SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It sounds like an easy way to make money: a traveling gold show coming through town, offering instant cash for your old jewelry. But how do they compare to local gold buyers?

KPIX 5 decided to check it out.

Huntington Rare Coins and Precious Metals travels the state, promoting its visits to town with glossy brochures offering a “2 day only” opportunity to get instant cash for your valuables.

Bay Area jeweler Tom Broadwin agreed to lend KPIX 5 $6,000 worth of gold, plus some fake costume jewelry to mix in, to allow for an undercover test of what Huntington had to offer.

Of course, sellers shouldn’t expect to get the full value of your gold, as gold buyers need to make a profit. But Huntington’s offer of 47 percent of the gold’s actual value seemed low.

It turned out many local jewelers were much more generous. At Albany Coin Exchange in Albany, the proprietors walked KPIX 5 cameras through the process as they tested every item and offered 70 percent of the gold’s value. They even provided an itemized printout of their offer for each piece to take home.

After a quick look with a magnifying glass, Fort Knox in Alameda accurately separated the real gold from the fake and offered 72 percent of its value.

But across the bay, Bay Area Gold and Silver on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco gave the best deal by far. Using a computerized device to test each item, the owner offered 86 percent of the gold’s value.

The lowest local offer came at Numis International in Millbrae where, unlike every other jeweler, the valuables were quickly whisked away from sight.

When the owner returned, he would only offer a lump sum for all the jewelry, refusing to say what they would pay for each item unless we paid him a $75 appraisal fee for each item first. Their offer for everything was not much better than the traveling gold buyer’s: About 49 percent of the gold’s value

“On gold, I will never pay less than 75 percent of the market. If the items are saleable where I think I can resell them, I will pay 90 percent of the market,” said Tom Broadwin.

Broadwin said the low-ball offer from the traveling gold buyer didn’t surprise him.

“When they come to hotels or other venues they know they are never going to see you again,” he said.

But he was shocked by the description of the experience at Numis International.

“These people have a lot of nerve. They should be willing to tell you exactly what you have and make a firm offer under no obligation of any kind,” he said.

Broadwin said sellers shouldn’t have to pay to sell their gold or let their jewelry out of their sight during the sale.

“In my office, if I do so much as clean the jewelry, the client follows me in to where I clean it, gets to see exactly what is done. It never leaves their sight or possession,” said Broadwin.

Yet at Numis International, the pawn shop wouldn’t even say whether an item was real gold unless we agreed to sell it to them first for pennies on the dollar. And they were the only store to ask for payment prior to appraisal.

While you might do that for insurance purposes, sellers shouldn’t have to pay to sell their jewelry items.

And while jewelers do have the right to give low-ball offers, consumers have the right to shop around

KPIX 5 reached out to all of the stores visited for the investigation, including the traveling gold buyer, who declined to comment on the findings.

Tom Broadwin also offered a key piece of advice for anyone planning to sell their gold: figure out what its worth before you get it appraised. Watch the clip below to find out how.