The Silver-sphere Story – A Short Version

Silver-sphere Trading (Pty) Ltd is a Johannesburg based on-line silver and gold bullion supplier founded in 2013 by me, Dr Zoltan Erdey. Silver-Sphere evolved from a hobby and love for precious metals (especially low premium bullion coins, rounds, and bars), to one of the most trusted names on the precious metals market in South Africa.

In 2012, less than a handful of companies specialised in silver bullion. Even less focused on international bullion products. In these early years, Silver-sphere specialised in silver bullion only. It was this specialisation that helped the company gain market share in a small industry.

In the middle of 2013, the small informal business became a registered company (Pty Ltd), although operations ran from a home office, and it had a total number of one staff member. Like a one-man band, I was the office manager, operations and logistics manager, marketer, sales officer, coffee maker and cleaner to mention just a few positions. But over the next 2 years, the number of clients increased exponentially, and my wife Bridgette resigned her job and became the first full-time employee of the company. Together, we went full steam ahead building trust and lasting relationships with our clients, focusing on keeping prices low and ensuring that the level of service we offered was unmatched.

In 2017, we recognised that even though the company was growing, working from our home was problematic; gaining the confidence and trust of investors who considered buying precious metals through us became a stumbling block to further growth. By the end of 2017, we moved into a cosy office in Stonemill Office Park in Johannesburg.

  • In 2018, we employed two additional staff member, Katy Schefler and Mike Bondar, and Lauren Hayes in 2019. Each new addition to our team made a large impact on our continued quest for outstanding service and keeping the trust of our regular and new clients.
  • A number of connections and registrations elevated Silver-sphere to a respected position within the industry.
  • On the 20th of December 2016, our application to trade and purchase silver bars directly from the Rand Refinery was approved.
  • On the 22nd of May, less than six months later, our application to become authorised dealers for gold Krugerrands was granted.
  • In July 2018, Silver-sphere was accepted as member of the South African Association of Numismatic Dealers (SAAND).
  • At the beginning of 2019, our application to become authorised sellers for the South African Mint was accepted.

The Silver-sphere Story – The Full(er) Story

A Personal History

My interest in precious metals started as a child. As a little boy, pirates, treasure maps and treasure chests filled with silver and gold captivated my imagination. While I had zero intellectual understanding about the differences between fiat currency and real money, I was instinctively conscious of the value and worth of silver and gold. It is perhaps for this reason that even in my early teens, I found myself swopping my heard-earned money from small jobs for silver coins. It was not long after I landed my first real job that I bought my first gold Krugerrand. Innately, exchanging a colourful piece of paper for an ounce of gold or silver was a no-brainer. Owning an ounce of metal sparked the key associations in my mind between real money, financial freedom, and future security.

The Seed Germinates

In early 2012, as a young investor in precious metals, I became frustrated and disillusioned with the generally high premiums charged by local mints, refineries, and most dealers. In response, I have spent months researching possible avenues by which I could purchase silver bullion at fair prices. My search paid off and found an authorised international supplier who was willing to ship silver to me, on a trial basis.

Those early years after university, I was often caught in the habit exchanged expensive romantic dinners with my future wife for measly picnics and the occasional Wimpy breakfast. Still, I was merely a small individual investor buying every few months. But with each purchase, more and more friends and acquaintances requested that I pass on some of the silver I have bought at the lower prices. The word spread quickly. In a matter of a 12 months, this goodwill exercise turned into a small business of about twenty clients, each of whom became regular purchasers of American Silver Eagles and Canadian Silver Maples for the months and years to come. I remember with some fondness landing my first ‘big’ client who agreed to purchase 100 American Silver Eagles from me each month, for ten months. He simply wanted an invoice at the end of each months. Taking the small profits I earned from selling silver and converting it into silver bullion, my portfolio of ounces began to grow slowly, but steadily.

Service, Price, and Knowledge

Through the many years in the service industry as a waiter and a restaurant manager, I became aware of my innate passion to provide the perfect service. I have applied this to my trading and selling silver without realising just how hungry precious metals investors were for exceptional service. However, another realisation dawned on me; admirable service and low prices counted for little without two additional business traits, namely, trust and economic knowledge and understanding about precious metals and the value it adds to a typical investment portfolio.

In terms of knowledge, I immersed myself into reading and studying everything written by economists and precious metals experts (which still continues today). This exercise was not merely to understand the market and the products, but to ensure that I am able to pass pertinent information on to my clients. While most of my small base of clients were aware of the value precious metals plays in an investment portfolio, many did not fully realise its full importance. They simply understood that owning silver and gold was vital for future-proofing their financial wealth.

By the middle of 2013, I felt that my small informal ‘business’ was standing out in terms of service, price, and non-financial advice on precious metals and the various products available for purchase. I was building trust with my precious clients.

Silver-sphere Trading is Born

By 2013, I had a relatively small (but significant for me) batch of stock that I was able to sell to buyers who wanted to purchase immediately, without having to wait weeks for the order from the US. I paid a company supporting new business to build a website, another to create a logo, and set up an office (a desk in my lounge really with a laptop and a printer). And thus, began my journey as an online vendor.

Would You Like a Bank Account with That?

I received a call from my bank manager who wanted to know why I have so many transactions on my personal cheque account. I explained to her that I use it for my silver trading business venture. I specifically remember her asking me if I am certain that I am not doing anything illegal, and whether I had the proper permits in place to sell silver. The strange question aside, after further study of my account, she suggested that I stop playing business and register a company to trade under. And so, on the 24th of May 2013, Silver-sphere Trading (Pty) Ltd was registered.

A One-Man Band no Longer

Within six months, keeping up with orders and the packaging was no longer possible. My wife Bridgette and I decided that it is time to take a leap of faith, resign from her position as PR Manager at her company, and join Silver-sphere Trading full-time. Bridgette took over the logistics and client communications. She jokingly often referring to herself as the general manager, and me as the CEO.

As a result of her ability to gain the trust of potential clients, and her administrative skills, Silver-sphere continued to grow. Over the next few years, it became necessary to add Kathy Schefler to our team to assist with the logistics of shipping operations. Mike Bondar was added as a driver and general gold Krugerrand contact person a year later, and more recently, Lauren Hayes joined our team as office operations overseer.

Seemingly, within a few years, an insignificant hobby business became a noteworthy player in the silver bullion market as we continued to build trust and relationships with investors all over South Africa. We expanded our range of bullion products, we kept out prices low, and we implemented processes that facilitated the best possible service to our trusted clients.

From the Lounge to the Office Park

Running an online bullion store from ones living room is not problematic for those who order from another city and require shipping. But the trust proposition becomes much harder to earn when local buyers request a face-to-face meeting before they make the purchase. Apparently, some buyers are not prepared to part ways with tens of thousands of Rands without due diligence. Who knew?!

I distinctly remember meeting clients to hand over their purchases in car parks, coffee shops, and once trust was built, at their homes. I look back with some fondness and humour to the living room days. We even had a prepared draft email explaining to clients the benefits of buying from a dealer with no office rental overheads; no office, less expenses, lower prices. It took much convincing to convince new clients that we are indeed a trustworthy business. Some took their business elsewhere, understandably. One potential client sarcastically told me to give him a call once we have an office.

However, given the growth and support of our loyal clients who supported our business that was run from a lounge, we moved into Stonemill Office Park on the 1st of September 2016. We were now a ‘real’ business. We had stickers made for the glass doors, we had chairs to sit on, desks to work from, and even a small board room. Eventually, we even added a cappuccino machine.

Recognition by the Industry

A series of approvals marked the high points of our last three years.

  • On the 20th of December 2016, our application to trade and purchase silver bars directly from the Rand Refinery was approved.
  • On the 22nd of May, less than six months later, our application to become authorised dealers for gold Krugerrands was also approved. Given that there are only a handful of approved authorised gold Krugerrand dealers, this honour was simply beyond belief.
  • In July 2018, Silver-sphere was accepted as member of the South African Association of Numismatic Dealers (SAAND).
  • At the beginning of 2019, our application to become authorised sellers for the South African Mint was accepted.

In the space of just a few years, Silver-sphere was finally afforded the opportunity to serve clients in most categories of precious metals purchases; international silver and gold bullion from across the world, local silver and gold Krugerrands from the Rand Refinery, and collectibles from the SA Mint.

Where Are We Today?

As of today (end of 2019), my team and I have established Silver-sphere Trading as one of the most trusted names in the industry (not my words). Some have spoken about us as the industry standard.

While we are far from perfect, we have devoted our efforts to deliver a) unparalleled service and prices, b) made available an unmatched product range, and c) created a fair secondary market for re-sellers to offload their bullion in times of need.

In an attempt to provide valuable and distilled information about the bullion market and products in general, I have written and published numerous blogs and articles within the South African context.

As a team, we have invested sincere efforts to make purchasing and re-selling precious metals as easy and hassle-free as possible.

What is Our Value Proposition to Clients?

Excellent service and low prices are important, and may I add, all too often rare in South Africa. However, these two aspects of a business are not unique in and of themselves and they do not offer a unique value proposition for a business. Building a business of value and trust must go beyond these generalities. It is said that a business is worth its salt only so far as it is able to solve a problem relating to the needs of the potential customer. As far as we have understood, our clients have five primary ‘problems’ that require solving upon making a decision to enter the precious metals market.

The first is the opportunity to choose from a wide range of high quality and trusted bullion products without worrying about the source and origin of the product. We have addressed this desire by making available the largest range of international on the South African market that is bought only from authorised re-sellers on behalf of numerous world mints. All our imports are accompanied by a certificate of origin. This ensures that none of our clients ever have to worry about fake counterfeit products.

Secondly, customers require fast delivery. We have come to recognise that the most stressful part of an online bullion purchase is the transit time with the couriers. It is the length of time during which the silver or gold is neither in the hands of the seller, or the buyer. We believe that through our systems and practices, we have solved this concern, making purchasing from Silver-sphere a speedy, stress-free, and satisfying journey. We offer same day delivery in Gauteng (if funds clear immediately in the early morning), and overnight to other parts of South Africa.

Thirdly, the world bullion coin range has increased exponentially. Mints around the world are minting a wider range of bullion products to attract investors and collectors alike. While it is impossible to stock the full range of products available on the world bullion stage, we have pledged to import coins for collectors that we may not stock.

Fourthly, and most importantly, we have a favourable buy-back policy for those who wish to offload a portion of their precious metals easily, safely, and for a fair price. Buying the actual physical metal is not the difficult part of investing. It is always the re-selling that is a concern to investors. Where will I sell when the time is right? Silver-sphere is committed to solving this apprehension so that investors can rest assured that they will not be forced to sell their precious metals unaided on Junkmail or GumTree.

Lastly, the industry standard not just in South Africa but across the world, is to separate prices into a number of tears. The more ounces purchased, the cheaper the rates. In early 2019, we have decided to go against this standard practice by scrapping all price tears and offering all purchases at the maximum discount rate (in the past, available only to those who purchased 500 silver ounces or more at a time). This has closed the price gap and ensured that anyone who buys bullion from Silver-sphere has the opportunity to buy at the lowest price possible without having to ‘break the bank’ in order to get the discounted rate.

Our story is unique in many ways. We firmly believe that so are our clients, their needs, and we are ready to surpass the expectations of all those who are willing to trust us with their precious metals purchases.