Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems: What you need to know about buying and selling Gold and other precious items
(Excerpts from Tradio)


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[audio:|titles=What you need to know about buying and selling Gold and other precious items]

Steve Duke:         
With gold and silver prices the highest they have ever been, they are just ridiculous. If you have any kind of scrap gold or silver stuff lying around, believe me, this is the time to bring it into Westchester Gold and Diamonds. We will turn it into cash and you will walk out with a lot more money than you ever thought you had lying around.

Conversely, I was at the shop at about 9 o’clock last night and going through stuff that we buy. I looked around at all the gold and silver items that we have and we buy, and realized that it is really a shame what is going on right now.

On every corner there is somebody advertising to buy gold and silver. These are people who have no background at all other than the fact that they say, “I’m going to buy some acid. I’m going to buy a scale. I’m going to buy a magnet so I can test things and know if they are gold or silver. I’m going to buy this stuff and ship it out as quick as I get it and cash in on this whole thing that is going on right now.”

Having been in this business for 37 years, I’ve handled a lot of fantastic items. I guess I have been fortunate rather than being somebody who just buys and sells scrap. I have acquired an eye for finer pieces. We have dealt in a lot of extremely high end pieces, unusual stuff.

People still don’t realize that when they walk in the door that they have an antique piece of jewelry or an antique object that could be made out of gold or silver. They have no idea what it is worth. They could care less but they heard that gold and silver are high and they are just going to sell that for the weight of whatever they have.

A lot of times, the items that you have really are only worth the gold or silver value. There are certain makers that bring premiums:  Tiffany, Cartier, Lalique, Webb, and a lot of these were designer pieces. They made all kinds of really bizarre weird stuff.

The other day I bought a Cartier eye liner pencil. It is made out of gold. It has a little twist mechanism on it, and they would actually put eye liner inside of this tube and turn it. You would do your eyebrows with it.

It is made by Cartier and it is really a cool piece, but you look at it and it had $800 worth of gold in it. I said to myself, “I have had Cartier pieces that I have sold for $15,000, $20,000, $30,000, but I have never really had anybody walk in and say, ‘Hey, do you have a gold eyeliner pencil made by Cartier?’”

You look at it and say, “Sorry, but this one is going to go in the melting pot. Unfortunately, it is going to go in.”

Now, had that been all hand engraved and had gemstones in it, then it is going to be something people collect. People collect these things. I happen to have at the house what we call tray tables. They are tables with a glass tray over the top of them and you can actually put little things for display in them.

There are people who collect different companies, different manufacturers, different items made by those people. They will actually put those on exhibit in their home. Lots of people will come in and say, “Why the heck do you have that kind of stuff lying around? What good is that?”

Well, they are not collectors. They don’t appreciate what they are looking at. A lot of times I have people come in my house and they will say, “Look at all those vases you have. How come you have all that stuff lying around?”

C. C. Brooks:
That is the same thing they say to hoarders, Steve.


I understand that, but some of the vases are actually ‘vases’ because they were more expensive. Collecting is not for everybody.

C. C.:
That’s true.

Like I have talked about and said before, you can collect anything. There are people who collect Star Wars stuff. There are people who collect military stuff. There are people who collect fountain pens. There are people who collect glass vases and things like that.

Well, you know what? At the end of the day it boils down to this:  If you look at it and you pick it up and you touch it, you handle it, you fondle it, and it makes you smile, then by all means, collect that item. But with the gold and silver prices this high, it is difficult to find items that have the collector value as opposed to just the metal value.

It used to be that people had sets of sterling silver and they would bring in a silver spoon. The silver spoon was probably worth six bucks. You had silver content and if it fell down the garbage disposal and got all chewed up, it was still worth six bucks.

Or you would bring it in and it was a pattern that really wasn’t a particularly desirable pattern, it wasn’t something that had resale value to it, and it is still worth six bucks.

Now we find that you bring that same spoon in, that spoon could be worth $20 to $30, and it still doesn’t have any collector value. So, metal content is way above the collector value.

Two weeks ago I bought a set of sterling flatware. It is the most magnificent set I have ever bought in 37 years. I paid $22,000 for this set. It was all handcrafted. It was fantastic and a huge set. It was in a custom made box and it was unbelievable.

I bought it and after I bought it, I said, “I don’t know what I’m thinking. I paid way, way over the silver price for this thing, but it was just unbelievable.” And then, all of a sudden, silver went on a big spurt, and I can turn around and I can smash that set up, and sell it to a refiner for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000.

To me, if I laid out $22,000, it was a retail piece that I would be happy to get $25,000 for. It was between $23,000 and $25,000 was what I was going to sell that set for. Now all of a sudden I have a $3,000 profit in it by crushing it up, beating it up with a hammer, and shipping it out. And I just can’t do it.

People look at me and say, “What are you, an idiot? You made 10%, 12%, almost 15% on your money in two weeks. Why wouldn’t you take that profit?”

I guess it is because it goes back to the fact that I am a collector. I have handled fantastic stuff over the years. Thank goodness I was able to acquire a lot of the stuff I have acquired over the years, but I can’t bring myself to be the one that destroys a set like that. It will never be again. It took some artisan probably months and months to do all this stuff by hand.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people out there that don’t think the same way as I do. They bought it as cheap as they could. Now silver is up; they sell it as high as they can for the scrap value. Generations coming up will never see a piece like that again.

If you have any kind of antique items, before you just sell those for the gold or the silver content, bring it somewhere that is going to appreciate what you have. My girls are always happy to wait on customers. They will sort your stuff. They will give you prices on your gold.

They know if there is an item that is something really unusual. They will come and get me. They will say, “We are going to give you a price on your scrap gold, but let us get the owner because he deals in unusual items, and I am sure that he will give you a premium on this.”

Lots of times, we will have people who have offered very similar prices to what we have offered for, but then you get to the antique piece and I am offering three or four or five times the gold or silver content value of it, and I wind up buying the whole thing because the people realize that a lot of the stuff they gave away for nothing to somebody else, they should have brought it over here.

I had a woman come in the other day from Rotunda who had some stuff that she had sold a lot of it to another dealer for pennies on the dollar. Her friend had sold me stuff last month, and she said, “You need to come and take it to Westchester Gold.”

She came in and the prices I offered her for some of her flatware pieces were two and three times what she had been offered, because everybody else was buying it for scrap, and I was buying it as a resalable item.

Was it going to be resalable for me? I don’t know. I didn’t care. It was something I knew I wasn’t going to crush up. It wasn’t going to be destroyed. Again, somewhere down the line, those generations of people coming up, there are going to be people out there who still appreciate that stuff. I wasn’t going to be the one that destroyed that piece of history or of art.

All I can say to you is that before you get rid of your stuff just for the scrap value, please stop by Westchester Gold and Diamonds. Let us take a look at it. You can always sell it for scrap. You can only sell it at a premium one time, and I would be more than happy to be the person who gave you the premium on that item.

Please stop by and see us. I enjoy this stuff. I look at it. People will come in with pocket watches. Right now, if you have gold pocket watches, you may not realize it, but for these medium size watches there is anywhere between $150 to $300 worth of gold in that watch.

Unfortunately, those open face watches might not have any real collector value above the gold price. But I have had stuff come in that they are multicolor gold. They are in fantastic condition. And regardless of the fact that it may have a thousand dollars worth of gold in it, I don’t mind $1,300 to $1,500 for a piece like that.

It goes in my own collection. Again, it gets passed down to the next generations or sold to people who are going to appreciate it.

C. C.:
Speaking of watches, don’t you do watch repair?

We do all kinds of stuff like that. We have people who come in and they have inherited watches from a father or grandparent. They come in and say, “I know this is gold, but I don’t really want to sell it for the gold value. You can give me a price for that, but what would it cost to get it fixed up?”

I say to them, “Forget about the gold value. This is a fantastic watch you have here. It is what we call a repeater. It does all kinds of special things. It chimes when you push little buttons on it and things. It is worth four or five times the gold content, but it is not working.”

Some of the watches like that are extremely expensive to fix. Some of them are $1,500, $2,000, $3,000 to fix. People say, “Well, is it worth fixing?”

I’ll say, “It is a fantastic watch and after you spend $3,000, what is the watch worth? It is probably worth $3,500 to $4,000.”

Is it worth your while to put that kind of money into it? And it really doesn’t increase your investment, but if it belonged to so-and-so and it was a special watch, then it is probably worth doing that.

Again, we have talked about province, who the watch belonged to. Do we have documents to authenticate who that watch belonged to? If it happened to be a famous person or a semi-famous person, whether it was an entertainer or sports person, something on that order, a politician, then yes, it is worth putting that kind of money into it.

I happen to have a large Masonic collection of gold Masonic pins and lockets. I bought one that actually belonged to George Patton’s father who was a Mason. It wasn’t in great shape and it was going to be expensive to turn around and put it back together again, but with the documentation that I have with it, it is worthwhile.

Now, is somebody going to collect George Patton’s father’s stuff? Probably not, but because it is related to a well known figure, an historical figure, then it is going to have value to it. The fact that it was a Masonic piece also adds a little bit of value to it.

So, yes, it was worthwhile to do the repair on it.

C. C.:
Also, if it is a piece that has been passed down through the family, from generation to generation, that is another good reason to restore it and keep the tradition going.

A lot of people have the sensitive part of them that says, “This has been in our family for centuries. I am not going to be the one who scraps the thing.”

C. C.:
Those watches can last that long.

Yes, they are mechanical. A lot of pieces can be repaired. Sometimes they have to be handmade, which gets to be expensive. A lot of times people will bring in watches to me and they might be gold or they might not be gold, but I will buy them for the parts because stuff from the twenties and thirties, I can’t order those pieces anymore.

You can’t find them, so we scavenge pieces out of them. Even if you have pieces that aren’t working, a lot of times you can bring that in with a watch you want repaired and we are able to scavenge pieces out of your own watch to fix something like that.

I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold and Diamonds. We have been rambling a little bit today about why it is really sad to see so many fantastic antique pieces destroyed because of their gold or silver platinum value. If you have items like that, please give us a shot, bring them by and let us take a look at them for you. We would love to.

Stop by and see us. We are in the Baer Plaza behind ABC Liquors. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is located at 4200F Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.
Call (941) 625-0666.

Westchester Gold and Diamonds provides services including custom jewelry design, repairs, appraisals and other jewelry and antiques related services. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and by appointment at your home or bank.