D2D California Dreaming Series

Shereen's Sparkly Gold

Listen to Madeleine Brand and Shereen Meraji's adventures in the land of gold.

all that glitters

hide captionA Day to Day reenactment

Nihar Patel, NPR

I'm Shereen Meraji and I'm producing our California Dreaming series. In case you were wondering, when you're a radio producer you do just about everything: find stories, research, interview lots of people who never make it into the actual stories you found, drive, take dictation, edit audio, bring the hosts coffee and light reading.

(All of that is true, except for the coffee part. GET YOUR OWN COFFEE, MADELEINE!)

A bit about me. I'm a California native: born in Fresno, raised in Sacramento, educated in San Francisco and I live in Los Angeles. I've been with Day to Day from the beginning, the very first broadcast from right here in our Culver City studios.

Madeleine already told you why we chose California as a backdrop for this series and now you know why I'm the producer. "From Oakland to Sactown / the Bay Area and backdown / Cali's where I put my MACK down / GIVE ME LOVE!" (An NPR car window sticker goes to the first reader to tell me where that's from, no googling.)

Now let's talk gold.

all that glitters

hide captionAll that glitters

Shereen Meraji, NPR

I think it's pretty obvious why we decided to go with gold for our first story. The Golden State has been Cali's official nickname since 1968, gold was discovered here more than a century before that, and the golden poppy is our state flower. On a personal note, because I'm half Puerto Rican and half Iranian, it's in my genetic make-up to buy lots of tacky gold accessories— thanks mom and dad. So gold is something very close to my heart.

Research for this story started in my cubicle. We knew that gold prices were high...about 900 an ounce (depending on the day), and I had heard that people were starting to throw "gold parties." Gold parties are like old fashioned Tupperware parties where a host invites all their friends over and tells them to bring their unwanted gold to sell. A gold dealer comes to test and weigh the jewelry and everyone chomps on cheese and crackers (or carrot sticks and ranch?) while they wait to see how much their gold is worth, cash on the spot.

People are cash strapped right now in the Golden State because of gas prices, rising mortgages and high unemployment, so I set out to find a gold party. On my quest, which involved cold calling people from my cubicle, I came across Joseph Shamir, the gold buyer profiled in our story.

Linda Gray

hide captionLinda Gray

Shereen Meraji, NPR

Joe didn't have a gold party scheduled in time for our broadcast, but he had an incredible story — he was in the real estate loan business and when his business collapsed late last year, he was desperate for money. Joe sold more than $40,000 of his wife's jewelry and in the process realized that real estate was the wrong business. Now he owns a tiny shop called "Joe's Gold and Silver," where he buys peoples gold, silver and platinum and sells it for scrap.

And then Madeleine suggested pawn shops. (Thanks a lot, Madeleine!) I was hung up on more than a dozen times while trying to find a pawn shop owner willing to talk to me. I was even accused of being a telemarketer, and was hung up on.

I finally found a shop in Riverside, California, where the owner graciously gave us a tour and let us talk with his customers.

We met Linda Gray.

Kiss Army

hide captionDay to Day's Kiss Army

Shereen Meraji, NPR

Linda was paying the interest on the gold jewelry her mom pawned to pay her Adjustable Rate Mortgage, which jumped from $1500 to $2400 dollars. She told us that she had pawned the gold necklace she was wearing a few times, to pay some of her own bills.

In the end, Madeleine and I agreed that the best thing about the pawn shop was the complete set of collector's edition KISS dolls on sale. I know they have nothing to do with gold, but they were priceless!

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Tupac, California Love.

I'd like my NPR sticker to be big,double sided and if it's an NPR West sticker, even better. :-p

Sent by zoilo | 5:08 PM | 6-23-2008

We have a winner! 2Pac would have been more accurate, though.

Sent by Shereen Meraji | 5:15 PM | 6-23-2008

Great stuff: A fascinating look at California's most famous export. (Besides silicon, of course. And silicone.)

Sent by Jessica | 5:28 PM | 6-23-2008

Seriously, 2PAC is too easy.... maybe if you ask people if they know the song sampled for that song... have fun NOT using quotation marks googling that! ...IN THE CITY, OF GOOD OL WATTS, IN THE CITY, CITY OF COMPTON!!! Right coast represent!!!

Sent by Zack "Golden Boy" Novak | 5:30 PM | 6-23-2008

Love love love this! How could I not? my cultural heritage (persian) and my adopted heritage(Latina-cuz everyone thinks I am)Shereen represents it WELL. As for gold, a subject very close to my heart as anyone who's taken a yoga class w me knows how much I clink and clank from the bracelets I wear on my wrists-that's my dowry baby! Good work!

Sent by Elham Jazab | 6:02 PM | 6-23-2008

great story. it's so sad to hear about folks crying as they are forced to sell their material goods just to make ends meet. and as a puerto rican woman, it too is in my genetic make-up to accessorize with gold. lots of it. ;-)

Sent by Elyse | 6:15 PM | 6-23-2008

Thanks for the story, I've now found the solution to my money woes....I'm having a gold party!! God knows I have enough gold scraps! What do you do with the BFF heart charm from 9th grade and the hearing bone set my (now) husband gave me...forgive him, it was his first gift....

Sent by jessica carla de lima-moran | 6:32 PM | 6-23-2008

i guess gold is good, even though kiss dolls are cool. From pharoahs to guitar connectors to showing a grill, necklace, and tooth. i should probably join the circus.

Sent by Paris King | 11:25 PM | 6-23-2008

As the dollar collapses in the coming years, the price of gold will soar. Real estate will continue to fall. In 5 years most houses can be bought for 1 or 2 oz. of gold. At that point, the people who sell their gold for cash in 2008 will look pretty foolish.

Sent by John Mason | 4:57 AM | 6-24-2008

Pawn shops are awesome! For gold or anything!

Sent by Sherene Drucker | 2:33 PM | 6-24-2008

Thanks to all of you who commented. I would have replied sooner, but Madeleine was requesting that I pick up her dry cleaning...AGAIN.

Sent by Shereen Meraji | 5:21 PM | 6-24-2008

Fun blog, Shereen. You get at GOLD star for this and the series!!!
-

Sent by Mandalit del Barco | 6:28 PM | 6-24-2008

Shereen....Can't wait to read more...California is all about people with dreams, dreams of fame and fortune or just a dream for a better life. I hope you explore all aspects in this series.

Sent by Carol Meraji | 12:17 AM | 6-25-2008

If only you broadcast to Indonesia, Shereen! Enjoy hearing the stories, and what a great idea for a series. Will be listening -- online.

Sent by Michael Coren | 1:26 AM | 6-25-2008

Come with something harder than 2pac Shereen...I love gooooooooold ;)

Sent by Elegante | 2:43 AM | 6-25-2008

Thanks for your input, Mom, I'll be sure to touch on all of the themes you mentioned. Love You!

Sent by Shereen Meraji | 1:28 PM | 6-25-2008

i'm pretty sure kiss sold a few records that, y'know, went gold. according to gene simmons (ever the self promoter), they're america's #1 gold record champion of all time.

Sent by nina | 10:02 AM | 7-1-2008

This was great and soooo you Shereen....btw "Hi"

Sent by Rahil Lewis | 6:42 PM | 8-5-2008

Support comes from: