Meet Your Merchant: Sierra Gold & Coin big buyer of river gold
Sierra Gold & Coin
203 West Main Street, Grass Valley
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays
John Englehardt has always liked to collect things — from antique guns to vintage cars, such as his cherry ’57 Ford Fairlane or his ’57 Ford Ranchero.
But after he retired from a successful career in the metal finishing industry, it was his small coin collection that would change the course of his life.
A longtime friend, Pat Sisler, who was considered an expert in coins, urged Englehardt to open a full service coin store in Nevada County. After conducting thorough market research, it was clear there was a need for a quality numismatic and bullion store, especially one that provided a fair and friendly atmosphere.
TEST OF METTLE
In 2010, Englehardt opened Sierra Gold & Coin on West Main Street in Grass Valley, with Sisler, a coin collector for more than 50 years, serving as his right hand man and in-house expert. It didn’t take long for word-of-mouth to travel.
The store quickly developed a reputation for its accuracy, integrity and extensive knowledge of obscure coins, both foreign and domestic. They became the premier buyer and seller of precious metals including coins, bullion, gold, silver, platinum, scrap jewelry, sterling silver and more.
An investment in an $18,000 tester allowed for Englehardt to identify exactly what percentage of each material is in a given coin or object. This gave him an edge among his competitors, as he could quickly single out counterfeit or tainted items. In fact, the county district attorney’s office has sought out Englehardt to test stolen items.
Sadly, after just two short years in business, Sisler’s health quickly began to decline and he passed away from cancer in 2012. Englehardt had been in the process of creating a partnership for his longtime friend.
Today, Englehardt’s daughter, Deb, works daily alongside her dad. She has become the expert on foreign coins, while her father specializes in American coins. A former teacher at Bear River High School, she says she’s found her niche in her father’s store and enjoys getting to know regular customers and taking part in the detective work that is often required when someone brings in grandma’s old jewelry or coin box.
Some people have started crying in the store, she said, when they realized something they inherited was worth far more than they could have imagined. While, at age 76, Englehardt says he’d rather “still be doing it all in pencil,” thanks to their website, the store has built up a customer base throughout the United States, allowing him to tap into national trends. They also attend several large trade shows in California and Nevada. Thanks to their highly professional businesses practices, they’ve earned an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau.
“Unfortunately, the coin collecting side of the business is declining rapidly,” said Englehardt. “In the old days people didn’t have cell phones and iPads and Facebook to distract them. When we were young life was different. At night, all you had was a radio. People would sit down and go through coins and start collecting.
“Now that market has really declined. We buy a lot of collections because people don’t want to do it anymore. But we are not a pawn shop. We haven’t seen too many stolen things over the years and if we don’t know you, you need to provide a photo ID.”
Today, the bulk of business at Sierra Gold & Coin is bullion, meaning gold or silver that is valued by mass and weight.
“Bullion is worth the value of the metal it’s made out of,” said Englehardt. “If the price of gold goes up, so does the coin. People watch the market, and when the price goes down, they buy. The other day we sold all the silver in our display case. Hedging against the dollar — that’s what people are doing. I think people come to see us because — I promise you — when you leave here you’ll know what you’ve got and what it’s truly worth. You can ask any price your little heart desires on eBay, it doesn’t mean people will pay it.”
Today, Sierra Gold & Coin is the biggest buyer of placer gold — also known as river gold — in Nevada County.
“The most rewarding part of this job is educating a lot of people,” said Englehardt. “There are a few younger people who want to learn how to collect. The big goal Pat and I had when we opened was to explain to people what they really have and the benefits of collecting.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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