Refinery offers locals chance to exchange collectibles for cash

Kevin Berg of Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery holds a bank note issued by the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis. This and several other items were brought in to the refinery representatives in Vermillion on Tuesday. (Photo by David Lias)

The five-day event that got underway Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express in Vermillion has some things in common with South Dakota Public Broadcasting's popular Antiques Roadshow television program.

It's oh so different, too.

People began arriving at a conference room in the Holiday Inn Express Tuesday morning, to show representatives of Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery things they believed are of value ranging from gold and silver jewelry and coins, to antique toys and old comic books.

They didn't bring the items in to have them appraised. Ohio Gold & Silver is here to do business, to purchase items that local people are willing to sell. It's a marked difference from theAntiques Roadshow routine, where people never part with their old or unusual items, no matter their value.

What we do is we'll look at items, and tell their owners what people will pay for them, said Kevin Berg, one of the refinery's associates who has been busy in Vermillion this week. And there is a big difference between an item's appraisal value and what they are going for in the open market.

Our main purpose for being here this week, he said, is to purchase items. We're not appraisers. If you come in and bring an old metal toy to me, I can tell you what it is selling for right now, of what you can expect to get out if it. That's more up our alley.

A major business activity of Ohio Valley Gold & Silver is to purchase precious metals and collectibles.

It is a big part of our business. The gold comes to us in the form of broken jewelry, gold coins, wedding rings, things like that. Silver items that are brought to us include things like sterling silver flatware sets, U.S. coins, things like that.

We also dabble in antiques and collectibles, Berg said. We're not really huge into glassware. We're more interested in the old metal toys from the 1950s and before, the train sets, and the old 10 cent comic books.

Other items of interest range from war memorabilia and medals to pocket watches, old examples of U.S. paper currency, and older guitars.

With some of the older toys, you might be looking at a value of $100 or $200, but with some of the guitars could be worth thousands of dollars, Berg said. With some of the old Gibson and Fender guitars, at times you could be talking $20,000 or $30,000 or more.

Ohio Valley Gold & Silver works at re-selling the collectible items it purchases at events like the one held in Vermillion this week to interested buyers across the country. We do have collectors looking for specific items, he said, and if we don't have a collector looking for an item that's brought in, unfortunately, we can't buy it.

The company will make offers on nearly gold and silver items that are brought in.

We have our own refinery, so if an item is of gold or silver, that's something we're going to make you an offer on, he said. Some of those items, like broken jewelry we're going to melt down. Gold and silver items that in good shape usually aren't melted down. We purchase those items with the goal to re-sell them.

During the national recession of the last two years, gold prices have steadily been climbing, and that's had an effect on Ohio Gold & Silver's business.

Obviously, as the gold market has been higher, gold has been worth more, so we see more people bringing in gold items to sell, Berg said. Usually it's items that aren't of much sentimental value, ranging from dental gold to an old high school ring that a person hasn't worn in years.

At the same time, the prices of many of the collectible items sought by Ohio Gold & Silver have gone down with the slower economy.

The people that normally would spend their money on collectibles instead were trying to make their house payment or their credit card payment, Berg said. Two or three years ago, we still purchased more gold and silver than antiques, but the number of items were a lot closer. Now, we still buy antiques, and we actually bought some today already, but the majority of things we see every week are gold and silver whether it be gold U.S. coins, or sterling sets, or old jewelry.

Berg and other representatives of Ohio Gold & Silver Refinery realize that people may have a unique emotional connection to some of the gold and silver items that are brought in. No one is ever pressured to sell.

We also let people know that the decision is up to them, he said. We'll tell them how much we are willing to pay, and we are able to cut people a check right on the spot, but we always tell people we're not going to get upset if they don't want to part with something. If an item has more sentimental value than the actual gold value, that's fine.

It's just a decision that the customer has to make, he said.

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