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Modern gold rush in the Gold Country: Weighing the options to sell

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Gold’s bull run is on. And with the possibility of the gold-market bubble bursting on a price that is now hovering around $1,400 an ounce, hoarders are turning into sellers in Auburn. Call it a golden opportunity for people who may not know their spot price from their melt price – but recognize a potential opportunity to take part in a continuing run-up in one of the most precious of metals. But the road to possible riches also means a foray into the world of gold and silver trading, where pricing is based on several factors that go beyond supply and demand. Gold buyers the Journal talked to were unanimous in recommending that sellers check out several businesses for a price before deciding whether the time is right to unload that old ring from Aunt Beatrice or cash in on a pile of $20 gold pieces. Harvey Roper, of Downtown Auburn’s Roper’s Jewelers, said that he’s had people come in after checking up to five other stores. He’s found situations where out-of-town gold buyers have offered less than a half of what he would offer, Roper said. “Everyone should do their diligence,” Roper said. Owner of a business that has been buying gold for more than half a century, Roper said he wants customers coming in to sell their jewelry or gold to end up with a positive experience – and that includes fair pricing. It also means attempting to determine whether the seller really wants to go through with the deal. “I try to ask everybody if there might be someone in the family – even not born yet – who would appreciate what could be a piece of family history,” Roper said. “The stories surrounding grandpa’s signet ring could be priceless. Once it’s sold, they don’t get that back.” Stan Jennings, of Old Town Auburn’s The Gold Place, said he’d advise people in the mood to sell some of their gold hoard to go to at least three different stores for a price. “One may not even make an offer but another may need to restock their supply,” he said. “It’s supply and demand.” Chris Lowman, of Placerville Coin & Bullion, said that people may be dazzled by the high price of gold and silver. “But just because gold’s at a high right now doesn’t mean you’re getting the right value for it,” Lowman said. People should be on their guard, particularly when it comes to coins that might be sold for their silver or gold content but be worth much more to collectors as rare specimens, he said. Lowman said he’ll walk sellers through the market value of coins, using up-to-date publications to show how collectors will pay more for a valued quarter or 50-cent-piece than the value of its metal content. “And people should get a second opinion – or a third or fourth,” Lowman said. Matthew Enright, vice president of media relations for the Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery of Springfield, Ill. said that it makes sense to check with more than one pawn shop or gold dealer before making a decision to sell. “It’s a good start,” Enright said. “But you have to understand the prices being given are based on them making money too. It’s what people do every single day. It’s the business of buying precious metals.” Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery will set up temporary shop in Auburn Jan. 3 to Jan. 7 at The Ridge Gold Course for what it bills as its Ohio Valley Refinery & Roadshow. The event, which Enright said has no connection with PBS-TV’s “Antiques Roadshow,” will be giving free appraisals and making offers on antiques, collectibles, gold and silver. Enright said that the final decision – as it is when a customer walks into any business – is with the seller. “There’s not pressure to sell,” he said. “And they can always walk away.” Mike Okey, a veteran recreational gold panner who lives in Shingle Springs, said that it isn’t only the seller that has to be on guard for low-ball offers. “Now that times are harder, another issue is forged nuggets,” he said. Nuggets and other types of naturally occurring gold sell for more than jewelry because there is a market out there with collectors, he said. “People are cooking them up in their backyard and selling that as specimen gold at higher-than-spot prices,” Okey said. “A lot of that is going on.” Even jewelers sometimes aren’t aware of what they have, Okey said. One pulled out a box of gold nuggets and was willing to sell them for spot price at far less than what rare specimens would be valued at, he said. “I told him what he had and advised him that he should do a little more research,” Okey said. ---------------------------------------- Tips for selling gold - Go to a few places and let them assess your gold. Then ask them how much they’ll pay per gram. - 24-karat gold is worth the most and the price goes down from there as the karats do - Make sure that selling the gold by weight is the best option for the items you have. The safest bet is to sell gold jewelry that is broken or in an unmatched set - Be careful about selling antique pieces, pieces with gems embedded or pieces from a well-known designer - If you have pieces with gems or that are antiques and you’re unsure of the value, it’s best to go to an independent appraiser skilled in period jewelry to advise you on price - People with gold coins should also be wary of selling them by the gram. They may be worth more when sold as-is to a collector - Expect to receive less than the current top price for gold because dealers have to make a profit on the resale Source: American Society of Appraisers