While it’s tempting to show up with an armload of family heirlooms and walk off with a check during the roadshow, consumer advocacy groups and law enforcement agencies urge sellers to use good sense during the process. Even though the company does not have any formal complaints against it from law enforcement officials, THR & Associates has received criticism for its advertising practices in the past.
The-Springfield, Ill.-based THR & Associates is also known as the International Collectors Association and operates the Treasure Hunters Roadshow. The company has an “A” rating with the Central Illinois Better Business Bureau but is not accredited by it. A spokesman for THR & Associates said the company is trying to become accredited with the bureau but has been unsuccessful so far.
“We have taken steps to get accredited, I don’t think it will happen unless we have different representatives,” said Matthew Enright, vice president of media relations for THR & Associates.
The company drew ire from the BBB in September 2009 because the company had been using the bureau’s logo on its website, even though it wasn’t accredited. The bureau challenged the company and the logo was removed.
To receive BBB accreditation, the bureau has to rule that the company makes a good faith effort to resolve complaints, and operates honestly and transparently.
In July 2009, the bureau took issue with the company’s newspaper advertisements. The advertisements are designed in a manner in which they appear to be a newspaper article. The tactic is legal and used by many companies, but the advertisements are still required to be labeled as such. THR & Associates ads weren’t properly labeled, the bureau said, and also claimed to pay the highest prices for wares. The company changed its advertisements and the bureau ruled the issue was resolved because its challenges were modified.
Fourteen complaints have been posed against the company in the past three years. Of those, 12 have been resolved.
The company takes its image and reputation seriously and works hard to resolve any conflicts that may arise, Enright said.
Unlike “The Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, The Treasure Hunters Roadshow does not offer appraisals. Appraisals require special licenses and certifications. Instead, it offers customers a price they can accept or decline. “The Antiques Roadshow” has filed several lawsuits against the THR & Associates for infringement, but have been unsuccessful in their litigation.
The workers who price the items are given a five-week training course in which they are educated to look for key dates on coins, special markings on toys and where to look for serial numbers on rare items. There are also regular quizzes the company’s workers are given, Enright said.
There are no formal complaints from the Illinois Attorney General against the company, but a spokesman for the office still warned potential sellers to educate themselves about their items before taking them in.
“We are not deluged with calls about (THR & Associates), but we hear about them,” said Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General. “Peoples’ main complaint is that they are dissatisfied with what they obtain for what they sell.”
The problems could sometimes be avoided if people had an idea of the items they were bringing in to look at. Mulford said potential sellers should look on Internet sites like eBay and consult with experts before taking items in. Sellers should also enter the process with a ballpark price in mind for what they think their item is worth, he said.
“In many cases, the complaints (from sellers) come out of frustration with themselves for not knowing the value of their products,” Mulford said.
Sylvia Fitzgerald is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, and said sellers should be cautious because the market is flooded with people trying to sell items, and it deflates prices. The Sacramento appraiser said to be cautious when bringing items in because the companies that offer on-the-spot deals are interested in their own bottom line.
“Whomever buys it is looking to turn a profit on it,” she said.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.