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FAQ: Do I need to pay tax when I sell gold jewelry or collectibles?

If you are finally ready to part with those old gold coins, baseball cards, artwork, or jewelry your grandmother gave you, and want to sell the item, you may be wondering what the tax consequences will be on the disposition of the item (or items). This article explains some of the basic tax consequences of the sale of a collectible, such as that antique vase or gold coin collection.


You must pay tax on any gain you realize from the sale of a collectible item (or the entire collection), such as a gold watch or other jewelry, antique coins, artwork, figurines, and even baseball cards. Capital gains on collectibles are taxed at a rate of 28 percent, rather than the regular long-term capital gains rate, currently at 15 percent (zero for those in the 10 or 15 percent income tax brackets). Gain on collectibles is reported on Schedule D of Form 1040. To calculate capital gains on the sale or other disposition you need to determine what your basis in the item is.

If you purchased the item, your basis is generally what you paid for the item as well as certain expenses related to the purchase. Fees related to the sale itself should also be included, such as a broker’s or auctioneer’s fee or an appraisal or authentication fee.

If you inherited the item, then your basis is the item’s fair market value (FMV) at the time you inherited it. There are two principal methods for determining FMV: an appraisal, such as used for estate purposes, or valuing the item based on contemporaneous sales of comparable items. However, this can be tricky because the condition of a collectible item plays significantly into its value.

If the item was a gift, then your basis is the same as the basis of the person who gave you the item.

If you buy and sell collectibles on a regular basis, devote a substantial amount of time and effort to the activity and have developed a degree of skill in identifying profitable transactions, you may be engaged in a trade or business. In this case, you may be engaged in a trade or business in the eyes of the IRS, and therefore your stock of collectibles may be “inventory” and your profits taxable as ordinary income.

Precious metals

Gold and silver, like stamps and coins, are treated by the IRS as capital assets except when they are held for sale by a dealer. Any gain or loss from their sale or exchange is generally a capital gain or loss. If you are a dealer, the amount received from the sale is ordinary business income. However, metals like gold and silver are classified by the Internal Revenue Code as collectibles, and gain recognized from the sale of gold or silver held for more than one year - whether or not in the form of jewelry or sold simply for its market content - is taxed at the maximum rate of 28 percent.

For all sales of more than $600, an information return generally must be filed with the IRS.


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.


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