Treasure Hunters Roadshow turns junk into cash

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AUBURN — Dan DiMambro was pretty sure he knew what his stuff was worth before he walked into the Treasure Hunters Roadshow on Tuesday morning. The blue pedal car modeled after a 1957 Chevrolet: $500. A handful of old coins: a few dollars. The old bouillon cube tin he carried the coins in: virtually nothing.

Or not.

“How about $15 for the tin?” asked roadshow buyer Eddie Stambaugh with a smile.

“What?” DiMambro said. “Now that, that surprises me.”

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In the waiting area behind him, more than a dozen people hoped to be similarly surprised. 

For hours Tuesday, representatives from the Treasure Hunters Roadshow set up shop in the Fireside Inn in Auburn, assessing people’s old belongings and — sometimes — offering to buy them. Despite the name, the business is more “Cash 4 Gold” than PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow,” with representatives set up to buy items rather than independently appraising them. But the people who lugged boxes full of old toys, housewares, jewelry and coins into the motel didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m getting more than I would be having them sit in the drawer,” DiMambro said. “And it cleans out the drawer.”

Organized in 1996, the Treasure Hunters Roadshow has visited more than 1,000 cities throughout the United States and Canada, buying items that it typically sells to collectors. Representatives will be seeing people at the Fireside Inn in Auburn and Comfort Suites in Freeport  through Saturday. They will be in Lewiston next week.

Classic guitars, coins and precious metals are the most sought-after items.

“I can really make someone smile when they bring in broken jewelry,” Stambaugh said. 

Claire Poirier of Auburn had a smile when she left the hotel around noon. An out-of-state car accident had left the event understaffed and a computer glitch meant the two representatives who were there couldn’t assess items right away, so Poirier and her sister had to wait for more than three hours before they were seen. Still, the wait turned out to be worth it. Poirier sold several pieces of gold and silver for more than $900.

“They’re very interesting. They really know their stuff,” Poirier said.

Her sister, Marie Waterman, also of Auburn, walked away with a smaller check — $8 for two Army soldiers and a tiny toy cannon that had been her husband’s childhood toys.  Still, she said, “I’m happy.”

Both women left with boxes and bags filled with items representatives liked but didn’t want to buy, including a trio of dolls they suggested Poirier sell on eBay, a vase they estimated to be worth $70 and what could have been a vintage violin. 

“He said it’s a nice violin and everything, but it’s a copy,” Poirier said.

DiMambro had that problem with some of his items, too. His replica yo-yo would have been worth a couple of hundred dollars if it had been an original. Stambaugh said the pedal car would have been worth $350 to $400 if it hadn’t been repainted — though DiMambro said a local man with his own full-sized 1957 Chevrolet has offered him $500 for the mini version.

But the car had sentimental value. He didn’t plan to sell it to the local man or to the roadshow representative, even if the roadshow had wanted it. 

The coins were another matter. In the handful of change some were worth only face value. Others were worth a few dollars. In all, the roadshow offered to pay about $9 for the coins. Online, some people have complained that the group doesn’t pay what items are fully worth, but DiMambro said he researched his items before he went to the event and he was pretty happy with the offer. 

And then there was that surprise.

He’d used the 1940s Cain bouillon tin to carry the coins. He didn’t even think about it until Stambaugh asked him to guess its value.

“I don’t know. Maybe $3?” DiMambro said. 

More like $15. It was worth more than all the coins it carried.

“We find treasure in people’s things every day,” Stambaugh said.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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