By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
Visitors to the website of Merit Gold and Silver, a Santa Monica, California-based bullion and precious metals dealer, have seen a message stating that, as of August 5, the company is “no longer accepting bullion orders.”
There is no explanation on the website why the company has stopped taking orders. Customers are urged to call for details. A 1-800 number is prominently displayed in the upper right corner.
When called and asked about the declaration, an associate said that the company is beginning a transfer of ownership, and that the sale of bullion is prohibited while this process takes place. The associate also said that the dealership is still allowed to sell what it currently has in stock. As of August 8, inventory consisted of three silver Lunar Britannia coins, according to the associate.
Returning to the website, no such product listing can be found, however, there is a pop-up advertising Britannia coins made from silver recovered from the wreckage of the SS Gairsoppa. The only content on each product category page is a statement saying that Merit Gold is accepting limited precious metals orders as of August 6 and to call for more details.
The associate did not say who was assuming new ownership.
A check of the company’s social media reveals no additional information. Merit Gold’s Facebook account is still active, but compared to the content and frequency of posts from the end of July and early August, activity has slowed. The last tweet from Merit Gold’s Twitter account is dated August 4.
At least one person claiming to be a customer posted to the company’s Facebook timeline on August 7 to ask about the “shutdown”. The customer stated that they had had good experiences buying from the dealership and express their surprise at this “sudden” turn of events.
Earlier this year, on February 13, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Seacoast Coin, Inc., which does business as Merit Gold and Silver. The privately-held company is headed by Peter M. Epstein and Michael J. Getlin.
UPDATE: On August 13, Adam Radinsky, Head of the Consumer Protection Unit of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, told CoinWeek that Merit Gold had entered into an assignment for the benefit of creditors. An assignment for the benefit of creditors is an alternative to bankruptcy, and it is possible for a business to continue to operate as a going concern during and after the process.
On August 15, I called Merit Gold and Silver to confirm. The associate I spoke with told me that the business is closing its doors. Messages left with Merit Gold owner Peter Epstein and CEO Michael Getlin went unanswered.
Why would you accept the word of an unidentified associate? What do the owners say? What does Santa Monica say? Who stops selling its products because of a pending sale? Who has inventory of three silver Lunar Britannia coins? Where is your follow up?
Your questions are all legitimate and appreciated.
I do know the name of the associate I spoke with but have no desire to make the personal information of a private individual who was just doing his or her job public.
This particular story presents current news in regards to a company that has been in the news previously. The announcement on Merit Gold’s website caught some like myself by surprise, and if the company’s Facebook page is to be believed, some customers too.
(There are negative posts there as well, but they are obvious and safely ignored if you are after fact not emotion.)
CoinWeek has a call in to the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, who we spoke to for our earlier piece.
I have not spoken to the owners. I would like to.
Indeed, why would someone stop selling bullion because of an impending sale? There may be a story there, and we are looking into it.
If I understand correctly, and according to the sales associate who answered the number that Merit Gold’s website advertises,the Britannias are simply the only items they are allowed to sell at this time.
Again, Merit Gold found itself persecuted by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office earlier this year, and as a player in the coin industry, it was big news. This may or may not be a part of an ongoing story. We will continue to look into it.
MIGHT IT BE TIME FOR ASSAY OF THE GOLD COINS SOLD TO CONSUMERS??
What is a Lunar Britannia ? There’s no such thing. A Britannia is a bullion coin in it’s won right and a 2014 British Lunar year of the Horse another. Similarly i doubt very much that any SS Gairsoppa recovered silver was used to strike Britannias ,they are silver rounds and bars of their own design.
I recommend that you check out Merit’s youtube channel. They have at least three videos advertising the “Lunar Britannia” coin that Hubert referenced in the article.
Your actually WRONG – a Lunar Britannia coin is a Britannia with a lunar Privy mark on the coin edge running all the way around the coin. These are Great Britain version of a maple leaf with a lunar privy mark – sucks when you don’t “know it all ” doesn’t it! Don’t be so rude next time – and learn your coins before running you mouth
Merit Financial has been scamming people for a long time with the 1% bait and switch. I heard the District Attorney shut them down. There is no “new owner…” They are being forced out of business.
Received a call from Merit @1:30 PM eastern and was told that Merit was no longer in business and referred me to my vault operator for any further PM arrangements.
Thank you for the update, Mark
Dam scammers! I spoke with these high pressure suits about a year ago and they where trying to sell me 30oz of gold for close to 60oz of gold prices! I could tell they were up to no good! Hope they hang them high for all to see…
I have purchased from them on numerous occasions and found them to be the cheapest bullion dealer anywhere, just not the 1% they advertised on some items.
I also purchased from them over the past 3-4 years. I also found them to be the cheapest. What they did do is always try to sell me junk silver bags. I always said no thanks and received the bullion I paid for.
Have used them for many years and never any issues. Always found their pricing better than my previous broker who’s name was a lot like my mom’s first name ………
The Santa Monica City Attorneys Office is taking complaints from those who believe they were a victim of bait and switch. Paula Rockenstein knows the most about this case and answered my questions as Adam Radinsky would not return my call. They have a website at gold.smconsumer.org to file a complaint
Thanks for the information, John!
As is stated by the author,” as a player in the coin industry,it was big news”. This is “big news” to all coin interests and almost nothing to the average person. What could be considered big news across a broad spectrum, would be if the quote ” Merit Gold found itself persecuted …”. Persecuted. That idea would be bigger news. I may have missed something. Would not have been the first time. Mr. Walker is this what you meant to write? If so, bigger news.
I’m probably missing something myself, but I don’t understand your question. The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit (if “unit” is the right word) has aggressively pursued a few bullion dealers in recent years. Are you asking if “persecuted” is the wrong word to use? I didn’t say “prosecuted”.
Has anyone heard any complaints of selling fake gold or silver? With all the junk coming out of China, and them being on the west coast, I was concerned about one or two fakes slipping in here or there.
When I called Merit the associate told me that they were not selling bullion any longer because of counterfeiting. He said nothing more. In the last two years I have great service from them and am sorry to see them go.
Placed an order for 2 bullions. Paid $2750 on 8/5/14. Some lady called me on 8/7 saying they don’t sell bullion any more and offered to refund the money. I accepted. She said it will be processed in 3 weeks. Till date I have not received the refund. Called their 1-800 and there was no answer. If you could send me the name of the rep you spoke with telephone number, I can call them. Thanks for the help
I live in Santa Monica and have seen these scam artist owners and employees on the streets. I’m glad the City moved in on these fraudsters.
Imagine how many 100’s of people lost their retirement or inheritance thanks to these boiler room criminals.
Merit’s pick pack and ship operation was executed in their company’s office on 4th and Arizona right next to their administration office (VERY DANGEROUS). Worse yet the moronic shipping staff actually pushed their packed shipments on a cart down the public sidewalk for multiple blocks in the middle of daylight to the old post office location on 5th and Arizona Ave. Just asking to be robbed.
Almost anyone with a gun and a getaway car could have taken that company for a six maybe seven figure robbery. This is how little the managers thought things through and how dangerously they treated their employees and customer orders.
Totally bankrupt in all facets. Good riddance.
I made two transactions with Merit, one in 2014, and one in 2013, with no problems at all. I am sorry to see them close their doors, as they consistantly had the lowest price on precious metals.
Anyone who buys gold and silver on line is nuts, reasons are as follows:
Shipping from some entities
Uncle Sam knows every move you make
Record of G & S you have (paper trail)
Credit card costs
Other people know you are receiving G & S
Good points all, though I wouldn’t say everyone who buys gold and silver online is “nuts”.
One of the accusations leveled at the company is that they mislead several elderly clients into buying items against their better judgement and interests. “Uninformed” is perhaps a better word.
As far as the “Lunar Britannia” goes, you are correct. But this is indeed what the first associate told me. I then asked the associate if the coins were of the recently-discovered mule variety which do in fact combine the two series. The associate didn’t know what I was talking about.
As for Gairsoppa Britannias, I point you towards the Royal Mint’s website:
Why is anyone ever surprised by stories like this? Strict bullion dealing is a very low margin business, if you want to stay competitive. It is easy to do enough business to make a decent living only when metals are “hot”. When bullion fever slows, the volume drops, and in order to keep up with the expected lifestyles, margins need to increase. That’s very hard to do without “selling up”. In this environment in many states, “selling up” is seen as “bait and switch” and there are lots of newly minted young lawyers with too much time on their hands in county prosecutor offices. So…. Let’s go take down a metals dealer, whaddya’ say?
Nice fancy suits for a low margin business, eh?
I’ve had 2000.00 in my account with merit for a couple of months. I decided I wanted 2 oz of gold and sent 600.00 more a week or so before their announcement. No confirmed order, & they still have my money. Am I being stupid in thinking this is a problem?
Anyone stuck with money in your account & wondering how to get it out?
I’ve still got a $1500 balance in a holding acct with Merit and like you haven’t been able to contact anyone to request return payment. I did send a certified letter to their mailing address for the record and am filing a complaint with the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office although not sure how much good that will do. I would think that any assets (money) that does not belong to Merit should not be part of any Bankrupt settlement to pay off any creditors but I don’t have a law degree so don’t know how the laws work in this type of scenario.
There may be good intentions. I sent 600.00 a week or so before all this happened, and when I called, a woman knew of my account & told me that the 600.00 check was not cashed ( it still has not been cashed), & that they would probably return it when they refund me the other 2000.00. There is hope, as they could’ve bagged me for more very easily.
Just received my uncashed check for 600.00. Still need 2000.00 more to close act., but this is a good start. Sent by Karen Ruth, Senior Account Associate . (Merit)
Placed an order for 2 bullions. Paid $2750 on 8/5/14. Some lady called me on 8/7 saying they don’t sell bullion any more and offered to refund the money. I accepted. She said it will be processed in 3 weeks. Till date I have not received the refund. Called their 1-800 and there was no answer. I also mailed a letter to their Santa Monica address to refund the money.
I received a letter saying that a credit management company will be handling the claim. This is alternative to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. WE have to submit a proof of claim to get the money back. Looks like I lost this money. Bad Luck!!!.
Did any of you receive such communication
Any names or numbers I can call to get some help.
You that were promised delivery on orders placed before the closing, how are they doing for you guys?
Hello, so I spent 1500 on ss gairsoppa I bought them July 31 and have not heard anything recently I informed my credit card… I am worried and have called and emailed merit, no response! Any ideas for me to get my coins or a full refund?
On one of their recorded phones they still maintain delivery of items will be made per their agreements. I’ve ordered and received 2 shipments in the past, & it always took over a month to get it.
Again – metals are sold at variable but more or less fixed prices. E.G. when gold was at about $1325 an ounce you could sell a Gold Eagle for about $1340 and buy one for about $1375 if you looked around an negotiated a little bit from local coin dealers.
While it is true that gold Eagles may not be the easiest things to find when you are in the market to buy but you can usually find them with 4 or 5 phone calls to reputable coin dealers – bring cash and walk out with the metal. This is not a complex transaction.
anyone who wires money to ANY organization not local where you can bring the cash is just asking to get ripped off.
This scam happens over and over and over and over again – send us money, we will send you coins for 1% over spot. 2%, $50 – whatever.
Why would you do business with a company that sells you some thing they do not have and you give them money and have to wait a month for the goods? You must be a lot more trusting than I am. I give someone $25k I expect $25k of gold right then and there. Not be charged an account fee, a shipping fee, an insurance fee and all the other silliness that happens in this business.
People – go to a local coin dealer. Bring cash [or a local check the dealer can verify and cash] and either walk out with the gold or get it the next day.
You are obviously a mom-and-pop shop owner because most of what you said about phone based dealers is false.
The ripoff is not here you said it is, it’s in the “upsell” which borders on fraud.
I’m so sick of you knowitalls that think you have it figured out but you haven’t got past the first layer of the onion….. reputable companies use bank wires all the time. The fetid stench of the greasy scumbag boiler room scammer comes from the markup, the lack of disclosure that the coin you bought for 10% over the ounce spot price is HALF an ounce of collector coin marked up 15% by the “wholesaler” then another 40% (multiplied, not added)….. I could go on, but why waste my time on someone who already is an authority?
I was going to buy a few ounces of gold 6 months ago…The sales man talked me into the new Britannia’s. I had 8 grand. In Real weight of the gold was worth $5500. I paid them $2500 apparently for the fact that they were going to be worth more ‘in a few months’. Now I just hope they are real.