TAMPA - The ads are everywhere. They say now is the time to sell your gold, and guarantee to pay you more than the others. But can all these businesses really live up to their claims?
We borrowed 6 small pieces of gold jewelry from several co-workers interested in selling. Each of the businesses evaluated the pieces based on melting the gold for scrap only. They did not include any gems or stones in the value of the items.
Producer Molly Baker gave us a gold necklace she hoped could earn her some good money. The necklace also included a cross and a small charm. We asked her how much she hoped the three items together would be worth.
“I know how much I paid for it originally, so I’m guessing just a fraction of that. Probably a couple hundred dollars,” Baker said.
Molly was in for some disappointment. The first thing you should realize when selling gold is that even the best offers are significantly less than what you paid for it.
“We are talking about scrap value, now. We’re liquidating. We’re going to go to the refiner and melt it back into bars of gold,” said Susie Crump, a gemologist and master valuer.
Crump teaches gemology and appraisal for USF’s continuing education program. Before we started shopping around, she looked the jewelry over. She tested the karats, weighed each piece, and calculated the likely scrap value we would be offered based on the day’s gold prices.
She estimated all 6 pieces of jewelry together would be worth $180 in scrap value.
Armed with our expert knowledge, we first visited three local jewelers. All of them offered us near or above our expert’s estimate. At Gold and Diamond Source at 3800 Ulmerton Rd. in Clearwater, they offered us $185 for all 6 pieces. At International Diamond Center at 3696 Ulmerton Rd. in Clearwater, the offer was $184. We also visited a smaller jeweler, Associated Watch & Jewelry Buyers at 3418 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. They offered us $175.
Our findings matched up with a suggestion made by Susie Crump. “I would first go to my family jeweler if I had one, someone I had trusted for years,” Crump said.
Our next stop was Capital Pawn & Financial at 9501 N. Nebraska in Tampa, which advertises “Top Dollar For Gold”. We informed an employee that we brought in our gold to sell it for scrap. They offered us $127, nearly $60 less than our best offer.
We next took the same 6 pieces of gold to USA Gold Buyers. You may not have heard of the company, but you’ve likely seen the huge signs advertising “We Buy Gold” on Dale Mabry. They often have employees advertise on the side of the street by dancing and holding up signs.
After employees at USA Gold Buyers weighed and tested our gold, they told us it was only worth $114. As with every location we had visited, we declined the offer. An employee immediately called her boss, then told us they could offer us a one-day employee discount and a one-day family discount. The new offer was $182. It’s clear that at some places, haggling pays off.
But our biggest surprise came at a hotel in Port Richey. Treasure Hunters Roadshow was holding a week-long gold-buying event there. Treasure Hunters Roadshow is a traveling group which claims on their website to be in touch with rich, gold collectors who pay top dollar for old gold jewelry.
“We’re kind of a broker, or conduit, or clearinghouse between them and you,” a pitchman says on the Roadshow website.
We had to wait a full two hours on the hotel lobby just to see an appraiser. And when we finally got in, they offered us the lowest price yet: $45 total for all 6 pieces of jewelry. Remember, the scrap value was four times that price, according to our expert.
Again, when we turned down the offer, another employee came over and upped the price to $126. That was still far below most other offers.
Treasure Hunters Roadshow wouldn’t comment on the price we were offered. However, VP of Media Matthew Enright wrote in a statement, “Sometimes we are able to pay the most out of anyone in area and sometimes not.” You can read the full text of the statement from Treasure Hunters Roadshow below.
And remember Molly’s gold necklace with the charms? The worst offer was $12 (Treasure Hunters Roadshow), but she’s considering selling it for the best offer, $89 (Gold and Diamond Source).
“That’s still money at the end of the day, and if you’re not wearing it, it’s just going to sit in a box,” Baker said.
Susie Crump suggests visiting three places to compare prices. As our investigation showed, prices can vary greatly. Before you walk in, you should also know what karat your jewelry is and the price of gold that day.
Crump also added that gold buying businesses are telling the truth about the high price of gold right now. She says it is a good time to sell, but the price of gold is also very volatile right now, and no one can predict where it might go next.
NEXT: A store-by-store price offer comparison, and complete statements from the gold-buying businesses.
Store-by-store price offer comparison
| || Susie Crump || Gold and Diamond Source || Associated Watch & Jewelry Buyers || Capital Pawn & Financial || USA Gold Buyers || Treasure Hunters Roadshow || Internat'l Diamond Center |
| Ring (wish bone) ||$29.18 ||$26 ||$23 ||$15 ||$16.92 ||$3.50 ||X |
| Ring (white pearl) ||$18.56 ||$18 ||$17 ||$12 ||$12.09 ||$2.50 ||X |
| Rope Braclet ||$50.51 ||$48 ||$52 ||$40 ||$32.42 ||$7 ||X |
| Necklace (without charms) ||X ||$42 ||$37 ||$30 ||$26.60 ||$7 ||X |
| Cross ||X ||$28 ||$35 ||$22 ||$18.78 ||$3 ||X |
| Sand Dollar Charm ||X ||$19 ||$11 ||$8 ||$8.10 ||$2.50 ||X |
| Necklace (with charms) ||$82.60 ||$89 ||$83 ||$600 ||$53.48 ||$12.50 ||X |
| Total (all 6 pieces) ||$180.25^ ||$185^^ ||$175 ||$127 ||$114.91** ||$45 # ||$184* |
^Our expert’s value for the necklace included both the cross and sand dollar charm.
^^Gold and Diamond Source’s total offer was $185. However, when we asked for individual prices for each item, they listed prices that only added up to $181.
**USA Gold Buyers increased the total price for all 6 pieces to $182 after we rejected their initial offer.
#Treasure Hunters Roadshow’s total offer was $45. However, when we asked for individual prices for each item, they listed prices that only added up to $25.50. After we rejected their initial offer, they increased the total price for all 6 pieces to $126.50
*International Diamond Center only gave a total price for all 6 pieces. They did not appraise the pieces individually.
NEXT: Complete statements/responses from the gold-buying businesses.
Entire responses to our investigation from gold purchasing businesses:
“We have been in business doing this for 30 years, we believe in karma and wouldn't want to risk our reputation trying to take advantage of someone. We do realize the position of some of the people coming in, some are just cleaning up- some are giving up treasured pc's even wedding rings to keep a roof over their heads. We instruct our staff to treat everyone fairly so we can be a place people can trust if they do decide to cash in their old jewelry or coins.”
Julie Weintraub, Gold and Diamond Source
“We are proud of the results of the WFTS investigation and very confident that we will always offer our customers more for their gold jewelry than other retailers. In fact, we have made that goal a centerpiece of our business. We employ expert buyers with years of experience who recognize the true market value of gold pieces. And, we have worldwide buying partners who are continuously willing to pay top dollar for gold, jewelry and coins.”
Laura Verona, Marketing Specialist, International Diamond Center
“At Associated Watch and Jewelry Buyers we strive to treat our customers with dignity and respect and most importantly to treat them fairly. The foundation of the jewelry business is trust and trust needs to be earned. This is a mission we take seriously and we hope that every interaction with a customer gives them confidence in our business. The owners of Associated Watch and Jewelry Buyers live in Tampa and are involved with the community. They have owned businesses in Tampa for a combined total of 50 years. They believe in supporting local businesses and being involved in the community they love. It is the importance of gaining trust and the importance of being a part of a community that drive us to treat our customers with the respect they deserve.”
Marissa Giatas, Associated Watch and Jewelry Buyers
"There are many factors we use to determine the value of items presented to us. Most importantly, what am I going to do with the item once I purchase it. with the present down economy and high unemployment, the honest truth is that people just aren't buying jewelry as they once were. A great majority of items that we might have once tried to sell, unfortunately end up being scrapped. Any additional weight due to gems or CZ's are of little or no value if the aren't going to be remounted in a different setting. Secondly, in the event we intend to sell the purchased item, We carefully try to anticipate what we will be pricing it once the holding period has lapsed. Our policy is to sell all appraised items for at least 50% off of the appraised value some selling for as much as 75% off of appraised value. Mr. Cacciatore and I have discussed in length how to offer our customers the most for their jewelry while still assuring that we can resell it to its future owner at the very best possible price. We have come to the conclusion that even when times are tough, people will still be getting married, having birthdays, and celebrating anniversaries. The difference is that they have far less money to purchase that ring, bracelet or heart charm. We are always evaluating how we can best help our neighbors and balance what we pay for items with how low we then can price them for.”
Stuart Stoops, Director of Operations, Capital Pawn & Financial Services
"Unfortunately I can not speak exactly for this specific transaction because I don't know how much carat weight these pieces were or any other information besides being told that the items price someone would received would be $180.85 so it is very difficult to respond when you don't know the source or the information and the validity of the information they are giving. When it comes to selling your precious metals in general it is always recommended to do your research when you go to sell. You are never going to get 180.85 offer from several different companies as you will find in this story. Our organization makes an offer on the items that you have to sell and if you decide to sell you are paid on the spot. There is never any pressure to sell as well as any obligation. Sometimes we are able to pay the most out of anyone in the area and sometimes not. I have included a story where we were by far the highest in another community. If you understand the value of your items then you will go in with a better idea of what you want to get for them.”
Matthew Enright, Vice-President of Media, Treasure Hunters Roadshow
USA Gold Buyers did not respond to repeated messages asking for comment.
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