The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 4, 2013

Gold shops await rule on fines, licensing

By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS — Jewelry, coin and “we buy gold” shops are awaiting the outcome of litigation that could affect regulation of their industry. Worries about fines and restrictions already have hurt some stores’ bottom lines.

Laws governing precious-metals dealers have been around for three decades. They require licensing and include rules meant to control unethical practices such as receiving stolen goods and lowball pricing by transient dealers.

But enforcement was lax, and few dealers complied with or even knew about the laws, said Ed Karn, owner of Allen’s Coin Shop in Westerville, who has been involved in the family business since 1981.

Since 2011, 134 administrative enforcement cases have been opened against unlicensed dealers. That compares with 64 cases between 2008 and 2010, according to Ohio Department of Commerce records.

The number of licensed dealers also increased sharply in that period, from 41 in June 2009 to 236 in January 2012.

Fines sometimes exceeded $100,000.

The shops responded by hiring attorneys and lowering their profiles by halting advertising and taking “we buy gold” signs from their windows. As a result, they lost business during a period when precious-metals prices were soaring.

Today, 122 Ohio businesses hold precious-metals licenses - voluntarily, according to the Department of Commerce. Precious-metals dealers created a trade association to lobby lawmakers for better laws.

And a bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives to extend the time — from five days to 15 — that dealers must hold onto items before selling or altering them; the goal is to ease the recovery of stolen items.

Tomaso said he’ll continue to keep an eye out for criminals. But he also needs to make a living.