The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 24, 2010

Gold, silver miners work Austinburg — again

By CARL E. FEATHER - Staff Writer - cfeather@starbeacon.com

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — Jamie Jarvis came to the Hampton Inn Wednesday morning to cash out of a relationship grown cold.

Necklaces, watches and other baubles from his former relationship were converted into spending money by Treasure Hunters Roadshow, a nationwide buyer of gold, silver and collectibles.

“I got rid of some old stuff and put a little cash in my pocket at the same time,” said Jarvis as he waited for the Treasure Hunters buyer to total his payoff.

Paula Hildebrand has a name for this kind of sale — “bad memory gold” — and uses it in her advertising. Hildebrand also is buying gold and silver at the Route 45/ Interstate 90 interchange this week. The Concord Township resident owns Better Gold Buyers and is doing business out of the America’s Best Value Inn now through Saturday. She said the warmer weather this week swayed her decision to set up in a hotel room, and although there is competition just down the street, it has not slowed her traffic. By noon, she had made six deals and expected the afternoon traffic to be equally brisk.

“They say competition breeds competition,” said Hildebrand. “I say there is room for everybody.”

Scott Hinton is managing the Treasure Hunter team that is visiting Ashtabula County this week. In the eight months that he has been with Treasure Hunters, he has been in 12 states, buying everything from swords to silver, guns to gold. He said his company plans to have up to 200 buying teams scouring the nation by the end of this year.

Treasure Hunters has connections to nearly a thousand collectibles dealers, and Hinton says the company is interested in buying old toys, electric trains, military memorabilia, dolls and other collectible items, not just precious metals. As of Wednesday morning, however, most of its business had been buying coins and jewelry.

A weak dollar and worldwide recession have driven up precious-metals prices to record highs; gold was around $1,080 an ounce Wednesday. Hinton said the company he works for also owns a metals refinery and has contracts to deliver a certain quantity of precious metals every week. Thus, the company must be aggressive in its purchasing and marketing. He has up to $200,000 to spend in five days here and will spend about a tenth of that to get buyers in the door and take care of them.

“We had a good show here, and we like to come back about every three months,” said Hinton, who doesn’t worry about exhausting the mine.

“The potential is always there,” says Hinton.

“We’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg,” says Hildebrand, who feels there’s a lot of gold and silver out there, waiting to be purchased. “So many people out there are just waiting to see what is going to happen.”

“If (the buyers) were not making money, they would not be here,” says Dave Klender, who owns North Coast Coins on Jefferson Road. “This area has been pretty well off in the past, and there is still a lot of money in the area.”

Sometimes, circumstances drive people to raid the jewelry box or safety deposit box.

“As more people get unemployed and need to put gas in their tank, they are starting to turn in their gold,” Hildebrand says.

Hinton says he frequently encounters that scenario in rural communities.

“You have people lose jobs, and they are just looking for ways to make ends meet,” he says. “We can come in and help supplement them by buying some of the things they have. That’s a good feeling when you see somebody get up with a check and they got tears in their eyes because they didn’t know how they were going to pay the gas or electric bill. And I’ve seen that this winter.”

Sometimes, people just grow tired of their jewelry, like a 62-year-old woman who walked out of the Hampton Inn with a $1,658 check from selling her gold jewelry.

“I only have one neck,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified. “When you are younger, you need a lot. You get to be a certain age, you don’t.”

Among the items she sold Wednesday was a 14-karat gold chain once worn by her pampered pug. She said she and her husband have no children to leave the items to, so it made sense to sell them now, while the demand for gold is high.

The price paid varies from day to day and is based upon the market. In general, Hinton will pay between four and five times face value for silver coins minted prior to 1965. Scarce dates and mint-condition coins fetch a better price.

Klender was paying eight times face on silver coins, reflective of his lower overhead and more conservative marketing.

“They are a little more glitzy,” he says of the itinerant buyers. “They advertise and I don’t advertise that much. They have a lot of money to throw around and those things attract people.”

Klender is a licensed precious-metals buyer, and he recommends that anyone selling precious metals first ask to see a person’s buyer’s license. Part of playing by the rules involves holding onto the purchased items for a specific period of time, just in case they turn out to be stolen. Klender says sellers should not expect to use that grace period in the case they experience seller’s remorse.

“If you sell something, it’s gone,” Klender says.

He does not feel the itinerant buyers hurt his business because he primarily deals with people selling coins for their collectible value. Still, Klender says sellers should keep in mind that all the marketing and expenses that go into putting on a show will affect the seller’s bottom line and the buyers are not doing this for their health.

“All of it is seller beware. They are in the business to make money at this,” Klender says.