jewelry for two or three times what
Numis does, Jacob said.
The staff is small at the shop and two employees with 40 years or more
experience just retired, Al said.
“They were with us from the beginning,” he said.
Some of their customers have been there since the beginning, too, with
second and now a third generation of family coming into the store to trade.
The Krugerrand, American Eagle and Canadian Maple Leaf are the hottest
selling coins in the shop and they are strictly sold on the price of gold.
Jewelry with gold in it will trade on market value since they are not
investment weight, Jacob said.
Jacob pretty much knows the value of an item just about immediately. The
more knowledgeable an owner, the easier it is to determine the value, he
“Every once in a while we will have to make a phone call to get an
estimate,” Jacob said.
On Tuesday, a customer from Utah came into Numis looking for a
Canadian $5 silver coin.
She used Google and found Numis online and then phoned the store.
Numis had a mint coin to sell and also a special commemorative
holograph version of the coin. The customer bought the coin for a boy
scout, she said, and opted for the standard coin, which sold for $33.
“Silver might even be a safer investment,” Al said.
Both gold and silver will trade much higher in the future, he said.