Infographic by The Big Picture
Ritholtz explains it in a humongous graphic.(Click to view it full-sized.) Basically, it’s bait and switch. Customers call for bullion and get pushed into collectible gold where the spreads and commissions are much higher (plus collectible gold is much harder to sell. Bullion is easy.) Goldline also charges way for gold coins than do competitors.
Goldline International is under investigation by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office, jointly with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, as well as being the subject of a separate investigation by Congress into the possible criminal practices
Goldline founder Nicholas Deak. Time called him “the James Bond of the world of money” in 1964
A New York congressman is asking Goldline International pointed questions about their sales tactics and commission structure, particularly as it pertains to collectible gold rather than bullion. Goldline, who advertises heavily on Glenn Beck’s show, has been facing intensive scrutiny lately.
Collectible gold is quite different from bullion. Bullion coins and bars always sell at the same price at any given time worldwide based on the spot gold price plus a tiny premium. Collectible gold, as in rare and semi-rare coins, can sell for much more than spot and prices can fluctuate way more than bullion. Also, bullion can be sold quickly, collectibles often can’t be.
Goldline has been touting collectible gold as a hedge against the government seizing gold bullion like they did in the 1930’s. Hmmm, but if that happened they might also seize collectible gold or the price of gold might drop rather than rise. Such tactics are scaring the gullible, who remain fodder for bait-and-switch.
Full disclosure. I was a contract database developer for A-Mark Precious Metals for several years in the 90’s. They owned Goldline at the time and were then and remain one of the biggest wholesalers of precious metals in the country. Goldline was their retail customer outlet. A-Mark always seemed aboveboard, honest and ethical to me. They didn’t speculate and made their profit on the spread (the difference between the bid and ask.)
Goldline has been bought and sold multiple times, was started by the shadowy Deak and after A-Mark sold them, things got murky. Seth Hettna has a brief history.