As the economy sours, Americans are finding surprising and novel ways to just to get by. In pawn shops, shopping malls and jewelry stores across the nation people are parting with sentimental and not-so-sentimental gold jewelry to pay off the bills. Helping all this along are scores of television ads from “cash for gold” companies that promise to pay up.
In Wauwatosa, Wisconsin this week, Lyssa King of Gold Buyers set up a booth in the Mayfair Mall and was overwhelmed by long lines of customers. At two in the afternoon she ran out of cash and was forced to go to the bank to pay off people wanting to trade in their rings, necklaces, and bracelets.
Leroy English was laid off in November and decided to sell off his gold chain necklace at Gold Buyers. He told CNN he needed “a little cash for the gas tank.” Another customer happily scooped up his cash and declared “I’m going to be eating lobsters tonight.”
At US Gold Buyers in New York City, Jose Caba says business is terrific. His customers bring in “necklaces…class rings…(and) a lot of people send in their dental gold.” That’s dental gold as in human teeth. Caba proved it by dumping a bag full of gold inlays onto a table. Depending on the quality, he might pay 45 bucks for a tooth full of 24 carat gold. Good for the seller and, well, sort of good for Caba too, who lamented that he has to keep a lot of hand sanitizer around. “It’s pretty gross,” he says, but after melting down the gold “at the end of the day it’s going to turn into somebody’s ring or someone’s earrings.”
There’s also an emotional side to all of this. At US Gold Buyers a couple walked in with a box full of family heirlooms. The wife was torn and distressed about the prospect of saying goodbye to her necklace. After an hour of conversation she decided not to sell. “Right now a lot of Americans are making tough choices,” Caba says, “and if whether paying a mortgage outweighs getting rid of that class ring, that’s up to the customer.”