Getting the best price for gold requires knowing exactly what you have, its value, and finding the right buyer.

What Do You Have?

While some individuals may have invested in gold bars or bullion, for most people, gold is in the form of jewelry, coins, or decorative objects. All these will likely have varying amounts of gold. It is unlikely than any will be made from pure gold. Gold in its pure and natural form is very soft, so it is nearly always strengthened by the addition of other metals, called alloys. Alloys include nickel, tin, palladium, or manganese.

How Much Of It Is Real Gold?

Gold is measured in karats based on the number 24. This means that 18 karat gold is really 18 parts gold to six parts alloy; 14 karat gold is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy. The karat rating may or may not be stamped on the object. If not, it will need to be determined by testing. While there are do–it–yourself kits for testing, it’s sometimes best left to experts.

How Much Does It Weigh?

Gold prices are commonly expressed as a dollar amount per ounce. However, many gold dealers are using Troy ounces. A standard ounce equals 28 grams. A Troy ounce equals 31.1 grams, a significant difference. Other buyers measure gold by the pennyweight. A pennyweight is 1.55 grams. Just make sure that you and the potential buyer are both using the same weight measurement.

What’s It Worth?

Value is extremely difficult to determine. One reason is that there are a variety of values. Gold coins, especially old ones, may have more value to a collector than the dollar value of the gold they contain. That’s true also for jewelry, especially if it was made by a famous designer. Some items have sentimental value. Then there’s retail value, which you can plan on not receiving. You’re also unlikely to receive the appraised value, although that’s a good number with which to start negotiations.

What’s The Current Market Value?

It’s easy to find the current market price. Lots of print and online sources publish that information daily. It’s usually expressed in price per ounce, so all you have to do is total up the ounces you have and multiply. Wrong. Gold sold by individuals will be melted down, and what you will receive is the melt, or scrap, value. That’s net of the cost of having it melted, and a whole lot less than market value.

Where Are The Buyers?

Buyers are everywhere, so take your choice. Many people go online, to auctions such as e-Bay. Any number of online gold buying companies allow people to mail in their gold items, frequently mailing back a check within a day or two. Nearly every town has a pawnshop, jewelry store, or coin shop, all of which buy gold. Traveling buyers set up shop in hotels or shopping mall kiosks for a limited time. Some people organize gold–buying parties.

Which Buyer Is Best?

Each type of buyer has advantages and disadvantages. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have at least an idea of the value of your pieces and what you can reasonably expect to receive. Then your choice will be whether to take quick cash, usually for a lesser amount, or wait longer to receive more money. The rule of thumb is that the more convenient a buyer makes it for you to sell your gold and the faster you get the cash, the less you’ll receive for it.

What Else?

Make getting an appraisal your first step. Read all the fine print in any agreement before you sign. Most of all, ask lots of questions before committing to a sale.