Seller beware when shopping for gold buyers

Ottawa retailers are hoping soaring gold prices will get people to cash in their family treasures, but a tour through some of the city's gold buyers suggests sellers should shop around.
CBC's Omar Dabeghi-Pacheco checks out what his gold is worth. 2:58

Ottawa retailers are hoping soaring gold prices will get people to cash in their family treasures, but a tour through some of the city's gold buyers suggests sellers should shop around.

With gold trading at over $1720 US per ounce this week and the holiday season (and holiday expenses) approaching, it may be tempting to try and sell a family heirloom or the necklace you no longer wear.

But what is the family collection worth? CBC Ottawa's Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco took a tour of four shops: two Howard's pawn shops, MGB Gold Buyers which just opened on Gladstone, and the high-end jewellery chain Birks Jewellers at the Bayshore Shopping Centre.

What he found was that the prices offered varied on the 33 grams of gold he shopped around.
Gold expert Shane Alexander said sellers should have a rough idea of the value of what they are selling. (CBC)

At the first store, Howard's Pawn Shop on Bank Street, Dabaghi-Pacheco was offered $540, but with the advice that he should shop around and come back if he got a better price.

At the gold broker on Gladstone, the offer was $675.

At Birks, where the store is having a four-day gold-buying blitz that began Tuesday, he was advised that the collection was worth $730, but was told one of the pieces was a gold coin they weren't authorized to buy. But it was suggested a coin dealer might offer more.

The final stop, the Howard's on Carling Avenue, offered $785.

"There is a great variance in prices," said Shane Alexander at Goldform Manufacturing Jewelleries, which repairs and makes jewellery. "My advice to people is to find out the approximate value of your gold before you go to sell it."

Sellers should also know the karat — or purity — of the gold, as well as the weight and, if possible, the value of gold on the day they are selling.

"I think if you can get 75 per cent of the value that's as much as you can expect," said Alexander. "The company that buys it has expenses on top of that."

Alexander put the value of the gold Dabaghi-Pacheco was shopping around at over $1,400.

"I would hope you could get $1,000 for it," he said.

Alexander's final piece of advice: don't sell it by mail. Even if you don't like the cheque the buyer cuts you for the gold, he said getting your gold back is next to impossible.

"You'll never see it again," he said.