Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems: What’s it Worth?
(Excerpts from Tradio)


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[audio:|titles=What’s it Worth?]

Steve Duke:
We talk about all kinds of stuff and at Westchester Gold & Diamonds we buy a little bit of everything. We buy jewelry, we buy antiques, we buy collectables and the one phrase that comes to my mind when people come walking in that door is what’s it worth? I mean that’s just a universal question. What’s it worth? That’s why I’m here.

After they’ve said that to me, I have to look at their item and I have to say to them a couple of different things. We have to sort of qualify that. We do have a pawn shop as well as a jewelry store at Westchester Gold and I have to say to them, number one, is it something that you wanted to sell or is it something you wanted to pawn or to borrow money on. They’ll give me an answer on that or they’ll say I just want to get it appraised.

Well, now I say to them I have to qualify them again. Now, you want an appraisal on it. Do you want a written appraisal, a verbal appraisal? Do you want to know what we would pay for that item? Is this for a bankruptcy appraisal or is for an estate appraisal or is for an insurance appraisal? Now they’re getting flustered. They’re going I just want to know what it’s worth!

Why are there so many different types of appraisals?

Well, because it goes along with the question what’s it worth, you know? Most people when they say to me “What’s this worth?” in their mind they’re interested in selling that particular item. Now, I have to arrive at a value for that particular item, so now your mind kicks into another gear and it says okay, let’s look at this particular item that the people have. Is it an antique? Is it a piece of jewelry? Is it something that’s gold? Is it’s something that’s silver? Is it something made of platinum? Is it a precious metal? Is it a non-precious metal? And is there a market for it?

We talk about all kinds of collectables and right now with the way the market is it’s very difficult for me to sit there and say to people this is something that we can use because the markets change so dramatically. I always love it when people come to me and they’ll say “Well, before you give me a price, I’ve looked this up and I know what it’s worth.” I say to them well…

What are you here for?

Where did you look it up? “Well, I looked it up in a book and I know what it’s worth.” I’ll say well, then why did you bring it here? “Well, we want to see what you think it’s worth.” Oh, okay.

The test.

Okay, so it’s a little cat and mouse game. So what’s it worth? A lot of times I’ll say to them well, how old was that book that you looked it up in? “Well, you know, I didn’t get a brand new book. I’ve got one from 2005. Or I’ve got one from 1998.” You go oh, okay. What is the item that you have? “Well, I’ve got a cookie jar.” And I go okay, a cookie jar. Let’s look at it. They’ve looked it up in their book.

Let’s digress a minute. The prices you see in these collector books, the way that these authors get these prices, number one, they will run around and they’ll canvas different antique shops and get a price that people seem to be asking for this. They’ll get the auction results from lots of different auction houses around the country and they’ll sort of get a mean price on what that particular item has brought during that timeframe.

Now, we’ve talked about antiques and collectables being cyclical. They go in cycles, so at some point in time that cycle might be really hot and then no longer. It’s phased out and people have moved on. It’s like Beanie Babies. I told a lot of people years and years ago on the show don’t put your money in Beanie Babies. I had people call me up on the phone at the shop and say “What the heck do you know? I’ve got thousands of dollars in Beanie Babies and I know that I’m going to make money on these.” I said okay.

I’ve talked about collectables and as long as you look at that thing and you hold it and caress it and touch it and it makes you happy, it makes you smile, then by all means be a collector, but if you believe that it’s going to make you money then I would say at this point in time, this juncture, you might want to sell those Beanie Babies, take your money and run because it’s an artificial market and it’s going to crash.

Low and behold, the $500 and $1,000 Beanie Babies that were out there at that particular time you can still get big money for them, $10-$15 bucks a piece for them, so. It’s an artificial market and it’s not happening. When people say I’ve looked it up in these books, again, you don’t know what was going on at that particular time.

Back in the late 1900s, early 1998, right around that timeframe, Andy Warhol had sold his cookie jar collection and it brought fantastic prices. I had cookie jars that I was asking $300 for that brought $1,500 and $2,000 at auction. Now, was my cookie jar worth $2,000 anymore? No, because what’s it worth has a lot to do with its province, who owned it, to be able to prove who owned it and people bought these jars not particularly because they were that rare, but because Andy Warhol had owned them. So the province goes along with that as far as ‘what’s it worth’.

People come in with other stuff. They may come in with a pocket watch and it’s a fairly nice pocket watch. By itself it’s a $400-$500 pocket watch, but along with that pocket watch they have the province. This watch was carried by my uncle who was so and so during the Gold Rush in California and he became the mayor of such and such town in California. These are his initials on it. It adds more province to the watch. It adds a little bit of history to the watch. It makes it more collectable for people who happen to collect Gold Rush items.

So these are all things that are entailed when I look at something to say ‘what’s it worth’. If people have province on a particular item it’s going to help it if it belonged to somebody who was important.

Now, I mentioned three different types of appraisals that we do. We do bankruptcy, insurance and estate appraisals. For bankruptcy – and we have a lot of attorneys send their clients to us – when you come in they want to know what it would cost to replace that particular item. Now, generally, if somebody brought it in it’s a piece of jewelry that they’ve owned for a long period of time and it’s no longer new. So we’re no looking for a brand new replacement value on that. We’re looking to replace it with a similar item. So this appraisal, this value is going to be considerably less than if it was a brand new piece of jewelry because we’re replacing like with like.

Now, if someone comes in and they’ve inherited an estate and they have jewelry pieces and they go “Okay. Well, the state wants to know what these are worth.” Again, we’re back to that phrase ‘what’s it worth?’ We look at what that item would be worth on the wholesale market. Not the retail, but on the wholesale market. Myself as a dealer in antique jewelry or estate pieces, to me that piece may be worth $1,000 because I feel that I can sell it for $1,200 or $1,300. Another dealer may look at it and say you know it’s worth $800 because he’s going to sell it for $1,000.

So, again, we look at sort of a mean price on that type of thing and, basically, we come up with a wholesale value for the estate purposes. People are going to pay taxes on what they’ve inherited on this estate piece, so to give them a little bit of a break we’re not putting a ridiculously high retail price on that. We’re putting a realistic wholesale value on that thing for estate purposes.

Now, someone may come in to me and say to me “I want this for an insurance appraisal and I want you to do it as high as you possibly can.” Well, let me explain a little bit about insurance appraisals to you. Number one, it doesn’t do you that much good to put a ridiculously high appraisal on an item. Why? If you look at your policy the insurance company has the right to either replace that with a cash value or to replace that particular item.

Now, let’s say you had a Rolex watch and you lost your watch. Yeah, when you come in I’m going to turn around and put the replacement retail value of that Rolex watch on your appraisal. You may have come in and bought that watch for $10,000 and today the replacement value on that watch is $23,000. For insurances purposes we’re going to put that $23,000 number on there because if you’ve lost that watch the insurance company is going to replace it. They’re probably not going to turn around and give you that $23,000. They’re going to turn around and call a dealer up who deals in new watches and they’re going to say “Okay, what is our cost on that particular watch?”

What the dealer is going to do — and we do a lot of replacements for different insurance companies — they’re going to say to us “Okay, Steve, take your wholesale value, add 20% to it as your profit margin, add the sales tax to it and tell us how much that new watch is going to cost us.” So what you’re looking at, you’ve paid the insurance on a $23,000 watch, even though it only cost you $10,000, but if you’ve lost it the insurance company is not going to replace it with a pre-loved watch or a used watch. They’re going to replace it with a brand new watch, so this is why we’re using that higher amount.


Now, a lot of stores when they’ve sold you a piece of jewelry as what I call ‘to massage your ego’, you’ll say “Okay. Well, I paid $1,000 for this ring. I want an insurance appraisal.” A lot of times you’ll find that they’ll give you an insurance appraisal for $5,000-$6,000 or $7,000, even though you paid $1,000 for it. Could you replace that ring for $1,000? Maybe not. It might cost $2,000 or $3,000, but it’s not going to cost $5,000 or $6,000 to replace it.

So you’ve turned around and paid a lot of money for a lot of years for your insurance and if you’ve lost that ring the insurance company again is going to get a hold of somebody like myself and they’re going to say “Steve, what is this ring going to cost us?” I’m going to say to them $1,000, plus 20% on top of that and the sales tax and this is what you’re going to wind up getting a check for. Or they’re going to say to me “Replace that ring.” Or they’re going to say to the customer “Would you want a check for X-amount of dollars or do you want us to replace that piece of jewelry?”

They can go to different companies and replace it with them or you have the option to be able to say “You know what? I don’t want your company to replace it. I’ve got my own jeweler who I want to replace this and I feel comfortable with them.” They’ll say “Fine. Okay, here’s a check and we can either make it to the jeweler or we’ll make it to you.” A lot of times they’ll put both names on there and we’ll replace that piece of jewelry and they’ll sign the check over to us. So this is why you get a big discrepancy on appraisal value on different items.

Now, a lot of times people will still come in and they’ll have that insurance appraisal and they’ll say “Steve, what’s this worth?” We look at it and it might be a diamond. We’ll figure out the wholesale value on that diamond and if we can buy it at about 20% below the wholesale value then it’s worth our while to buy. If they want more than the wholesale value it doesn’t make sense for me or someone else in business to buy it for that kind of money. We don’t need to put it in our inventory. If we needed that diamond we could pick up the phone and there are diamond houses that I can order that diamond for you and it costs me a little bit more than had I bought it from you at a whole sale price. So if I can save 20%, yeah, it’s certainly worth putting your hand in your pocket and buying it.

Now, a lot of times people will come in with an insurance appraisal. You have to remember when we talked about the insurance appraisal, that’s something that’s a pretty inflated number. I’ll say to people well, what do you want? They’ll say “What’s it worth?” And I’ll look at it and they go “Well, I’ve got an appraisal.” I’ll go great. Let me see it.

When we look at it I’ve graded the color. I’ve graded the clarity. We’ve looked at the measurements on the stone. We’ve established what it should probably weigh. In my mind it’s not the right color, according to what this jeweler has put on there. It’s not the same clarity. So right off the bat I’m not going to be anywhere near this appraisal because I don’t believe the person who did the appraisal really knew what the heck they were talking about or, again, it’s there to massage your ego.

If I’ve looked at the item and I say okay. Well, it does match the appraisal. It’s the right color. It’s the right clarity. I’ll say to them okay, this is an insurance appraisal and this is for your company if it was lost. What I would pay for this is this amount and, usually, if it’s a realistic insurance appraisal it’s going to be worth in real money, what we call the ACV or the Actual Cash Value, 20 to 30% of that insurance appraisal. Again, you have to remember — we’ve talked about it — insurance is an inflated appraisal.

Your estate appraisal is really what it’s worth, your ACV, your Actual Cash Value. For bankruptcy it’s more of a replacement value of that particular item in that particular state in that condition and whether it has some defects in it or anything like that. So a lot of things come into play when people say ‘What’s it worth?’

If they bring in a piece of gold jewelry they’ll say “What’s it worth?” If it’s something that’s resalable we could pay a premium on it. If it’s something that’s going to get melted down then a lot of people say “Well, this is like brand new. I mean it’s got a couple little dings in it.” Well, that’s the magic word. It’s almost perfect. It’s like being almost pregnant. It either is or it isn’t.

A lot of times the pieces that come in are out of date. It’s stuff that back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s we wore a lot of the bigger gold pieces. We’re not anymore. A lot of this stuff is not in style anymore. There are still a lot of people that may enjoy it and a lot of times I’ll buy pieces and turn around, we polish them up and put them in our estate trays and we don’t sell it at a new price or anywhere near a new price where people can get a deal on it. But a lot of the stuff we buy the condition is bad on it. It’s out of date. It’s nothing that’s going to sell and we melt it. So when people say “What’s it worth?” again, we have to go back and say is this something that’s resalable for us or is it something that’s going to get thrown in the melting pot and go by the wayside.

And turned into something else.

A lot of times people may come in and they’ve gotten prices other places. The people there have given them the gold price for it and we’ll be a lot higher for the simple reason that the girls may come to me and say “Steve, you like this kind of stuff. What can we pay for it?” I’ll go oh, I like this. This stuff we can put in the showcase because somebody may like this. It’s an estate piece or it’s a nice period piece or it’s an antique piece and it has great style to it and we’ll pay a big premium for it.

So what I tell people is before you get rid of it to a lot of people who come in town and buy out of the hotels, basically, these people are just ripping you. I mean it’s really sad. I generally send people over to get an idea of what these people are paying for stuff.

There was a gentleman in town this week and I sent a $500 silver dollar over there to see what he would pay for it. Well, it was worth $25 to him. Well, you know, I think it would be worth $25 to anybody at that point in time. It’s a piece that we paid $400 for. There’s still a profit margin in there for us, but we’re not paying $25 for it.

A lot of people will say to us “Steve, you buy coins. If you bring them in do you just buy for the silver content?” No, we don’t. If it’s a collectable coin we will pay you a premium as a collectable coin. If it’s a silver coin and it doesn’t have any real coin value to it, yeah, we’re going to buy it for the silver content. A lot of coins are old, but again they made so many of them. They made millions and millions of them that they really haven’t appreciated in value a whole lot.

So when people say to me “What’s it worth?” there’s all kinds of stuff that go through my mind. There are all kinds of things that we have to take into consideration, but we’ve been doing this for 37 years. So if you have antiques or collectables and you want to know what it’s worth for insurance purposes or an actual cash value, please stop by and see us. We’re in the Bear Plaza behind ABC Liquors. With that we’re going to take a quick break and return to Tradio.

[Station Break]

And we are back with Tradio and, Kenny, give me a time check, buddy.

Fifty- eight thirty seven, got about a minute twenty.

Okay, we’re almost out of time.


This has been good.

It has been. One thing I want to add, we’re hitting into the holidays.


Do you have layaway? Do you layaway stuff?

We’ve got layaway. It’s funny. I listen to everybody on radio now saying “Come on in. You can put it on layaway.” We’ve been doing layaway for 37 years and when we just talked about ‘what’s it worth’, you know what? You can take your old stuff, bring it in and it’s the same as cash. If you have broken jewelry you could put that on layaway. I mean you could buy an item from us and use your broken jewelry as your layaway payment.

Yup. Excellent.

So if you have items like that stop by and see us. There’s still time to do custom work for Christmas. We can make that special gift for you for that special someone. Please stop by and see us. We’re in the Bear Plaza behind ABC Liquors. With that I’ll say goodbye to everybody.

Have you got a website too?

Yeah, again, if you have that unusual thing that you want to know about, Take a picture of it, email it to me, put your phone number down on it and we’ll do a little research for you and call you on the air and talk to you a little bit about it. It’s something new that we’re going to be doing. We’re improving the website. I’m going to say goodbye again to everyone until next week.
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.