Taking Stock- Legitimacy of gold traders

   Dear Mr. Berko: When I was a teenager, I used to collect thin gold ankle and neck chains. I'm now 28 and have 66 individual pieces, with no interest in owning them anymore. And since gold is now worth more than $1,200 an ounce, I'd like to sell them and use the money to purchase something I really like. My work often takes me to Florida, where I see full-page ads in papers offering to purchase gold jewelry. And it appears that lots of folks avail themselves of their services to sell their gold items. Do these people provide better prices because they are so much bigger than the small storefront jewelers? How would you recommend that I attempt to sell my property? I won't put an ad in the paper because I never know who will knock at my door. I would appreciate your reply.
—R.E., Wilmington, Del.

  Dear R.E.: Don't get suckered by those full-page newspaper advertisements that proclaim in BIG, BOLD headlines the U.S. gold mint is in town for three days to purchase your gold jewelry and coins. These people are carpetbaggers who spend a few days in each town, skinning most folks, especially senior citizens, from their precious valuables. They are gypsies, swindlers and grifters. And Florida is the fertile swindling ground where the mooks are plentiful and ripe for plucking.
   These swindlers pay big bucks for several days of full-page newspaper adverts, plus storefront rental space, plus employee costs and travel expenses so they must give you significantly less for your gold and heirlooms than a local establishment. Unfortunately, most jewelers and coin dealers in most cities have a problem with integrity these days. Thanks to the banks and Wall Street, honesty seems to be a lost commodity.
   In June 2008, a friend and I decided to test the waters in Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg. We had five gold neck chains, five gold bracelets and five large gold charms appraised by a knowledgeable professional at $4,320, which was just the gold value. But because they were lovely old pieces with exquisite artwork, this friend would readily buy them from us for $7,100.
   So we removed our ties, exchanged our white dress shirts for T-shirts and prospected three jeweler/gold dealers in each city. Our highest bid was $3,435 from a jeweler in Clearwater, and the lowest offer was $1,961 from a jeweler/coin dealer in Tampa. Several establishments told us that some of the pieces were gold filled; several told us that the bracelets were brass with a gold plate; and one jeweler wanted to take the pieces to a rear room and "test for gold purity"! No way, Jose -- we wouldn't give that knave a chance to play the old "switcheroo" game on us. It was a fun, adventurous afternoon that June and we had lots of laughs comparing the shopkeepers and their bids.
   Now, Wilmington is a delightful city, and I suspect that the jewelers and gold dealers in your city are a better breed than the mountebanks in Florida, where the old "bamboozle" seems to be common practice. Still, I recommend that you take your gold treasures to three jewelers, get three bids and don't let any of those trinkets out of your sight. Heck, you might even have a lot of fun, too.
   Meanwhile, don't let any of those fellows sweet talk you into exchanging your treasures for a watch or a ring. Ask for cash because as most politicians seeking money for election campaigns will tell you: "Cash is king"! If you take a check and get audited, the new IRS can tax the proceeds, and you may find yourself in a very deep hole without a ladder.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 1416, Boca Raton, FL 33429 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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