January 4th, 2011

Traveling Buyer’s Pledge Not Kept

Without any further introduction or commentary on my part, the following article is an edited reprint of a story that originally ran in aTexas paper. This version comes from the Brattleboro Reformer of Brattleboro, Vermont. The information is valuable and warrants repeating.

By JERRY JORDAN, The Examiner
Tuesday January 4, 2011

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Texas newspaper The Examiner, last year. We are running an edited version of the piece since the Treasure Hunters Roadshow will be at the Quality Inn today through Jan. 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

BEAUMONT, Texas — With full-page ads in newspapers across the country, coupled with live promotions on local radio stations promising to pay “top dollar” for unwanted gold and silver, an Illinois-based company has returned to Beaumont but is paying only a small fraction of the actual value of precious metals and other items, a month-long investigation by The Examiner has found.

The newspaper began looking into Treasure Hunters Roadshow (THR), also known as Ohio Valley Gold and Silver Refinery, on Dec. 9, 2009, after it set up shop in a hotel in town. Using three newspaper employees and with help from Universal Coin & Bullion’s Mike Fuljenz, one of the leading numismatists in the country, the newspaper took thousands of dollars worth of collectible gold and silver coins to four THR events in two states.

The findings revealed that the money offered was nearly a third of the actual value of the items being presented for sale. In one situation, where $1,550 in coins was offered for sale on the same day at two separate THR events 40 miles apart, the second buyer from THR offered less than half of what the first buyer did, and the first offer was still 60 percent lower than the coins’ actual market value.

During THR’s first visit to town, the newspaper brought in 2.35 ounces of gold bullion in the form of Double Eagle gold coins. At the time, the spot price of gold was about $1,138 per ounce. The floor manager offered 8 percent below spot gold prices or $2,466.71. The newspaper also brought in a 14k gold 22-inch rope chain that weighed 22 grams, valued at $418 and a 1923 Gorham 12-inch round sterling silver platter that weighed 505 grams, worth $283.

A THR buyer offered $42.30 for the gold chain and $71.71 for the sterling silver platter.

Later that same day, another employee from The Examiner visited the THR event and asked if the company was interested in buying six gold and silver collectable coins, valued at $4,921. Included in the cache of coins were a 1937 Buffalo Nickel NGC-graded MS66 condition ($50); an NGC-graded MS69 Silver Eagle coin, ($27); a 1902-O PCGS-graded MS64 silver dollar ($50); a 1899-O PCGS-graded MS64 Silver dollar coin ($50); a 1928 Indian Head $2.5 gold coin in PCGS-graded MS64 condition ($1,300); and a 1903 MS64 $20 gold Liberty coin in PCGS-graded MS64 condition ($3,450).

After about 30 minutes, The Examiner’s employee was offered $1,400 for all six coins — 72 percent less than their actual value.

“They aren’t even offering the scrap value for some of these coins,” Fuljenz, whose company does more than $56 million a year in gold and silver transactions, said. “They were way below what the melt value was.”

Later that week, Fuljenz brought in dozens of coins including proof sets from 1974 through 1990, a 1984 Olympics Prestige six-coin silver set and an 1887 Prestige 6-coin silver set — all of which THR refused to buy.

However, they did buy a 1925 silver dollar valued at $16 for $9; two sets of two-coin silver proof U.S. Constitution coins valued at $560 for $490; a 1983 $10 gold Canadian Maple Leaf coin valued at $280 for $275 and a 1908-D $5 Indian Head gold coin in PCGS-graded MS63 condition valued at $1,800 for $450.

“They have to be fairly close on the bullion prices because that is easy to check out, but when they look up these collector coins, which are worth a lot more than their actual gold value, they are offering people pennies on the dollar,” said Fuljenz. “That package of coins was valued at about $2,656 and they wrote me a check for $1,224.”

Photos courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries.

Fuljenz, who taught courses for 18 years on how to grade coins, said, “I have not seen competence in their appraisals of the coins that I brought in. If you are going to have your coins appraised, go to someone who knows what they are doing. These people are not specialists or experts in this field.

Fuljenz said prospective precious metal sellers should ask for a list of the company’s awards and memberships.

“Does it make you feel better when you walk into a doctor’s office or a lawyer’s office and you see that they are board certified?” he said, adding people should get a second opinion prior to selling.

The Examiner conducted similar investigations in Marshall, Texas, Shreveport, La., and again, in Beaumont, each time with similar results. At a local pawn shop, it was offered three times what THR was giving as its best deal.

“I hold back about 20 percent because I have to make a profit,” said Carl Heartfield, owner of Heartfield’s Fine Jewelry in Beaumont. “I have been here for 30 years and I would tell people that they need to sell stuff locally. You have to shop it. You can’t just go run to a hotel. We are here to make money, but we are not here to take advantage of people.”

Matthew Enright, THR’s vice president of media relations, said it was great that the newspaper was able to get three different prices from three different events using the same coins at each event.

“Everything varies upon markets so it depends on the day of the week,” Enright said. “It depends on who you are talking to and who has more knowledge and who doesn’t. So, things are going to be different. Each person is going to be different so that is great news. That just goes to show you that we don’t buy the same way every single time we go to a town.”

Even Enright said that people should shop around, but he believed his organization had the resources and the ability to “pay more than anybody else in the country.”

Coin World Magazine editor Beth Deisher said she encourages people to use every possible resource to find out how much their items are worth.

“There is plenty of information for consumers to find out what the daily spot price of gold and silver is that can be found on the Internet at 20-minute intervals,” Deisher said. “Typically people like this will ask, ‘Well, what do you want for it?’ And if you don’t have a clue, then you are probably going to get taken.”

Jerry Jordan is the managing editor of The Examiner.

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