Monthly Archives: February 2013

Don’t get scammed by dodgy silver and gold buyers

Silver Coffee_Tea Service     You’ve seen those ads: WE BUY SILVER AND GOLD!!!!!! Wonderful . . . but estimate meltdown value before you take your silver to a place like that. Some are legit. Many are dodgy.  Try to take your unwanted silver to a reputable, local jeweler rather than one of those fly-by-night operations that breezes into town and rent a few hotel rooms for a week and disappears. And the mail-in envelope scheme advertised on TV is the worst!

     How do you estimate the meltdown value? Easy. (Well, not all that easy, but here it is.) First make sure you’re dealing with sterling. If it doesn’t say STERLING or STER on the back, it isn’t sterling.

1) Weigh the sterling silver on an accurate scale like a postal scale. (Don’t weigh knives or candlesticks—knife blades are stainless steel and handles are not solid, so they don’t weigh true and candlesticks are full of cement.)

2) Then convert the number of ounces to troy ounces. Recently the price of silver has hovered around $28/troy oz. There are converters on line you can use, or just multiply the ounces by .9116 to get troy ounces.

3) Multiply that by the current price of silver, which is listed per troy ounce in newspapers and online. Or use $28 if you can’t find anything more current.

4) Then, because sterling is 92.5% silver, not 100%, multiply the result by 92.5%, and you have the approximate meltdown value of your sterling. (For coin silver, use the same process but multiply here by 90%.)

Will you get that much for it at a silver and gold buyer? No way. They have to make a profit too. 70-80% is reasonable, according to silver buyers. It will partly depend on the amount of silver you are selling–if you are selling one bent spoon (as I once did), you’ll get a lesser percentage because it isn’t worth their bother. Let them know you are getting more than one offer. 

Dad was a Mason? What now? Fraternal jewelry and all that jazz.

bo0t0auxWhat should you do with the fraternal jewelry you come across in the estate you’ve inherited? By “fraternal jewelry” I mean Masonic rings, sorority and fraternity pins, military academy rings, lapel pins, and other logo items that have special meaning to a particular organization. Fraternal groups ask that all such jewelry be returned to the organization, since these items shouldn’t be worn by anyone except their members.

Drop the piece in a padded envelope and mail to the local chapter or national headquarters or service academy. You’ll get nothing for it (except thanks and a good feeling), so if there is a precious stone in the ring, for heaven’s sake, have it removed by a jeweler. If the item is gold or silver, you may prefer to sell it for meltdown. 

Fraternal organizations are also grateful when you return other logo items such as caps, fez, books, and papers. I think of this as a way to honor the deceased, who no doubt valued these items very much.

What Sort of Books are Valuable? Part III: Bibles

Old books are not necessarily valuable. Nor are old Bibles, unless owned by some important historical figure. 


Those who inherit the contents of most homes will find a Bible or two on the bookshelves. Some people are reluctant to throw away a Bible, especially if it is old, but in most cases, it has no monetary value. If there is any genealogy information written inside it and someone in your family has an interest in charting the family tree, make sure to offer it to him or her; otherwise, call your state library or county historical society to see if they would like to have it for their genealogy collection. You can also look online for buyers who are interested in genealogy. EBay is one possibility; for another, google the word “genealogy” and the last names listed in your Bible to see if you can connect with some interested researchers. If the Bible is in a language other than English, it is less likely to have monetary value and you will have a harder time selling it online. 

Some very old Bibles may have monetary value. What is “very old?” Older than you think. Those dating from the 1900s or 1800s are very common and therefore not desirable to book collectors. If they date from the 1700s and earlier, they might have some value. Books of that era, however, may not have a publishing date on the front pages, so if you suspect your Bible is that old and don’t see any indication of date, you need to take it to a rare books dealer for expert opinion. You should not have to pay for a quick-glance opinion, but you would expect to pay for an appraisal.

Consider donating an 18th-century-or-older Bible to a museum–you can take a deduction on your income taxes for its appraised amount, or, if you haven’t had it appraised and don’t want to spend the money for an official appraisal, do one yourself by finding similar Bibles for sale online and seeing what they sold for. Average a few sales and you have a reasonable value to declare. 

Always ruffle the pages of a book before you sell or toss it. As crazy as it sounds, some people stash money, bonds, or important papers between the pages.