Four Tactics for Finding Precious Metals at Estate Sales

If you have attended estate sales, you know that most of them are pretty similar. A company that specializes in liquidating home possessions has gone over the contents of the house, looked things over, taken away any high-value items that have turned up, and gotten things organized for sale day. On that day, a line of people will be outside, waiting for the sale to start. When the doors open, the situation inside the house will look like the aisles of Walmart on Black Friday as people shoulder past one another, looking for treasures.

Image courtesy of njestateservice(dot)com

Image courtesy of njestateservice(dot)com

But Do Not Give Up Hope . . .

Despite the fact that everything will have been examined by the company that is liquidating the contents of the home, it is still possible to find precious metals if you apply these tactics.

Focus on Little Things

Many of the shoppers at estate sales are looking for items that are quite visible, like furniture, silver candelabras, pianos, collections of dolls, electric train sets, rugs, lamps, light fixtures, and chests of silverware. You can find precious metals by adopting a different strategy, by looking for very small items that contain gold, silver and platinum – items like pens, lighters, and cigarette holders and cases.

Look in Cluttered Areas

You are unlikely to find any undiscovered small items made of precious metals on tables or in cases where the estate liquidation company has laid out items for display. But you might be able to find items made of gold and other precious metals hiding in cluttered, disorganized jewelry boxes, in dresser drawers, or even in shoeboxes. The more cluttered and disorganized the area, the more likely it is that you will find something valuable that other people missed.

Look for Shiny Items

As you look at a jumble of costume jewelry, knickknacks or kitchen items, let your eye gravitate toward items that are shiny. This technique will lead you to many items that are not valuable, such as costume jewelry and ceramics with gold-toned glazes. But it will also help you zero in on small items of potential value like gold-plated pen barrels, gold shirt studs, gold-plated belt buckles and other gold-plated jewelry items that can be profitably recycled by a qualified precious metals recycler.

Look for Tarnished Items

This tactic is the opposite of the one just above. Instead of using your eyes to find shiny items, look for items that are gray and tarnished – in other words, items that are silver-plated or made of pure silver like silverware. For example, this strategy will help you quickly scan a box of old kitchenware – serving spoons, spatulas and napkin rings - and focus immediately on silver items that can be profitably recycled.

Putting these Tactics to Work . . .

These strategies can help you find precious metals, even in crowded house sales. They also work well in antique malls, at estate auctions, and in other settings where a number of old items are set out for sale. If you capture some promising items and are not sure what they are, call us at 800-426-2344 and tell us about the potential treasures you have on hand. One conversation with our specialists could help you claim big dollars from the little items you have discovered.

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Don’t Let Precious Metals Slip through Your Fingers when You’re Liquidating an Estate

I was visiting some cousins of mine a few years ago after their mother – my aunt - had died. While we were sitting around catching up and chatting, one of them came into the room with a jewelry box and said, “Here’s that box of costume jewelry that we were talking about – we should all take a look and pick a few items that we’d like to have.”

Shown: a box of costume jewelry from an inherited estate that could be hiding valuable karat gold and other precious metals.

As they started to pass the box around, I asked “Who said that there’s nothing in there but costume jewelry?”

One of my cousins answered, “Well, mom always said that she kept her costume jewelry in this box.”

I urged them to take a closer look, and one of my cousins pulled out two small items – a small decorative pin and a little pendant watch – that appeared to be made of yellow gold, and which needed a closer examination by a qualified appraiser or precious metals refinery.

As I think you will agree, that story illustrates how easy it is to make quick – and wrong – decisions when liquidating an estate. There are so many details to handle, and so much property to look at, that it is all too easy to let valuable property get away. Here are smart steps to take instead.

Ask a Lot of Questions

That’s what my cousins weren’t doing in the story that I told at the start of today’s post. Their mom had always told them that the jewelry box contained “costume jewelry,” and they accepted that without exploring any further.

People can make this mistake not just with precious metals, but with other estate items too. An “old decorative print that Auntie bought at a tag sale” could be a valuable original oil painting, and “Pop’s favorite old rocking chair” could be a valuable antique. So when you are dealing with an estate, get into the habit of looking at every item with critical eyes – and bring in a qualified appraiser to look everything over.

Avoid Turning Everything Over to One Antique Dealer

Most antique dealers are honest businesspeople who will alert you if they think they have found something valuable among the items that you are liquidating. But even honest antique dealers are in the business of acquiring items and selling them at a profit. If they discover something quite valuable among your items, they will acquire it from you at a low price and then sell it at a profit, because that is their business.

The message is that even though it is time-consuming and complex to look at all the items in an estate to find that one valuable item in 1,000, it can be worth the time you invest. So instead of calling an antique dealer first, consider having an independent appraiser review what you have. To find a qualified appraiser in your area, visit the American Society of Appraisers online.

Let Us Review All Your Metal Items

Most estates contain items that contain precious metals, including jewelry, silver items and silver-plated items. Although many of them might look similar to you, their value can vary dramatically. One example? Two silver-plated spoons that contain identical quantities of silver can be worth very different amounts of money if one of them has collectible value.

If you are not sure what kinds of metal items you have inherited, your next step is to call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. We’re here to provide information, and your call to us could help you discover all the dollars that could be hiding in the estate you have inherited.

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