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Economy forced entrepreneur to switch from pools to gold
Larry Chisler used to build pools and spas when the economy was good. As Valley jobs were trimmed and foreclosures skyrocketed, there wasn't enough business to keep Fun Pool & Spa afloat.

Chisler adapted and today has turned to the gold buying business, which in turn has helped some people earn extra cash.

"We Buy Gold & Silver" opened a month ago at 1937 Mitchell Road. Sign flippers have drawn attention to the new business just south of Fowler Road. As a result, some customers have walked in off the street with gold jewelry and silver items.

"We're here to help people out," said Chisler. "I can crunch the numbers the numbers. People are desperate. With tough times people are taking advantage of the gold and silver market."

Unwanted jewelry, broken chains, watches, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, silverware, pendants, gold teeth and crowns, and pre-1964 silver and gold coins all can result in spare cash.

Coins are not bought on numismatic (coin collecting) value but rather for silver or gold content. The rule of thumb is the company pays 12 times the face value of silver coins, such as $1.20 for a Mercury dime, $6 for a Ben Franklin or Kennedy half dollar, or $12 for a silver dollar.

Chisler's company receives widely fluctuating reactions to offers.

"Some people love us but others are not so happy," said Chisler, the former manager of a jewelry store.

In some instances, some customers reject offers as too low since coins can be worth more to a coin dealer and wedding bands more as a wedding band, not just metal content. A customer walked in Wednesday and plopped down a wedding ring that tested for 10 carrot gold and was offered $50. He walked out. Moments later a woman on her way to work in Modesto brought in a bag of unwanted gold jewelry and was happy to receive $163 to pay on bills.

It's rare but when a tearful spouse offers to sell a wedding band as a means of getting cash, Chisler has said no.

"Breaks my heart - I can't do it."

Chisler called his business "dangerous," referring to the caution that must be exercised to refrain from buying stolen goods. All customers must show a valid ID and fill out a "pawn" form - although the business does not pawn - which is forwarded to Ceres Police for review against any potential jewelry items stolen in area burglaries.

The first step on a transaction, however, involves a free testing to insure that the gold and silver are real. The item is rubbed against a danuba stone to which the residue is tested on an acidic compound. If it's real gold then the residue stays; if not, it disappears.

"You'd be amazed at how much staff comes in stamped but it's not real gold," said Chisler. "Even some coins are coming in as fake. A lot of it is being manufactured in China."

Within minutes of the lady who sold $163 in jewelry, two men walked in and handed Chisler a tooth purportedly containing a gold filling. Chisler examined it and handed it back saying, "It's not gold, gentlemen." They walked out. "I think it was brass," he said. He suspected the pair were trying to con him since dental fillings don't use brass.

"I know it's a good business but competition is fierce," said manager Chris Cross, who puruses Craigslist to see if jewelry sellers want to bring items down for quick cash.

The business is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Sundays and may be reached at 531-1937.