Meet Your Merchant: Skier takes the gold – his own way
Weaving quickly in and out of gates on the ski hill takes focus, determination, and the ability to instantly analyze your own skills to maximize your talent.
Skier Jason Hommel harnessed those qualities when he got into the precious metals trade, taking the skills that made him a sponsored, nationally ranked downhill racer as a youth and transforming them into running his fledgling business, JH Mint, in Grass Valley.
“I learned as a ski racer you have paid coaches whom you pay a lot of money to,” Hommel said. “But eventually, you have to grow up and realize you may know more than your coaches. They’ve generally been out of skiing for 10 to 15 years, and the technology has changed since they were at it. You need to figure things out for yourself, what works best for you, and put it to use.”
At 39, Hommel still embodies the characteristics that made him a good racer. He’s independent, self-taught in the precious metals trade through years of reading – both online and in the Holy Bible.
He credits the Bible’s teachings relating to money – eschewing man’s ‘paper promises’ such as bonds and futures trading in favor of actual money, gold and silver – for helping him to crystallize his views on his trade.
He carefully analyzes his stock of gold and silver bullion, favoring the rather bland silver bars that are of value to buyers over collector’s edition coins that lack broad interest.
Hommel learned the value of a dollar early, he said.
“At 10 years old in 1980, I realized that as a family we needed at least $25 to have a pizza,” Hommel said.
“When I saw the price of gold rise, I thought that if we had some, we could have afforded to have pizza 10 times that month. That’s a huge thing for a 10-year-old.”
His career in ski racing took him across California as a teenager and away from his father. At 17, Hommel and a brother moved up to North Lake Tahoe to ski competitively daily, living on their own.
“We’d reached a level in our skiing where if we wanted to succeed we’d need a greater commitment level,” Hommel said. “We were fairly mature and could take moving away.”
During his senior year in high school, Hommel moved down to Mammoth Mountain to train, though he was passed over for the U.S. ski team, a fact that irked him enough by his senior year at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to put pen to paper.
Hommel raced for the CU club team, failing to make varsity because it was packed with guys who were veterans of the U.S. team who couldn’t compete at that level any more. The system, which was putting athletes onto the national team at 18 and spitting them out at 23 to take college spots, appeared backwards in his eyes.
“I wrote an editorial in Ski Racing magazine pointing out that our skiers are too young,” Hommel said. “Rather than producing the fastest skiers, we were taking the skiers who may have been fastest at 18, and older skiers who were still committed to getting faster were left off.
“It was a totalitarian system and wasn’t focused on getting the fastest skiers in the country, just the fastest at a certain age,” Hommel reasoned.
He credits his CU education, though, with teaching him the critical thinking skills essential to running a business.
After a decade in Colorado, Hommel returned to California in the early 2000s to help his father plan and execute his financial retirement plan. At that point, he became interested in precious metals, and in 2009 he opened JH Mint in the Loma Rica industrial area, just east of Grass Valley.
The business is a reflection of Hommel, buying and selling product as the market demands and quickly moving away from ventures that don’t work.
To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.
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