With a last name like “Silver,” I’ve pretty much shied away from gold my whole life, staying true to my kin. The bulk of my Au know-how actually stems from those oddly anxiety-inducing Monex commercials. You know the ones, where the British(ish) lady snidely reminds us why we should be converting our dollars into bullion.
“Over the last few years, gold has solidly outperformed the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ, and more likely your retirement accounts as well,” she muses, rubbing it in. “Since 2001 gold has increased over 130 percent.”
Perhaps because of my Pavlovian channel-changing response to her voice, none of that really sunk in. That is, until this month, when I started selling extraneous belongings to make some quick cash and return to a more nomadic state of being.
That’s when an old, formerly sentimental ring—my single golden relic, relegated for years to the darkest recesses of a jewelry box—casts a shiny, cartoon-like metallic-bar image in my mind. Gold! Maybe I could get a few bucks of my depleted retirement account back!
But what does one do with a long-neglected ring of gold? The Googling begins. Amid the pawn shops and jewelers and mail-us-your-gold companies that come up, one option really stands out: Vegas Gold Party.
“We are Nevada’s Premier Gold Party Coordinators,” reads the site. “We provide you with the unique opportunity of having fun while making money instead of spending it! ... Our ownership has over 40 years of experience in the jewelry industry, which allows us to pay you and your guests top dollar for their unused or broken jewelry.”
Interest piqued, I speak with Mike Davis, owner of Vegas Goldmine, and get the rundown: I invite a bunch of friends over, along with any jewelry or figurines they’d like to get rid of (he buys gold, platinum and silver). He’ll test each guest’s gold and make them an offer. As the host I will receive 10 percent of the proceeds. He also says that he’ll reimburse me $50 toward food and drinks and will raffle off $50 and a pair of diamond earrings at the party. I’m sold. I book a party for the next weekend.
In the meantime, I continue researching. Even after talking to Davis, I’m skeptical. Sure, it’s a fun, convenient and enticingly strange concept, but could he really be offering the best prices on gold?
It launches me into a pawn-secret-shopping escapade. I take my ring (which is 14-karat and weighs 5.6 grams) to Super Pawn on Flamingo near Decatur. The shop has a number of full jewelry cases, but the rest of the store is pretty barren. I wait in line, as seven people ahead of me talk to the tellers and either accept what they’re offered or leave with their rejects. When it’s my turn, I hand over the ring (and my ID) and await the results. Seventy dollars, the guy tells me. It’s more than I expected. I thank him and move on.
The next place is right across the street: LV Jewelry Exchange (located, conveniently enough, next to a payday-loan store). There’s a line here, too. As I wait, I notice a few pieces of jewelry within the shelves, but not much. With gold at more than $900 an ounce, consumers seem more interested in selling their wares than in buying more of them. When it’s my turn, the salesman assesses my ring. “I can give you $30 for it,” he says. He goes on to explain that $30 would be the melting price, whereas if he were to resell it he could give me $50 for it. But he doesn’t think he could resell it.
My last stop is Bargain Pawn, this one on Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s no line here, and few cars in the lot. The guy scrutinizes the ring and offers me $55. I wonder if proximity to casinos drives down prices.
On Gold Party day, Davis arrives early to set up. He briefs me on the history of his company, which started in Phoenix and opened its Vegas office just a couple of months ago. He also handles private appointments, but says that the party atmosphere has become the most popular. It’s kind of like going to a Mary Kay or Tupperware party, except you actually make money.
“You don’t have to listen to a sales pitch. I’m not trying to sell anybody anything,” he says. “This is a service, this is what we’re offering. I can go ahead and evaluate everything, I’ve got electronic testing equipment that’s the best on the market. And we offer a fair price. If they’re interested, great, and if not I’m not going to pressure anybody to do anything.”
Davis also works at fundraising gold parties. Schools in Phoenix and a couple in Las Vegas have hosted these events, where parents bring in their old gold and get money for it, and the school collects 10 percent of all sales. It’s easier than forcing kids to sell overpriced candy.
My guests begin arriving. Eleven women and two men show up. They arrive excited but skeptical, some carrying baggies of gold, others boxes of gold and coins, while a few just wear extra rings on their fingers.
After giving a brief description of his company, Davis sits behind his table and invites the guests to show him what they’ve got. The first, Beth Schwartz, who’s the fashionable editor of Luxury Las Vegas, has about a handful of gold: a ring, a herringbone necklace, two small-link chain necklaces, one charm, a bracelet and three pairs of earrings. Davis inspects each piece and then puts a pincher to it, which forces electricity through and takes a reading on its content. After that he weighs each piece.
As he goes through the process, the room is silent. Everyone watches in fascination and suspense. Then he takes out a calculator. Tap tap tap. He pushes a bunch of buttons and then looks at Schwartz. “I can offer you $260,” he says. Her mouth falls open in surprise. Ahoy!
That stunned response continues with everyone who follows. Offers range from $30 (for a single ring) to $485 for a bag full of jewelry. The women and men patiently wait their turn and then leave, smiling, once they get their checks.
I go last. I hand Davis the gold ring and a heap of old silver jewelry (silver only goes for about $12 an ounce). He tests the ring, weighs it and comes up with a verdict: $65, he says. It’s $5 less than the highest pawn offer, but considering that it’s at my house and I’m making money off the other sales, I have no desire to quibble. Then he weighs the silver. “Twenty-one dollars, which brings a total of $86,” he says. “But why don’t we just round up and make it an even $90.” By rounding up, he’s priced the ring at $69 (or the silver at $25, but for the sake of our argument, let’s go for the gold), which is just $1 shy of the highest pawn offer.
“I’ll take it,” I smile.
The total sales for the party turn out to be $2,200—an amount both Davis and I are happy with, but, he admits, it’s actually on the low end of gold parties. I get 10 percent of that ($220), along with the $90 for my jewelry and $50 he reimburses me for refreshments. Not bad for a couple of hours. And that’s not counting the lightness I feel for eliminating my once-sentimental gold load.