Better Business Bureau offers tips for selling gold

As the price of gold continues to rise, many are cashing in their family heirlooms and antiques to capitalize on the high value of the precious metal.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) noted that the price of gold is up 20 percent since the start of the year. Gold traded for around $1,892 per ounce Monday, according to Bloomberg.com’s Stock Market & Financial Markets Overview.

Officials with the BBB said consumers have several options for selling gold, including local jewelers and pawn shops, gold parties in friends’ homes, pop-up events by traveling dealers, and mail-away gold-buying services.

It is important to know the value of one’s gold, as well as the reliability of the business buying the gold, said Dottie Callina, a spokesperson with the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia, Inc.

Callina said that in 2010, bureaus received 574 complaints nationwide on gold and silver dealers, and 416 complaints, to date, in 2011, which generally pertained to dissatisfaction with the amount offered for gold.

Area residents came by the dozens to sell their gold jewelry and other items at Treasure Hunters Roadshow exhibit in McDonough, earlier this month.

Jim Toner, a field manager with the Roadshow, said he cut several thousand dollars worth of checks to residents, who had gold and silver heirlooms to part with.

Toner said the Springfield, Ill.,-based THR and Associates has been busy this year addressing the increased demand for gold.

The company has had 18 complaints in the last 36 months, and seven in the last year, according to Fred Elsberry, of BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia, Inc. He said THR and Associates currently has a B+ rating with the bureau.

The BBB offers the following tips for consumers to get the most for their gold, and avoid problems:

• Keep up with the price of gold. And know how much gold is going for on the day you sell, so that you know whether you are being offered a fair price.

• Understand that you won’t get the full price for your gold, because you are selling to a dealer who then will re-sell the items to be melted down. You may be offered anywhere from 50 percent, on up, of the value of the gold.

• Know the karat weight of your gold items. The karat weight tells how much gold is in the item. Jewelry and other items are not pure gold, but a mix of gold and other metals.

• Get two or three bids. Comparing offers from more than one buyer will help you determine the market value for your item.

• For items that may be valuable, consider getting a professional appraisal. You will have to pay for the appraisal, but you will gain important information.

• Some gold items might be worth more when sold as they are, rather than to be melted down. If a gold necklace or bracelet comes from a notable designer or maker, it might have a value to some buyers beyond the gold it is made of.

• Check out jewelry stores and gold buyers with Better Business Bureau’s (www.bbb.org) Business Review for basic information about the business, as well as any complaints and whether the complaints have been resolved when presented to the business by BBB.

• When using a mail-away service, be sure to understand the terms and conditions. Send the items insured. Find out how long before you get the check, how long they will keep your gold before melting it down, and how many days you have to turn down the offer. Make a list and take photos of your items before sending, and if you send back the check to reject the offer, consider sending it certified.

To check out a business, find lists of BBB Accredited Businesses, see tips and alerts, report misleading advertising, or file a customer complaint, start at www.bbb.org.