We buy everything.
Well, that’s what my sign says. Truth is, I’ll buy everything I can turn a profit on. So yeah, I buy everything.
I live in the shadow of “Pawn Stars.” I am the guy you go to after they turn you down. I am the guy who tells you that their appraisal was fairly accurate. I am also the guy who actually buys your shit, if I can reasonably expect to make more on your item than it costs me to process it. I know my business. You don’t.
So in the interest of saving us both some time and aggravation, let’s talk a little about what to expect when you decide to try and turn your old watch or grandmother’s ring into some fast cash. In my experience, only a handful of the customers I deal with have any clue about what to expect when they walk in my doors, have things I want and understand the value I offer. I want you to be one of them.
Frankly, there are only two reasons you are going to walk through the doors anyway: You’re broke and hoping your item has some value; or you know it has value but you want instant gratification, you’re too lazy to sell it on your own and you’re willing to sell it for less to avoid the aggravation. In either circumstance, the bottom line is I have a stronger negotiating platform than you do. I have the cash, and I know the marketplace better than you. My offer is going to be in a range that I can expect is the best offer up and down the boulevard, while still providing enough of a margin for me to clear a profit.
While I will look at just about anything (cast-iron piggy banks, vintage model cars, Navajo throw blankets), I am very discerning in what I will make a cash offer on. Simply put: There are items I want and items I don’t. My favorite things are made of gold and silver because they have a precise value and little speculation. My second favorite are nice watches. I also really want new, sealed items and anything that has been independently certified by a recognized third-party appraiser.
Sorry, I don’t want your stamp collection and have no interest in your Japanese (or Chinese) quartz movement watch. I don’t want your antique silver-plated tableware, though I’ll pay top dollar for your sterling collection. Please don’t bother me with your old clothes or last year’s electronics; they have no resale value. The problem with lower-end items is they don’t return enough on my investment of time and energy. An object with a potential resale of $30 is my bottom line. Anything less costs me money.
With all of this in mind, here are a few things to consider next time you plan a visit to a pawn or second-hand store with the intention of selling an item:
—Know that I reserve the right to pass, so don’t be offended if I do. When I do pass, I will almost always offer an explanation. Most times, the reason I pass falls into three categories: 1) The item is a fake, and I can prove it to you; 2) The item is too difficult to resell due to size, wear, quality, demand, etc.; and, the most common reason, 3) The total of what you’re selling isn’t worth more than the magic $30 margin to be worth my time and effort.
—Know that you would be better off selling it yourself. I’m going to be blunt; of course it is worth more than the offer I made you. Duh. If you want that much for it, sell it to someone else. The offer I make is based on my costs of doing business. Someone who is actually looking for the item will almost certainly pay more for it than I will. When you sell to me, you are selling to a reseller, not a collector or an aesthete.
—Do your own research before you come see me. While I do consider most in my business to be fairly straight shooters, if you don’t have a realistic idea of what your item’s value is, you are making yourself an easy mark. Besides, if you don’t know what it is worth, you won’t understand a fair offer when you receive it.
—Expect an offer in the range of 30 to 40 percent of retail, 60 percent or more on precious metal. Whatever you walk in the door with, if I want it, that’s what I’m going to offer. The more I want it and the higher the return I can expect, the higher my offer will be. Here’s all you need to know about negotiating with me: I’ll never give you more than 10 percent above my original offer. You’re welcomed to ask (once, twice and then you’re starting to irritate me), though whatever my “final offer” is I’m not going to budge. It is also likely that if I like what you have, I’m going to give you my best offer to start. I want your business and your repeat business. Why haggle?
—Be courteous, kind and respectful. Look, I realize that if you’re coming into my store with something to sell, there’s a good chance you’re selling under duress or you are in some kind of transition that probably isn’t easy. I’m going to do my best to be welcoming and professional, and I greet every person with the same clean slate. Treat me equally and you’ll increase the chances I will be able to help you lighten your load.
—Tell me how much it sold for on eBay. While I appreciate your due diligence, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard this, I would have enough to put in a sack and beat you with them. You don’t know anything about how eBay works. I do and will use my power-seller status to properly evaluate the truth of your statement. On average, no one has ever told me the true value of an item sold on eBay.
—Bring me your drama. This is big. Like I stated above, I do understand and empathize with you. It’s just that, whatever your situation, it’s irrelevant to the transaction. Unless the story bears direct importance to the value of your object, I’m not interested. While I don’t mind knowing you inherited it from your grandmother, hearing the details of her final days is not really my business.
—Bring me junk and expect me to buy it. If your watch says China on it, I probably don’t want it. If you have a pile of jewelry that you want me to evaluate, please be kind enough to separate it out from a tangled knot of stainless steel necklaces, cheap baubles and a few silver earrings. I’m only interested in the high-quality items, and I’ll offer you a high percentage of melt weight (the actual value of the precious-metal content your item contains), and unless your pile contains a fair amount of gold, it’s probably not worth my time.
—Try to haggle with me. There is nothing wrong with a little negotiation. You would be correct in assuming that the person behind the counter might not be giving you the best possible offer immediately. However, there is a fine line between negotiating and haggling. Cross it and we say goodbye. I would venture to state that the second offer is rarely going to be higher than an additional 5 percent, and asking for more will peg you as a difficult customer and ensure that if you return (or have additional items) we are going to be much firmer in our initial offers.
—Assume my offer is an attempt to rip you off. One of the biggest misnomers in this business is that we are trying to rip you off. We’re not. Let’s break this down so you can understand. Suppose you are a little short on cash and you figure you can sell your watch to make a couple of bucks. You paid more than $100 for it a few years back, and you figure it’s still worth $20 to $40. You bring it to me, and I offer you $15, a fair price considering I can buy that watch brand new for $75 and used ones previously sold between $30 and $50. So I’m actually offering 50 percent of the low-end value ($30) and more than 33 percent of the average value ($40), which is far from a rip-off. Ten cents on the dollar is a rip-off.
So next time you need to sell your items, come see me. I hope this primer helped you understand a little more of what to expect when you do. And I hope we can do business. I’ll be the guy wearing the Hawaiian shirt; it’s my job.
Brian Weiss is a thirty-year denizen of downtown Las Vegas and manages Waikiki Gold & Silver. This piece reflects his decades of experience working in the reseller and collectibles business. Your results may vary.