Cheap Gold - Mary Lou's True Story

Back to Papers

ary Lou entered the classroom and selected the chair closest to me, class instructor for the next 6 weeks.
            The sign on the classroom door read:
Thrift Store Prospecting
Tues 2-3:30pm
Megan Rose, Author
   I looked around at those seated at the 4'x8' conference table.  Besides Mary Lou, there was a smiley man and his rather mousey wife.  Bob and Sarah were their names.  I then counted 5 "widow ladies"...and added in Mary Lou for a total of eight new "prospectors in training."   Atop the table were selected examples of the kinds of gold we would be hunting which I had chosen from the public display exhibit I always lay out whenever I give public lectures or attend a gold show as a vendor. It's my way of educating folk on this type of gold prospecting.    These gold bearing examples plucked from my travels never failed to "break the ice" and get folks to talking about looking at  gold in a different way.  <<<< >>>> Each and every item of cheap gold on the table had come from a thrift store, flea market or a garage/estate sale.  All together, they only comprised the tiniest portion of cheap discoverable gold items mentioned in my book for others to seek and recover at less than $20 per 24K refined ounce as a rule of thumb.
   Mary Lou looked like she'd stepped out of a Macy's Store corner window designer showcase with her perfect hairdo, freshly manicured nails and deftly applied make-up.  She was, wearing muted-pastels--summer cotton separates with a delicate white bolero sporting a designer stick pin in its front placket.  She opened up her "day planner" to the proper date, pulled out and uncapped her Esterbrook fountain pen, smoothed out a neatly folded tissue, placed it on the left side and leaned back in her chair to size me up. 
   I smiled at the one lone gentleman in the room, and introduced myself to this latest crop of "above ground, citified gold prospectors," all of them at least 20 if not 30 years my senior.  I always gulp a little as I face each new class, -- after all, they've lived through wars and depressions and just about heard and seen it all.  And I jokingly challenged Mary Lou as being in the wrong class, as she was obviously younger than the rest of the group. She admitted she hadn't even turned 55 yet, but because was her "Mother's" transportation, a regular to the Tualatin Valley Senior Center in Beaverton, OR, she had been granted permission to attend this one class for 6 weeks, that is if I didn't mind. I asked the class and they voted to let her stay. Her sunny smile rewarded them all for their support.
   Senior citizens are a fun bunch when I got right down to it because they were old enough to NOT do anything they didn't feel like doing.  And the thought of finding cheap discarded gold in the city instead of having to buy a bunch of metal detectors or panning kits, or go hiking in the forest and wade into a stream to do back-breaking placer gold panning to find gold, well, let's face fit their "come and go as they pleased" retired lifestyle. Each one assured me this thrift store prospecting might be something new they could learn to do in their "retirement years." 
   Stacked in front of me were the class outlines alongside a single copy of my book, Thrift Store Prospecting, my 16x jeweler's loupe, sharpened pencils and note paper.  After introductions, I passed out the 6 week outline to each class member.  I glanced at Mary Lou, who immediately turned her attention to scanning this document as if she was reading quarterly financial reports. "I'm going to have trouble with HER," I thought silently to myself as I began audibly to describe the best techniques for selecting the most likely thrift stores, garage sales, and flea market booths for my new "prospector students" to start their search for cheap gold.  After all, I have bragged that " cheap gold is abundant, above ground and already refined once" in the class synopsis posted on the enrollment board which had successfully tempted all of them to enroll. 
   Time flew and it was time for class to be dismissed.  Basically, the 90 minute period was divided into 30 minutes show 'n tell, 45 minutes new material, and 15 minutes Question and Answer segments.  I gave these "prospectors" their assignment: attend as many garage sales or estate sales or thrift stores as possible between this Tuesday and the next, using the tips and tricks for success I had just shared with them. AND, they were to bring back their best gold bargain for each of us to examine, weigh and learn to do the math to determine gold value, wholesale value, and retail value at the next class.
   Bidding them "adieu" some of them stuck around to ask questions.  NOT Mary Lou!  She scooped up her pen, planner and handbag in one coordinated motion and was gone in a flash.
   The second Tuesday found all of them in the classroom 15 minutes early, except for Mary Lou. With 15 seconds to spare, she glided into the classroom and took her place, again at my right hand.  There was a sense of expectancy in the room, and I noticed Bob and Sarah looking a bit strange as I set out new items on the table to spark discussion. Bob had a pleased look on his face, and Sarah had this "left out" look on HER face.  As I called the group to order, I was to learn why. 
   Starting around the table, I asked each one what kind of luck they'd had with their homework, and what they had brought for us to examine.  One brought a sack of gold plated costume jewelry they'd purchased and wanted me to check out.  She had done well, as there were some treasures tucked in her sack worthy of a second look.  She was pleased to have done so well.  A second woman brought a small ring she'd found.  Two of them confessed to being "too busy to go out" but avowed they'd do better by next class.  The fifth one couldn't go out, but did bring something she'd tucked into her dresser drawer years ago that was handed down from a grandmother.  She asked if I'd look it over.
  Bob, I noticed was fairly dancing in his chair waiting for us to get to him, all the while, wearing, a most pleased look on his face.  Being a gentleman --or well-trained, I couldn't decide which-- Bob insisted his wife, Sarah speak first. She confessed to getting skunked but having fun for the first time in years because Bob had always refused to go with her to do this "slumming thing."  She was shocked to learn he'd taken his homework assignment seriously the immediate past weekend.   She revealed Bob had not only DRIVEN her to the estate and garage sales in the nicer part of town, he'd actually GOTTEN OUT OF THE CAR and GONE IN WITH HER, to each and every one of them.  So, she felt like THAT was her accomplishment for the week.  The other women nodded in knowing agreement!  "Must not be as many widows as I'd first thought in this class," I mused silently as I watched the group cheer Sarah's improved lot in life.  Bob looked extremely pleased with himself.  He WAS the only guy in a room full of women!
   At last it was Bob's turn!  He turned in his chair and picked up a sack he'd placed on the floor earlier.  Reaching inside, he pulled out a cheap-looking sewing basket and set it on the table.  Sarah looked at him with astonished disgust, almost accusatory!   "I saw you put that thing in the trunk, Saturday but you wouldn't tell me why.  How come you drug it to class today???  I looked in it and I didn't find a thing!!"
   Bob chucked and patted his consternated wife's hand in a obviously familiar, loving manner.  He began to speak. "Remember, Megan, when you told us that one of the things we should do is for 'guys to go look at girl stuff' and for 'girls to go out to the garage and look around in the guy stuff'?  Well, that's what I did.
  Yes, I saw Sarah look kind of half-heartedly in the sewing basket, and then quickly move onto something else in the room that had caught her eye.  But I remembered what you said last week.  Especially the part where you told us that most women put busted rings, or bracelets or valuable earrings in their sewing baskets where they keep their straight pins and needles and missing buttons, you the little Sucrets throat logenzes boxes and all? He looked at me, seeking my approval. I nodded and told him to continue.
   He fiddled with the sewing basket fastener with his arthritic and calloused fingers--the fingers of a former heavy construction worker. It was a few moments before the latch yielded to him, and then popped opened.  He fished around inside for a couple of seconds and pulled out the straight pin box he'd found earlier.  Triumphantly he opened it and plucked out a heavy 14K gold, scholastic award pin of some vintage and plopped it in front of his speechless Sarah.  She blinked twice and looked at him, weakly mumbling something about "it wasn't there when SHE looked in there."  He grinned and asked me and the group, "Guess how much I paid for it?"
   Sarah piped up and said, "Well, I remember!!  There was a $2.50 sticker on that basket!!!"
   He patted her again, and reminded her that they had bought it on Sunday, not Saturday, which was the last day of the sale and it was 50% off.  She scowled at him, properly chastised.  He just grinned from ear to ear.  So, we stopped and did the math on his new treasure.  In gold alone, there was over $12.00 of gold in that award pin just by weight. And that wasn't calculating any 'collectible' premium for its age or condition, both which were obvious.  Bob was pleased, and so was Sarah by that time we got to the "bottom line."
   She did say she'd dutifully gone to the garage and not found anything.  I asked if she'd poked around in the old tool boxes looking for wedding rings, gold dental fillings or men's watches or watch bands.  She admitted she hadn't, because they were just "too dirty."   I took that opportunity to remind the class they should carry some pre-moistened  "Baby Wipes" with them when they went "citified prospecting," and to take some lotion, too.  And I suggested they not forget the BandAids either, because they might poke their finger on something sharp while they were rummaging around at these sales. Digging around in tool boxes or clothes boxes ---either one--- can be tough on hands!
   Mary Lou made notes of these tips in her day-planner while Bob reassured Sarah that maybe "next time SHE'd be the lucky one."  Then Bob fessed up:  he admitted having more fun than he thought he would doing this "slumming thing" with her.  AND he admitted he'd been "an old poop" about driving her around every weekend when he'd rather have been doing something else without her.  But Bob confessed he was now hooked and how much fun they'd had  together that weekend.  And he promised Sarah she wasn't going to have any more trouble with him from that point on about this weekend slummin'  thing she was always trying to get him to do with her.
   Mary Lou said there quietly during all of this.  I'd saved her "report" for last because, frankly, she didn't look like anything had soaked in at all, either in the previous class or during this "show 'n tell" segment.  That was an mistake!!
   Mary Lou quietly reached for her designer handbag, snapped it open, and pulled out a rather heavy item, wrapped in a dainty hanky---the kind of hanky that my Momma always said was  "for show and not for blow!"  She closed her leather-bound, day-planner with one hand and carefully placed the wrapped item on top of it with the other.  She began her tale of adventure.
   "I was really pressed for time this weekend, having company and all.  BUT, I managed to get to this one estate sale I'd read about in the newspaper.  I remembered what you taught us last week about always checking out the stuff that is carefully gathered around the cashier and the cashbox, wherever THAT person was at a sale.  I did as you told, and headed straight for the cashier since I was short on time.  I spotted an item with a dainty chain on it, and remembered something else you told us last week.  Remember, you taught us that if we ever spotted a safety chain dangling on any piece of women's jewelry, we were probably looking at honest to goodness gold karat jewelry item?  And remember you said they didn't put those chains on junk or plated jewelry in case the clasp would fail, and the bracelet or watch band would spring open?"
   "Megan, I saw this bracelet's safety chain before I noticed the bracelet itself, frankly.  I asked the cashier if I could look at it closer.  I had bought the jeweler's loupe you'd told us to get last week and had it with me in my purse. The cashier said yes, and I stepped to the closest window to study the bracelet in natural sunlight which you also said we should always do if at all possible.  I hunted all over this thing for some kind of karat marking that looked like the ones you showed us on the list in the back of your book last week, and just about gave up, until... until, something caught my eye..." her voice trailed off, trying not to get too excited in case she was wrong. 
   Mary Lou handed her now unwrapped treasure to me to me to see if I could find--withOUT her help--what she almost had missed spying.  I looked for a few seconds before spotting it.  Sure enough, the 18K gold mark had been cleverly intertwined into the metallic chasing of the surface design.  It was indeed an exquisite, hand-crafted, custom-made, solid gold bracelet.  And, it was H-E-A-V-Y!!!
   "Do you have time to weigh it now," she implored? She surveyed the group around her--all were riveted classmates who were all caught up in her tale! 
   "Yes," I said.  I passed out a new worksheet with the step-by-step instructions as to how to weigh and calculate intrinsic gold value, as well as estimate wholesale value and the likely retail value of any gold item they found as citified prospectors.  I wanted us to do the worksheet together in class so that we could all do the math thing together.  Our goal?  To help  Mary Lou decide IF she'd found a bargain!
I weighed her bracelet and gave that troy ounce number to the class to fill in the blank on their worksheet.  Mary Lou had already dug out her solar powered calculator from a hidden compartment of her day-planner.  She could hardly wait for us to get to the "bottom-line."  When we got to the question on the worksheet that asked, "What is the asking price of this item?", we all turned to her and asked her the "politically incorrect" question: "Mary Lou, what did you pay for it?" She grinned wickedly and replied, "$65.00"   The class began to clap, because we'd just proved she had found almost $1,100 in just gold value in her heavy bracelet--with the dangly safety chain.
   Mary Lou just chortled and clapped her hands together with glee.  She then told us that she could hardly wait to drive her Mother back home and "chat with her Dad." 
 We all asked her why, and she replied, "Since 1971 when America went off the 'gold standard,' my Dad's ragged on ALL of us kids from that time till now about how "we should have done what HE did" and bought gold at $35 per oz."  She triumphantly declared, "Finally, I have the goods on him...because I only paid $65 for almost 4 ounces of gold value in this bracelet.  I don't know yet, if I'm going to say anything about the jeweler's wholesale price which is roughly $2200.  And I figure I'll have to find his Nitro when he learns the jeweler's showcase price is about $4,500! " 
   I dismissed class after handing out the new homework assignment. 

Mary Lou dashed for the door!


Megan Rose, Author
© Copyright 2002
One time use permission granted by my publisher,
Copyright Pen Press, PO BOX 321, PARMA ID 83660-0321, Office: 208-722-7722
exclusive distributor for Megan's complete recycling how to kit.

Site design & maintenance by Nick Laird
All pages on this website are ©1998-2024 Gold Charts R Us - All Rights Reserved