Bygone Treasures - All That Glitters Gold

By Michael Rice

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All That Glitters

Gold has fascinated us since the dawn of time as a store of wealth, a status symbol and as attractive jewelry. As gold and silver prices have reached record levels, you may discover you have some long forgotten precious metal stored away.

During my antiques valuation presentations, I'm often asked about items made of gold, so you should know some terms and abbreviations. Pure gold is 24 karat, and is rarely used for jewelry because it's soft. More common is 9 karat (English gold), often stamped .375, meaning 37.5 per cent of it is gold and the rest is base metal, 10K, which is 41.66 per cent pure and 14K, which is 58.33 per cent pure.

If you have items marked RGP, GP, GF, HGE, rolled gold or gold filled, these are not gold. These markings mean the items are plated with a thin layer of gold, which will eventually wear off.

During presentations, it seems about every third item brought in is “grandpa's gold watch.” While many turn out to be plated, some watch cases are indeed gold and will have appropriate markings stamped inside the back lid.

Most folks have a few bits of gold stashed around the house, usually in the form of jewelry or coins. While Canada is not known for producing circulating gold coins, in the early 1900s, we did strike English-style gold sovereigns, as well as $5 and $10 gold pieces. These coins are worth more than the gold in them. More recently, the Royal Canadian Mint has produced numerous gold coins for sale to collectors. As I write this, a $20 gold coin produced in 1967 for Canada's Centennial is valued over $500.

More likely, you'll have orphan gold earrings, a charm bracelet, rings and brooches, where the value can add up quickly. The gold in fountain pen nibs, when marked 14K, is often overlooked. If you have pens in good condition, keep them that way, but if they're broken, you can add marked nibs to your gold pile.

If it's not gold, it might be silver. The most common form of silver is sterling, (92.5 per cent pure), marked .925 or sterling or having a row of symbols called hallmarks, which show where and when the item was made. Even broken and bent sterling objects have value.

Regarding coins, all your Canadian dimes, quarters and 50-cent pieces (remember them?) dated 1966 or earlier are worth more than their face value. How much more depends on the daily silver price. Just because something looks silver doesn't mean it is silver. Items marked EPNS, Plate or Plated, German Silver or Nevada Silver are not silver, but may have a thin silver plating or wash.

Now that you've gathered a little pile of precious metal and would like to swap it for the cost of a gift for someone special, what happens next? I would advise against responding to TV commercials telling you to pack everything in an envelope and mail it back east. Those full-page ads asking you to bring your swag to a hotel or community hall, or invitations to attend a “gold party” are not your best bets either. This is not to say these folks are dishonest, it's just that these buyers will pay less than an established local buyer. The costs of advertising, hall rentals and party hostess commissions come from somewhere, which means you will receive less from these sources for what you have to sell.

For items you plan to keep and pass on but don't use or wear, write “gold” on string tags and attach them to each appropriate object. Donations to church sales or thrift shops should have the same tags, as this will help volunteers to recognize and price valuables accordingly.

As always, if I can help with further information or identification, please write, email or visit me at the 50+ Active Living Celebration on March 5th at Pearkes Arena.

Comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome and may be sent to Michael Rice PO Box 86 Saanichton BC V8M 2C3 or via e-mail





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