Features

A Day in Tehran’s Gold Market

October 3, 2020
IranWire Citizen Journalist
7 min read
The rise in the price of gold coins has boosted the gold market, though the business is risky and stressful
The rise in the price of gold coins has boosted the gold market, though the business is risky and stressful
Gold and coin dealers in the Tehran market have stopped accepting transactions using bank cards, and will only accept cash or a guaranteed bank-issued check
Gold and coin dealers in the Tehran market have stopped accepting transactions using bank cards, and will only accept cash or a guaranteed bank-issued check

This article was written by a citizen journalist in Tehran, who uses the pseudonym Tayebeh Bani Hashemi for security reasons

 

The rapid rise in the price of gold coins has boosted the gold market. Buyers and sellers have been checking prices constantly and anxiously try to buy and sell, sometimes under great stress. Gold and coin dealers in the Tehran market do not accept transactions by bank card anymore: customers must either have cash or buy with a guaranteed check.

"Until three weeks ago, if someone wanted to buy 50 gold coins, we would call and fix the price and deposit the money throughout the day. If the price of coins went up or down, neither party would object. Now if you want, say, 10 coins and you have the cash to hand, no one will sell it to you. Or if they do, they will sell it for 200,000 tomans over the price posted on the billboard. Gold is no better." These are the words of Mr. Manouchehri, who sells molten gold from his small booth in Tehran's gold market.

Gold shops and sellers all use and subscribe to tablotala.com, the portal for the Gold Traders' Union. It publishes the current prices for gold, coins, dollars, and euros, and this is what sellers use to determine purchase and sale prices.  

These days, Mr. Manouchehri says, “ordinary people” are buying this type of gold as an investment, and it’s particularly popular because no wages have to be paid in its production. It’s most often used to make jewelry.

"I have been buying and selling gold in this shop for almost 40 years," Mr. Manouchehri says. "I had never experienced this amount of instability and volatility. Until just under a year ago, the price of gold fluctuated around 5,000 tomans per gram week to week, but now the price is rising by about 40,000 tomans per gram in the course of a day. For this reason, I and other coin dealers will no longer accept it if customers want to pay by bank cards, because his or her money will take a day to clear and it is not definite how much the price will go up tomorrow, or what else might happen."

He is also quite skeptical about what’s happening: “It’s a blessing to have a customer for our business, but these days coin sellers and goldsmiths do not dare to sell very much for fear of rising prices. At the moment you will not find even 50 gold coins to buy. You can't even get 50 coins if you go to 10 coin shops. If the situation continues for another week, there will be no more raw gold or molten gold anywhere."

Samira has come to the gold market to buy. “Honestly, all of my salary is paid to the landlord," she says. She explains that she divorced her husband two years ago and deposited the money he had received for her dowry and returned to her in her savings account. ”Every month I lived on the profits I received from it. Although I am not good at calculations, in the past year, I have really noticed the devaluation of my money. So at the suggestion of one of my colleagues, I took my money out of the bank to buy molten gold. The money I have is not enough to buy land or even a car, so to avoid wasting it and becoming penniless, the best option is to buy either normal or molten gold."

Normal gold is second-hand gold that gold sellers buy from people for the price of raw gold and sell it to others at a small markup. It is a product in demand and a good investment option given that the cost of wages is not included in it. But doing this is forbidden by the goldsmiths' union. The normal gold must be melted down, and goldsmiths are not legally allowed to sell it.

Samira explains that this seemingly simple process of converting money into gold took four days. "Nearly 80,000 tomans were added to the price of each gram of gold over these four days. For two days, I struggled to get my money out of the bank. At first they wouldn’t agree to do it, and then when they accepted, it took 24 hours for them to deposit my money. Then I went to the market on the recommendation of a friend to buy melted-down gold. I found out that they accept only cash or guaranteed bank checks, which I could not get from the bank on that day. So on the fourth day I managed to buy gold with a bank check.”

But Samira’s problems have not been solved by this transaction. ”There is really a lot of confusion in the country, which is with everyone every day. I used my capital to buy molten gold, but I really do not know how I am going to live this month. I did not want my money to stay in the bank, which was becoming more and more devalued every day due to inflation. But now that I have bought gold, I do not know how to pay for my daily expenses.”

 

“It’s Impossible to Find Customers Because of the Fluctuating Prices”

Mr. Shojaei has been running a gold shop in one of the most prominent commercial complexes in East Tehran for many years. These days, however, his mood is not good. "At one time our job was referred to as selling gold, but now our job is not selling gold," he says. “It’s impossible to find customers when you have to pay 1,350,000 tomans for one gram of gold, which ends up being about 1,800,0000 including wages and taxes, and the rent for the shop. On the other hand, with this price fluctuation, where gold goes up every day, whatever we sell, we have to immediately replace it by buying molten gold on the same day. Otherwise we lose and we have to pay more for what we have sold.

“Believe me, no goldsmith has made a profit in the last year. Because everyone, no matter how many customers they have, has ultimately lost customers because of the prices. On the other hand, this is our job, and this is how our lives are. We can't sell gold and replace it right away. As time goes on, we can no longer replace our original gold, which is our capital, with the money we receive. Out this money, we have to provide for our wife and children. Business rates and charges and shop rents have to paid from it. The fluctuation and increase in the price of gold is not in the interest of the shopkeeper at all, and it makes our capital smaller and smaller every day, despite working 12 hours a day."

Ms. Neysari is a retired teacher and has been buying coins with the money she got from her pension two weeks ago. "From what the Telegram channel said, I came to the conclusion that I should put my money in coins, and I am not dissatisfied," she said. "For 12,700,000 tomans, I bought Emami-86 gold coins and now the price is 15,300,000 tomans." The Emami-86 is a gold coin stamped with the image Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, since production began in 1986.

Despite the fact that she has made a profit in a short period of time and her capital has increased, Ms. Neysari isn’t entirely happy with the situation. "These coin sellers want all the profit for themselves. They say that they buy and sell according to prices on Tablo, but they sell gold between 300,000 and 350,000 tomans above the price on Tablo and they buy gold 300,000 tomans below the price on Tablo. Their argument is that the price fluctuation is so high that the prices so Tablo changes quite frequently. They say, if we buy and sell by the price of Tablo, we will be left behind, we will lose."

 

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