Gold, silver roadshow back, tarnished or not

It isn’t the “Antiques Roadshow,” but it isn’t your neighborhood gold and silver dealer, either.

The Treasure Hunters Roadshow is returning to Grand Junction this week and is asking area residents to bring in their old gold, silver and other valuables that the company will purchase.

But the Illinois-based company’s business practices have drawn many skeptics.

The roadshow, which will be at the Grand Junction Clarion Inn, 755 Horizon Drive, Monday through Thursday, has hosted numerous events around the world. It was in town just last summer.

At some venues, local media have questioned how it operates. Several sent undercover reporters in to check on how much Treasure Hunters Roadshow actually pays.

Last fall, one Memphis television station took four items of scrap gold to a local jeweler to determine how much it could get. The station took the same items to the roadshow and received a quote that was 37 percent less. Even a local pawn shop was willing to pay more, the station said.

Matthew Enright, vice president of media relations for the roadshow, which is owned by the Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery, pooh-poohed that and other negative media reports, saying those prices were based on appraisal values for insurance purposes and not an item’s actual resell value.

“An appraisal of an item is not the value of an item,” he said. “The value of an item is what someone’s willing to pay, and that’s what we do. We hook people up with collectors, and we see what those collectors are willing to pay.”

Other criticisms of the company center on how it presents itself. The name of the show and other aspects of it are similar to the popular Public Broadcasting Station program “Antiques Roadshow,” so much so that the owner of that program has sued Enright’s firm, which also is known as THR & Associates.

In its suit filed in Illinois federal court, WGBH Educational Foundation, the owner of “Antiques Roadshow,” said THR is deceiving people.

“Such activity is designed to deceive and has deceived consumers into believing defendants are associated with plaintiff, is being done by defendants to generate interest in their own services and events, (and) is being done by defendants to trade on plaintiff’s reputation for defendants’ own commercial gain,” the lawsuit reads.

Enright, however, said this isn’t the first time WGBH has sued his firm. The foundation tried that in 2000 and lost, and it will again, he said.

“It’s a completely different business model, and we’re not trying to impede on anything they do,” he said. “It’s just a name. They can’t patent the name ‘roadshow.’ They don’t own that word. That’s what they’re trying to do.”

Enright said his firm is in the business of buying gold and other valuable items and selling to collectors, and that “Antiques Roadshow” is in the business of selling insurance. After it appraises a valuable item on the program, it tries to sell insurance to the owners of those items, he said, adding that the show is underwritten by insurance companies.

Enright said his company has been successful in getting its own television program, which is to debut this fall. He said, however, he didn’t have details about what network plans to air the show.

Gold and silver dealer Theresa Mays, owner of The Hedge Co., 300 Main St. in Grand Junction, said she isn’t familiar with the Treasure Hunters Roadshow but is skeptical of operations that promise to pay top dollars for people’s old gold or used jewelry.

She said television ads from companies that ask consumers to mail in their old gold and silver, something Treasure Hunters Roadshow also does, are nothing more than scams to get gold and silver on the cheap.

Mays said gold prices are at an all-time high at a time when the economy is bad, a perfect combination to persuade people to sell their gold even though it may be worth more elsewhere.

She said people may be tempted to use mail-in gold buyers because they are easy, but they shouldn’t use them, because they could do better by taking items to local buyers instead.

“From what I know, these types of firms are only paying 15 to 29 percent of the actual value,” Mays said. “That’s pretty typical. I am sure that local jewelers pay more.”


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