Photo: El Venezolano News

“I don’t want anyone seeing me here,” the lady says.

“Anyone seeing you here is doing the same as you,” another lady replies.

They’re both in a little store at the CCCT mall, in Caracas. The shop’s window shelves are all empty and, inside, there’s only a man and a cashier. “We buy gold and silver,” the cashier says to me, “anything you have. We don’t want dollars or euros, just gold and silver.”

The process is simple: you take your shiny metal to an appraisal, first with a stone and then with a liquid. It’s all done right in front of you, and that’s how the store checks that what you’re selling them is legit, in which case you provide them your bank account info. Minutes later, you’re paid by transfer.

The gold “Compra y Venta” has grown quite a bit in the Venezuelan capital. What used to be a marginal business in very specific zones can now be found in popular middle-class malls, at everyone’s reach.

Some people sell their jewelry because they are leaving, but others need a new bed or cellphone. Or food.

“Nobody buys, everyone comes to sell,” a merchant in the San Ignacio mall explains to me. “People sell their families’ silver cutlery, silver frames, babies bracelets, anything.”

“I have to sell this ring my husband gave me years ago to fix my car” a 50-year-old lady tells me. “It’s not a tragedy. I can’t wear it anyway, so I’d rather use it in something that’s actually helpful.”

In Chacaito and downtown Caracas, you can also see a lot of Compra y Venta signs, and they share the stage with pescadores, guys just standing there, offering to buy your gold or silver — if you take a stroll with them somewhere. Word is, they’re linked to crime and if you accept their offer, chances are you’re getting kidnapped.

“It’s better to sell your gold abroad if you’re emigrating, but if they see you in Maiquetía travelling with a lot of jewelry, you will lose at least some of it” the store owner at the San Ignacio mall tells me. “Some people sell their jewelry because they are leaving, but others need a new bed or cellphone. Or food.”

In a Chacaito store, a lady in her 70s takes a ring out of her underwear.

“Just in case,” she says with a smile.

The gram of gold costs 20 million bolivars, a price that used to be “regulated” by DolarToday before today’s anarchy. Now, you recognize the business by its universal traits: small stores with nothing on display and a couple of workers, all buying, never selling. What do they do with the gold? A mystery nobody cleared for me.

“Everyone’s doing this,” the Chacaito lady says. “Years ago, you’d give a gold ring for Christmas or a graduation, but now these are your savings, for when you need medicine. What happens after you’ve sold all you got?”

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  1. “What do they do with the gold? A mystery nobody cleared for me.”
    They get it out of the border, they’re buying the gram at about 20$ and you can sell it in Colombia at about 30$/35$ so you’d make a killing even once you take into account the travel costs, bribes and anything that can create an expense while leaving the border. It also goes out thru the waters, if I remember correctly a ship was intercepted on the way to Curacao or Aruba with a couple of kilos of gold about a month ago.

    Also whenever I’ve sold gold, one of the few upsides of being a once middle class girl was getting gold earrings, I go down to the Sabana Grande boulevard and ask what the price is today, then check and call a couple of jewelry stores and pick the best place to sell. Here’s thing it’s never the guys shouting in the Boulevard.

  2. On the misery loves company theme, you find “we buy gold” signs in the U.S. all the time, and pawn shops. People joked about where to buy Porsches and Rolex watches (Texas, 1980’s). Different sectors of an economy can get hit, different events can occur, different people can run into tough times. The thing about Venezuela is that it is affecting the entire nation.

    Still, the 1930’s for the U.S. was a terrible time. The “dust bowl” states were hit very hard, huge, enormous clouds that looked like very dark and low rain clouds were actually dust storms. Cropland was blown away, entire farming communities had to give it up, take whatever they could carry, and set out for new parts, leaving nature’s devastation behind. The Great Depression hit everyone.

    All Venezuela has, is a little dictatorship problem. A few years from now, it’ll all be forgotten. You can make it.

  3. What are they paying their customer with. Dollars? Euros? Bolívars?
    Why would any of their customers accept bolívars for their gold?

    • “Why would any of their customers accept bolívars for their gold?”

      Because bolivars are how you buy food and pay for things, like gas, water, electricity, internet access, phone bills. Yes, the bolivar is devalued and if you’re able you should save money in other currencies but reality is that selling gold is a way to survive.

  4. So what do you think angelical Mary? They melt the gold with chemicals to extract the 25% metal alloy impurity, including copper. They transform your ”gold” it to 24 Karate tiny ingots that sell in the black market at approx 700 $/oz (22 $/gr). Silver doesn’t need to separate impurities, as the most they can get is $ 20 cents/gr. This is a ”black” commodity that sells cheaply in the ”black” market. Did you see armed guards protecting the shops? In a country where they kill you for a pair of shoes, don’t you think this business would be closed by the bad guys? I bet a year of income that the one behind these shops is the government itself. So whoever is selling quality silver and gold in Venezuela is simply financing the ultra-bad guys. The Chavistas and all those who kept Chavez and his brute successor in power. In other words, at some point, up to 80% of this populace supported their policies: free everything, power, telecom, tolls, milk, corn flour, food in general, and everything available. Even flying was ultra cheap, so everyone was celebrating all social activities from baptism to marriages in Spain or in Punta Cana. And they would bring their friends and all possible relatives to these grandiose parties.

    And for those who hope Venezuela will be back to those Chavista glorious days, it will take centuries of hard work. A qualification missing in the average Venezuelan. Work ethics, honesty, etc.

    You will continue to be simple cockroaches hiding in the dark, waiting for a miserable piece of food falling in the kitchen cabinets. But as soon as you can, there will be a party. As soon as this Saturday.

    Remember this. Whoever is selling gold and silver are contributing to the corruption orchestrated by Venezuelan themselves. Don’t complaint please.

    • “with chemicals”: do you realize how hard it has always been to find proper chemicals in Venezuela(photography, etc)? Now it must be impossible.

      • The Maduro team can purchase anything they want. I see friends of his government around here, no shame at all. So finding the equipment and chemicals don’t carry any effort. You are thinking too good about those villains. Would you be a communist? Once your brain is washed, you can’t get back to a normality. Watch out.

      • Not exactly true.

        You need sodium meta bisulfite, which is pretty common around any oil/gas industry or brewing, or cleaning, or food industry and aqua regia, which for all intents and purposes is a compound of nitric and hydrochloric acid.

        That’s it.

        The downside is the byproducts of auric acid and precipitating gold are pretty toxic.

        My sister-in-law knows I collect currency so she always offers us first dibs on coins. Otherwise they get melted down for metal content. Vzla is a treasure trove of Morgan dollars and other rarer coins.

        • Do you have access to said coins? I am in the US and willing to buy everything and anything pre 1964. Being absolutely serious. Let me know

    • “Remember this. Whoever is selling gold and silver are contributing to the corruption orchestrated by Venezuelan themselves. ”

      First, read some history, this mess wasn’t “a massive suicide due to the extreme stupidity of all venezuelans except you”, this is an invasion orchestrated by Fidel Castro and the cuban communists.

      Second, yeah, sure, it’s very easy to order people to stop selling their stuff with a full stomach.

  5. What do they do with the gold? they finance drug dealing and terrorism. The most lucrative piece of business. You have a high demand for a ”black” commodity that is transacted in the dollar ”black market”. This is untraceable. Only ”pendejos,” think they are doing the right thing, keeping up the government.

      • Bitcoin is a commodity that cannot be compared to recycled Gold. Yes, I see the evil everywhere especially since Venezuelan citizens have been quietly invading our territory. They have initiated charities in Florida and Texas to collect fresh dollars that help finance operations in Venezuela in whatever Bolivars changed at whatever exchange rate. They keep the dollars here and use up Bolivars there. All thieves.

        • You know what has mainly been keeping up the regime and its repressive activities? You. Through your consumption of fossil fuel from Venezuela. Not abuelita’s wedding ring.

          Also, do you want to know what finances drug dealing? Drug buying.

          • There, there, ‘Nuckler. PDVSA is in the process of shutting down oil sales to the US. No more Gringo oil purchases.

            Good luck with your drug war.

          • Thanks for Another Prognostication, Another Gringo. To be clear, when I referred to “what has mainly been keeping up the regime”, I was talking about the past up to the present.

          • Texas is the first supplier of Nafta to Venezuela, so Venezuela can still survive a few more years of this debacle. You know, the gazillion barrels of crude reserves in Venezuela must be extracted so in fact, without that light oil to be mixed with that shit underground, Venezuela oil production would be nil. Kellogg just abandoned that country but not because of Venezuelan not liking cereals. Kellogg was doing their accounting using the wrong ROE, some local treasurer was probably taking personal advantages of the infamous 10 BsF/USD. So what this had to do with everything else? Halliburton also abandoned the shithole investments leaving everything to Maduro: the problem with the NYT is that they love socialism and Chavismo. And they purposely ignore that local accounting was consolidated using what ROE, BINGO: 10 BsF/USD.

            So the problem with purchasing anything is that Chavistas and Maduristas can’t fabricate USD. They can’t even fabricate Bitcoins!

            I can go forever on this.

            Life is short, and mine is going fast.

        • “Bitcoin is a commodity that cannot be compared to recycled Gold.”

          In the case of cha-estiércol-ismo, juicy bitcoins are one of the main reasons people at large in Venezuela are being subjected to frequent blackouts even in hospitals at mid operation: To feed the chavizta enchufado bitcoin farms that have hundreds or thousands of farming machines doing that work.

        • “Venezuelan citizens have been quietly invading our territory. They have initiated charities in Florida and Texas to collect fresh dollars that help finance…”

          “Venezuelan citizens”

          Heheheh, right, dude, because it’s just been in this year when “venezuelan citizens” started migrating to other countries.

          Trying to put EVERY venezuelan that migrated in the same sack that the chavizta SCUM is the best proof that the xenophobia campaign financed and orchestrated by the very chavizta enchufados has been working pretty good so far.

  6. The other thing about gold&silver is that you don’t have to sell it later by the gram or ounce. Many of those rings and silver plates could have way more value as is, when properly appraised, for the brand or the provenance; they can easily be antiques, with some unique and rare imprint, worth some small fortune.

    Many of the sellers have no clue of the real value or provenance of the gold/silver pieces they have. The same applies to rare gems as emeralds, diamonds when properly mounted on jewelry or whatever, even when slightly scratched or damaged..

    You’d be surprised what some pieces that those former middle/upper class people there at CCCT have had for decades are really worth. Heck, in the Civilized World, some end up at auctions at astronomical prices. The profit margin one a few select finds can be mind-blowing. If the buyer knows what he’s doing at any Pawn shop, he could make a real fortune quickly, on a few remarkable pieces.

  7. These are, btw, the last remains of the middle/upper class, disappearing in the communist hell-hole.

    The Program is to make every malcontent leave, or become rich complicit Enchufados, or become poor sheep to the filthy Castro-Chavista system. No middle-class allowed, let alone honest upper class: Banned. Part of the sinister Master Plan working to perfection: the final phase of the complete Cubanization of Kleptozuela.

    • Venezuela’s cubanization begun in 1960 when the cuban guerrillas arrived to slaughter venezuelans left and right.

  8. Some very naive people believe this business is decent. This is the last organized robbery by Maduro. Imagine 5 million people ”selling” 500 grams of gold. That makes 2.5 tons of gold. Just calculate.

    • So an average “Family of 4” has 2 kilos of gold laying around in jewelry and what-nots?

      Damn, I missed out on the VZ Chavez Money train………

      or are your calculations over-inflated……

  9. I’m sorry. I had a senior moment: 2500 metric tons of gold. This is around 88 million ounces. After some tweaks to make it as produced from a mine, Maduro’s expert team can sell this gold at around $1300/oz. Totaling US$115 Billion – last time GDP was measured in Venezuela was 2010, then the GDP was around US$300 billion more or less.

  10. I have always held pawnshops in rather low regard. This story reminds me of a line from the John Prime song ” Souvenirs”.
    “I hate graveyards and old pawnshops for they always bring me tears, I can’t forgive the way they robbed me of my childhood souvenirs”.

  11. Exactly, those pawn shops are a big robbery scheme in everyone’s view. Only Maduro and Chavistas, Communists in general such as Bernie, Obama, Iglesias, Merkel, etc. would understand the intrinsic mechanisms of public robbery.

  12. Posting again: Exactly, those pawn shops are a big robbery scheme in everyone’s view. Only Maduro and Chavistas, Communists in general such as Bernie, Obama, Iglesias, Merkel, etc. would understand the intrinsic mechanisms of public robbery.

  13. As Beatriz mentioned, personal gold/silver/jewelry sales, always present in Venezuela, have increased somewhat recently, due to: the need to eat/survive; you can’t wear jewelry publicly anyway if you value your life; and if kept at home it may well be stolen by home invasion. Margins involved aren’t so great, considering the risks involved, volumes are nothing like mentioned above, and businesses are mainly run by individuals for their own benefit (a la Edificio Francia), fenced stolen goods usually sell for only 10-15 cents on the $.

  14. My understanding from a relative is that Gold is being bought at a window in the Central Bank for $1500 / ounce. Payable in bolivars or petros.

    Apparently quite a few military folks are mining it in the south and bringing it to the BCV for sale

    • That sounds about right. Central Bank/Maduro “print” more currency, further devaluing and paying a premium on an actual commodity. One that is impossible to trace on top of that.

    • Military don’t generally mine–they oversee/extort/steal from the illegal miners. If the BCV is buying, that $1500 in Bs. would probably be at the Dicom rate, or 1/10 the real rate, since the Govt./its institutions consider any other rate illegal.


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