ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The combination of high gold prices and a lackluster economy has led to a jump in the number of gold-buying businesses in the Albuquerque area.
However, a KRQE News 13 undercover investigation revealed that the amount businesses are willing to pay varies from store to store, suggesting that consumers might want to shop around for the best deal.
"It's quadrupled the number of people coming in to sell," said Ed Karler, a gemologist with ABQ Gold and Silver Exchange on Menaul. "Anytime you have a business involved with this much money, you're going to have people who come in and misrepresent one of several things."
Karler has been in the jewelry business for more than 30 years, and his scale was recently inspected and certified by the state. So before a News 13 producer took the gold around town, Karler inspected and weighed the pieces.
"We have a certain rate that we pay per gram on that day, or oftentimes we'll change it two or three times during the day as the price of metal changes," Karler said.
The four pieces used by News 13 weighed 13.7 grams combined, and were all 14-karat gold. Karler said a fair price for all four would be about $325.
The first place a News 13 producer with a hidden camera took the gold was to National Jewelry Buyers on Menaul Boulevard in northeast Albuquerque. After a quick inspection, a buyer confirmed the gold was all 14-karat and offered $308 for all of it.
The best offer came from a man at Compramos Oro on Old Coors Road and Central Avenue on the city's West Side.
"I'll do up to $340," he said after saying he started buying gold after his previous enterprise--selling blankets featuring pop culture icons--tanked with the economy.
Pawn shops also buy gold, so the News 13 producer visited Quick Cash and Pawn on Coors Boulevard. After a lengthy inspection, a man offered $100 for all four pieces.
The man said the pieces were probably worth about $390, though he admitted he wouldn't pay that much for them. He said he would start the bargaining at $100.
News 13 also visited two Oro Cash For Gold stores--one on Coors on the West Side and one on Menaul in the northeast. The company has 27 stores across the country, according to its website.
The woman behind the counter on Menaul used an acid test, which helped her determine the pieces were all 14-karat gold. Her first offer was $195. However, just as our producer was about to leave, she offered a coupon.
"With the coupon of 20 percent (more), it would be $231," she said.
At the Oro Cash For Gold on Coors, the woman behind the counter performed the acid test, too, but this time incorrectly said one of the pieces was only 10-karat gold. Her first offer was $170. Then she, too, threw in the 20 percent coupon, upping the offer to $205.
A company spokesperson later told News 13 employees usually start low because "customers like to negotiate."
There is nothing illegal about any of the prices the stores offered. However, the law does say that the state or a licensed scale company must inspect scales used by a business that buys gold.
But the state hasn't been very good about doing spot checks, said Raymond Johnson of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
"We didn't have the equipment we needed to or enough equipment that we needed to to do them," he said.
The state recently purchased nine more weight test kits and plans to focus on yearly inspections, he said.
But Karler advised anyone planning to sell gold to shop it around to get the most money.
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