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Roberts and Roberts: Don't Feed the Banks

Roberts & Roberts (RRBI) is a bullion brokerage based out of Florida that sells its precious metals for bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is the preferred currency of choice at RRBI, and its President Tim Frey doesn’t like feeding the banks. Through learning about the history of the central banking system and sound money, Frey steadily sold his stock portfolio and diversified into Gold. At Porcfest in 2012, Frey learned about Bitcoin from Bitcoin Not Bombs and MK Lords. He was soon convinced the virtual currency was an asset for the future.

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“Over the years, we have had customers want to use credit and debit cards to buy metals. It didn’t really make sense to me to take cards because in most cases, the credit card fees were larger than our margin on the sale of the products. All that money going to the banks and credit card companies didn’t make sense to me. We use the slogan: “We Don’t Feed the Banks”

bitcoin-vs.-goldBitcoin.com sat down with Tim Frey to discuss his precious metals business and his acceptance of Bitcoin. Frey gives some insight to the Roberts & Roberts history, why he doesn’t like the central banking cartel, and how precious metals and bitcoin can hedge against them.

Bitcoin.com: Can you tell readers a little about RRBI and how you got started?

Tim Frey: Roberts & Roberts was founded by Les Roberts in 1977. He was a John Birch Society Area Coordinator in the early 70’s. He travelled around the Southeast meeting with business owners, individuals. Selling silver to people became a sideline for him as he travelled around. In 1974 it became legal to own gold and he started working toward opening the firm. By 1977 he had saved up some money and borrowed the rest from a first cousin the other Mr. Roberts who was a medical doctor in Auburn, AL. Over the next decade or so, RRBI also started selling stocks, mutual funds and doing IRA accounts.

20140430040104726I started buying gold from Les in 2002. I had trading stocks for myself since the mid 90’s via America Online and eTrade. I thought it was cool that I could do this electronically, eliminating the need for a broker. I continued to internet trade, mostly tech stocks because that was the field I worked in. After the Dot Com and Tech Boom crashes it became apparent I needed to diversify my investments. Then came 9/11, the one asset that did particularly well that day was precious metals. My first purchases were made just as a diversification strategy. The more I spoke to Les, the more I learned about the nature of money and markets and decided to put a larger amount of my money in precious metals.

In 2006 Les mentioned he was trying to sell the business because he wanted to retire. He was 70 years old and his wife was also retiring so he was either going to sell it or close it. We talked for a bit and I decided to buy it and leave the wireless telecom business after nearly 30 years working in engineering and operations. I had no education in finance and zero professional experience in the industry. I studied and obtained my Series 7 broker certification in about 3 months and took over the company in January 2007. In 2008 I sold nearly all of my stocks and suggested to my clients they do the same. There were just too many indications that the market was about to crash. In 2009 we stopped doing any securities trading and focused solely on precious metals.

BC: How did you get into bitcoin?

TF: As a precious metals “Hard Currency” guy, I didn’t really bother learning much about Bitcoin. I trashed it at every opportunity – Ponzi scheme, pump and dump – no tangible value, nothing backing it and  yaddy yaddy. I bought my first Bitcoin from Roger Ver at PorcFest 2012. Roger had taped Casascius coins to business cards that was sold in a vending  machine, dubbed the Moneylith, On the last day, as we were unloading the machine, I traded about ten of his coins for about $60 worth of silver dime cards. I did it just as a lark. I started to soften my stance when Drew Phillips approached me with the idea that was really the early days of Bitcoin not Bombs. He offered me a sponsorship on their first T-shirt to promote Antiwar.com, Free Aid and the Free State Project as a fundraiser. My sponsorship, along with Roger Ver cover the costs of the panel participants to attend Bitcoin 2013 to discuss Bitcoin and non-profits. Since I liked all of those organizations it seemed like a great idea.

hoodiethehomelessDrew also kept encouraging me to start accepting Bitcoin and I setup my first merchant processing account in early 2013. I was still not  sold but it seemed like a decent payment system and another area to potentially market our services.

My skepticism was erased when MK Lords showed me an article she found about an organization right here in Pensacola, called Sean’s Outpost. They were feeding homeless people in my town with Bitcoin donated from all over the world. There is no way this idea could have happen using gold, silver or even dollars. I finally “got it”. and wrote the headline for the Freedom’s Phoenix article: “You Can’t Eat Bitcoin…Unless You’re Homeless”

“When someone pays in Bitcoin it’s immutable and as secure as cash. Unlike cash, I don’t have the exposure to possible robbery while holding at the office or transporting it to the bank.”

BC: Your website says “bitcoin preferred” to help facilitate those wanting to purchase this way. Can you explain why you prefer it?

TF: When someone pays in Bitcoin it’s immutable and as secure as cash. Unlike cash, I don’t have the exposure to possible robbery while holding at the office or transporting it to the bank. BitPay sends the full invoiced amount to my bank account a day or two later and costs it me nothing. My bank charges me to deposit cash so I actually save a tiny bit taking Bitcoin. With checks you have the possibility that the check ends up as non-sufficient funds and some checks get returned for other reasons (signature doesn’t match, amount is not clear, date is wrong, etc.) I also have to hold orders for checks for a week to ensure there is not an issue. Wire transfers are secure but there are high fees for the sender and fees for us which makes it impractical for smaller purchases.

kim-dotcom-bitcoin-gold-grexitWe don’t have enough Bitcoin business to allow us to keep the bitcoin we receive. Our business model is to not hold much in non-metal assets. We keep the amount of money in the bank at a minimum and replace metals as soon as they are purchased to lock in our small margin. Until our suppliers – like the US Mint – start taking Bitcoin, we will need to convert most of our Bitcoin to dollars.

BC: Can you tell me about your problems with the credit card companies?

TF: Over the years, we have had customers want to use credit and debit cards to buy metals. It didn’t really make sense to me to take cards because in most cases, the credit card fees were larger than our margin on the sale of the products. All that money going to the banks and credit card companies didn’t make sense to me. We even used the slogan “We Don’t Feed the Banks”

In 2014 we built a new ecommerce platform. It’s customary in the on-line precious metals business to take a credit card deposit for orders to ensure the buyer follows through, even when using checks and wires. At the advice of our developer we setup our credit card accounts and decided if someone really wanted to pay by credit card, we would mark the metals up on those purchases to try to recoup some of those costs. This complicated the pricing and checkout procedure but we managed.

In June, on my way back from PorcFest, my associate called me to report we had been hit by credit card fraud on a couple of large purchases. The credit card companies weren’t any help and in fact attempted to charge us hundreds of dollars to take the money back from us. It was certainly a lesson on the price when you violate your principles.  So we’re back on the path – We Don’t Feed the Banks.

BC: How have bitcoin sales been overall since you first started accepting the cryptocurrency?

TF: We still do the majority of our business in US Dollars but it’s slowly growing. We are doing more outreach to the Bitcoin community and seeking ways to promote the use of Bitcoin. We sponsored the Metalith at Porcfest 2015, the first Bitcoin and US Dollar vending machine and I was heavily involved in the creative aspects of it.

I look at our acceptance – no – preference for Bitcoin as more a philosophical than a practical or monetary endeavor.

BC: As a bullion brokerage and one who accepts Bitcoin, do you believe people should be diversified as far as hedging is concerned?

TF: Diversification is the only “safe” strategy. No asset goes in only one direction. I hold some of my money in Bitcoin and I don’t think anyone should hold only Bitcoin or gold or silver.

BC: What do you say to “Gold Bugs” who just won’t accept Bitcoin?

TF: I understand where they are coming from. It took seeing the enormous potential to transform society through worldwide commerce, helping the unbanked, micropayments, microloans, simplified escrows, smart contracts and tons more to convince me. Most “Gold Bugs” are too caught up in gold’s “long, rich history” to be able to look to the future and see that a better monetary system is possible.  I’ve always been a techie at heart and I’m always looking forward. We still try. I attend the local meetup group and I talk to clients that own their own businesses. I keep plenty of Bitcoin not Bombs Quick Start Guides, and BitPay’s promotional flyers around.

BC: On your website it’s says “We don’t feed the Banks”. Can you explain this?

TF: As I studied the history of banking and finance seems always seems to come up as either instigating or supporting most of human conflict. If war is the health of the state then banking is it’s sustenance. By using credit cards, and even participating in the equities markets you enrich the banks and enable them to continue.

fdrorderTo be clear, I’m not talking about your local bank or credit union – they provide valuable services. I’m talking about large banks and institutions that can trace their roots back to the Morgan House, the Rothschilds and even the Medici family of the 13th and 14th century.

“Diversification is the only “safe” strategy. No asset goes in only one direction. I hold some of my money in Bitcoin and I don’t think anyone should hold only Bitcoin or gold or silver.”

BC: You guys also have a blog on the website discussing financial freedom, bitcoin and the metal markets. What gave you the idea to add this educational reading section to your website?

TF: We try to use the blog to inform our visitors with information that is typically a unique perspective on some of the myths and misinformation that circulates in the industry. The article “Gold Confiscation: Myths and Facts” is intended to quell the worry that another confiscation of gold looms and everyone should buy collectible coins that carry a high markup. Most people are not going to do the work to understand what fair market value might be. The article “You’re Not Allowed to Duck: Transaction Reporting Requirements” might keep you from inadvertently triggering scrutiny from the government that is easy to avoid. We even went out of our way to defend Bitcoin from our gold slinging brethren in “On Bitcoin and Gold Misconceptions”.

We want to avoid the Rah-Rah buy gold and get rich information you see on many other precious metals sites and provide balance information and give unique perspectives.

RRBI is showing other gold & silver dealers the way as a precious metals brokerage who prefers Bitcoin. By giving insight and example to the notion ” Don’t Feed The Banks”. With the power to buy PM’s with Bitcoin, diversification never felt so good.

Do you diversify with Precious Metals and Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments below.


Images Courtesy of RRBI, Shutterstock and Redmemes

Tags in this story
Bitcoin, Bitcoin and Gold, bitcoin not bombs, diversification strategies, gold, Porcfest, Precious Metals, Roberts and Roberts, RRBI, Seans Outpost
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Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open source code, and decentralized applications. Redman has written thousands of articles for news.Bitcoin.com about the disruptive protocols emerging today.