Treasure hunt

Traveling buyer’s emporium touches down in Chico

Maxwell resident Chris Woodill (right) hopes for good news from buyer Monica Ingiane about the value of her 1950s-era Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls at the recent Treasure Hunters Roadshow at the Best Western Heritage Inn

Maxwell resident Chris Woodill (right) hopes for good news from buyer Monica Ingiane about the value of her 1950s-era Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls at the recent Treasure Hunters Roadshow at the Best Western Heritage Inn

Photo By christine g.k. lapado

“Got gold?” asked the full-page advertisement taken out by the Treasure Hunters Roadshow in local newspapers, promoting its Chico touchdown Feb. 22-26 at the Best Western Heritage Inn. The traveling event, the ad advised, was also looking for coins minted before 1964; military swords, knives and medals; pre-1965 toys, trains and dolls; musical instruments; watches; even dental gold and costume jewelry, broken or not.

Treasure Hunters Roadshow—which is televised for the Live Well Network when it stops in large urban areas such as Seattle and Miami—is riding a wave of popularity shared by other valuables-purchasing outfits with television shows (American Pickers, Pawn Stars and PBS pioneer Antiques Roadshow).

Considering that the value of gold recently hit an all-time high of more than $1,400 an ounce—and the rocky state of the economy—it made sense that a number of folks might turn up at the Heritage Inn with stashes of treasure rustled up from attics, garages, closets and trunks.

Last Thursday (Feb. 24) was a cold and windy day, but that didn’t stop the two dozen or more people who arrived at the hotel—many from surrounding towns such as Oroville, Gridley and Maxwell—with their bags, boxes and pillowcases of assorted loot. Several brought coins, jewelry and dolls. One woman had two vintage Budweiser signs. Another held two heavy, tarnished, silver-colored swords (“This one is from World War I,” she said of the bigger one, as she laid it out on a lobby table).

Each was awaiting his or her turn, as new people arrived and took a number, to sit with a THR buyer in the designated deal-making room and possibly go home with a nice, fat check.

Chris Woodill, a farm laborer from Maxwell, made the trip to Chico early enough to sit down with THR buyer Monica Ingiane at 9 a.m., when the Roadshow opened.

“I was with that woman for three hours,” Woodill said. She toted with her a trio of pre-1954 Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls for appraisal, part of a collection of roughly 60 dolls that used to belong to her mother. She also brought along coins and jewelry, including a wedding-ring set from a previous marriage.

“We’ve got about $300,000 we can spend this week, and we’d like to spend every penny of it,” said 42-year-old THR field manager Gary Davison, seated behind one of four desks inside the buying room.

Davison said his company acts as a central broker “representing about 6,000 collectors.” Business is booming, he noted: “We’re hiring and we’re growing.”

“So far, [in Chico] we’ve been seeing a lot of silver coins coming in,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of broken jewelry, scrap jewelry—broken gold chains, missing earrings. … We’ve bought a few gold teeth this week, like crowns and caps—things like that.”

Davison said that the gold is sent to THR’s Illinois refinery, where it is melted down and made into bars. As for what happens to the gold bars, he said, “I’m not quite sure what happens to that. You know, I’m a buyer. I’m just into buying.”

He said the most unusual item he’s purchased for THR in the six months he’s worked for the company is a mint-condition 1796 16-star Liberty half-dollar. The coin fetched its owner $65,840 a couple of weeks ago in Provo, Utah. “It was the largest check I ever wrote.”

Last week in Ukiah, he said, a man brought in an 1804 dollar coin, but, “It was fake. Ninety percent of the rare coins that are brought in are fake.”

As it turned out, Woodill did not part with her dolls. She said that Ingiane “only wanted to offer me $100 for all three of [my dolls]. But everywhere I’ve been looking, they say they’re worth $100 apiece.”

Woodill didn’t sell the wedding set, either: “She offered me $300 for the gold value of the wedding set. I think the diamond [alone] might be worth more than that. I’m going to go downtown and see what the jewelry stores say.”

She did, however, sell “a lot of costume jewelry and old coins.”

“I sold wheat pennies for 2 cents apiece,” she said. “I had a nickel that was worth 15 cents. Most of it went on weight. All the rest of it, [Ingiane] just said, ‘Take ’em and spend ’em.’ They weren’t worth much.”

The costume jewelry, which was bought by weight, will be melted down, said Woodill, adding, “They’ll send you back the stones after they melt it down, if you want them to.”