Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange stays busy

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Dick Jones stopped dealing in antiques about a decade ago, but continues to buy precious metals at his Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange in Vail Mills. “Most of the jewelry I have is just scrap stuff, like wedding bands,” he said. “It’s not resalable. It’s just about the gold content.” (The Leader-Herald/Charles Erickson)

VAIL MILLS — Six days a week, whenever his little store is open, Dick Jones posts the spot prices of gold and silver on a sign visible from the busy highway outside. These prices, like those shown for unleaded at a gas station or the temperatures of faraway places displayed at a travel agency, are an effort to attract customers.

“I get a lot of wedding bands,” Jones said recently, behind the sales counter of his Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange, at 3824 Route 30, which stands perpendicular to and shares a driveway with his residence. “There’s no resale in any of that stuff. What new bride wants to wear a used engagement ring?”

Customers bring in assorted jewelry, silverware, coins and bullion, which Jones appraises and tests for purity. If he is interested, he will make them an offer. If they accept, they walk out with cash or a check.

Transactions are one-way: Jones does not retail any of the gold, silver or platinum objects that he buys. Scrap metals are sent to a smelter on Long Island, while collectibles are sold to a Saratoga County metals dealer for additional wholesaling or possible resale to the public.

On this Wednesday morning, Jones had looked up the latest gold and silver prices while home and then carried them to the shop on a piece of paper. The roadside sign, priced from the day before, showed gold at $1,909 per ounce, and an ounce of silver at $28.15.

“I’m going to have to change that,” he said, less than 30 minutes before the store was set to begin another day of commerce. “Gold opened this morning at $1,894. Silver today opened at $27.86.”

Business, according to Jones, has remained steady for the last five years. Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange never closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic slowdown from March of last year has not prompted more people to attempt to monetize some of their metallic assets.

Jones said the type of customers who tender metals to him is split between people who are offloading their own possessions and those who are selling things they received as part of an inheritance.

“A person could have a necklace they haven’t worn for years,” he said. “Maybe it’s broken. They just want to get rid of it.”

Others bring in items from an estate. The scrap worth of the items outweighs the sentimental value.

“It’s their inheritance,” Jones said of these customers. “They clean out the family’s coins, jewelry and stuff like that. Things they have no use for.”

Jones has been buying precious metals for 41 years, and exclusively for about the last 10.

In 1980, he opened Ole Country Loft in Mayfield. The antiques store was also adjacent to his house and also was beside State Highway 30. The metals part of the operation was separate from the antiquing, but still handled by the shop’s owner and sole employee.

Nine years later, Jones moved his home and his business down the highway to Vail Mills. Ole Country Loft was then based in a new building constructed near the house.

About a decade ago, he got out of antiques and renamed the store Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange.

“This gives me something to do,” Jones said. “I’m 78 and when I’m 98 I’ll still be out here. I don’t have too far to drive, you know what I mean?”

After he exited the antiques business, Jones used the store’s display cases to show — and occasionally sell — some of the metal items he purchased from customers. To maintain an inventory required too much planning and too much money, Jones said, so he decided to end all retailing. Signs on the door and at the front counter inform entrants that the proprietor is only interested in buying.

“If they sell, they sell,” Jones said. “And that’s it.”

Buying requires little floor space and only a few tools. On the counter, Jones keeps a certified scale and a small collection of eyedroppers. The eyedroppers, whose purpose is identified by the color on the cap, contain acids which react to different karats of gold, along with platinum and sterling silver.

“It tests whether it’s actual gold or not,” Jones said. “If it’s not gold, it’ll let you know that it’s not gold. It’s an acid — a type of metal acid.”

Gold, a soft metal, is normally alloyed with other metals when used in jewelry. The acids allow Jones to identify if an unmarked item is made from 10, 14 or 18 karats — or an even purer form of the yellow metal.

Bullion, which is held for investment purposes, has a higher purity compared to most pieces of jewelry. Jones hefted a 100-ounce bar of silver, .999 fine, onto the counter. At this day’s spot price, the brick of metal was worth $2,815.

“That’s pure silver, right there,” he said.

And with that, the owner of Adirondack Gold & Silver Exchange said he needed to go outside and post the latest prices for precious metals.

By Paul Wager