A pair of broken gold earrings in the bottom of your jewelry box? A couple of 1800s silver dollars in the corner of your bottom desk drawer? Old metal toys boxed in your attic?
Treasure Hunters Roadshow is in Hernando and Citrus counties this week, on the lookout for collectibles of all sorts.
The Springfield, Ill., company pays cash on the spot, with professional appraisers schooled in several specialties working from collectors' want lists.
The company has 60 teams of appraiser-buyers traveling throughout the United States and Canada, and is expanding to Europe, its news releases say. Its list of collectors numbers in the thousands, said Jesse Price, manager for the team visiting the Holiday Inn Express on State Road 50 in Spring Hill.
"Other companies ignore smaller towns," Price said. "We try to get a little closer. In a lot of smaller towns, we find the bigger things."
From a "small town in Florida," he reported, Treasure Hunters recently paid $25,000 for a letter signed by George Washington.
"Of course, not everybody has a letter signed by the first president," Price said.
He mentioned another recent treasure: "We just shipped off a $7,000 guitar," made in 1959.
Treasure Hunters makes its profit by selling to collectors. People who offer items at the local events are not charged a fee.
Gold is the big buy now, Price said. Gold is currently selling for more than $1,200 an ounce, the highest ever. Treasure Hunters buys it by weight and karat.
A Hernando County woman brought a pair of damaged gold earrings Monday to the Roadshow. She said one wasn't repairable.
She accepted $15 for the broken pair and an unrevealed amount for another pair.
Another visitor picked up $574 for a gold pocket watch of late 1800s vintage.
An older couple unbagged a teddy bear wearing a patch that indicated it came from the Pennsylvania State Fair in the 1970s. Treasure Hunters made no offer.
"It was a carnival item," Price said. "There's not anything happening with them."
But silver is happening. Purchased Monday were a lacy-cut sterling silver dish, a serving tray lavishly edged with scrollwork, two simple bowls, perhaps intended for nuts or condiments, and two platters. The seller walked away with about $1,200.
"A lot of people say they don't want to polish it anymore. Or they don't use it anymore," Price said.
Sellers offer sterling flatware for the same reasons, he said.
A lover of silver eyed the loot and inquired about buying it on site.
"We don't sell anything (here)," Price said.
But that doesn't preclude individual collectors from sitting on the sidelines in the buying room and following someone into the hall who might have a desirable item that Treasure Hunters turned down.
Price offered some suggestions on what really sells: military items, old toys, dolls, musical instruments, artwork by famous painters, old gold and silver coins and Confederate currency, and vintage jewelry.
On the other hand, he said the market is small for china, Depression glass and canning jars. "Fruit jars aren't big, but there might be one worth $200," he said. "You never know."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]