For gold sellers on eBay, the recent stock market turmoil has been a boon for business.
Gold and silver sales on eBay had already been rising steadily over the past several years -- so much so that eBay Inc. created a special area in May to make it easier for buyers to find sellers.
Now, activity on that part of the site, the Bullion Center, is intensifying as consumers unnerved by the economic uncertainty flock to gold in hopes it will be a stable investment.
"When people are coming down to the question, 'Do they want to have cash in the bank or gold in their hands?' the answer is they'd rather have gold or silver," said Jacob Chandler, CEO of Great Southern Coins, the largest seller of precious metals on eBay.
The stock market just ended one of its most volatile weeks in years, prompted in part by a downgrade in the nation's credit rating and fears of another recession.
Through most of last week, the average selling price increased for gold bullion -- bars or coins stamped with their weight and level of purity.
According to the most recent data available from eBay, sales of 1-ounce gold American Eagle coins and 1-ounce gold Pamp Suisse bars rose steadily from Aug. 5 to Wednesday, before dipping slightly Thursday.
On Aug. 5, when Standard & Poor's lowered the nation's credit rating, American Eagle coins were selling for an average of $1,800 among eBay's featured sellers. The average price of the coins, produced by the U.S. Mint, rose more than 8 percent to $1,952 Wednesday, before dropping to $1,915 Thursday.
The Pamp Suisse brand of gold bars sold for an average of $1,787 Aug. 5 and climbed nearly 8 percent to $1,927 by Wednesday. Thursday, the bars dropped slightly to $1,890.
Even before last week's market turbulence, investors were cautious because economic signals in the U.S. and overseas pointed toward trouble.
The Dow index fell 6 percent in the week ending Aug. 6. That week, the number of gold buyers on eBay rose 11 percent compared with the year's weekly average. The number of gold sellers rose 14 percent. EBay would not provide the total number of buyers and sellers.
"With all the turmoil in the markets, this is seen as a way to diversify," said Anthony Delvecchio, eBay's vice president of business management and strategy for eBay's North America business.