You know Muzeum as a trusted source for buying precious metals and collectibles, but do you know the brains behind the business? In a recurring series, we’ll be profiling several Muzeum precious-metals specialists, and this week we’re going behind the curtain to learn more about Daniel Ilmer, Muzeum’s vice-president of operations.
In this Q&A, you’ll find out what inspired Ilmer to delve deep into this field, the kinds of customers that walk through the doors (IRL and online), and what he finds most fulfilling about running Muzeum.
Muzeum: So what got you into this line work?
Ilmer: My brother, Max Smirnov and a few other guys started the Great Canadian Show. They would tour across Canada to educate the general public and encourage them to exchange gold jewellery, coins collectibles and antiques for cash. At the time, I was fresh out of school with a degree in digital media design. I was asked to help with some freelance design work such as flyers and newspaper ads. That’s how I got my foot in the door.
When the response to these designs were really positive, I was promoted to manage all the artwork and other media, then added some advertising work to my plate as well. Before I knew it, I was managing 12 teams nation-wide from our head office in North York, as well as running the eBay division. In 2017, we decided to open a physical storefront location that would be open to the general public –and I have the honor of running our storefront location in Toronto’s Yorkville area.
The more I worked with these items, the more I found myself becoming interested and truly enjoyed learning about the history and value of rare coins and paper money.
Muzeum: What is it about those items that made you even more passionate about Muzeum?
Ilmer: The coolest thing is that I discovered the many different notes that came from other provinces before Canada became, well, Canada. There are Bank of Nova Scotia and Dominion of Canada notes, for example. As a designer that really opened my eyes, considering all the many styles and design elements in these beautiful notes. The size, designs, colors and overall history of how these bills came to be really blew my mind and had me intrigued.
The same allure held me when it comes to coins. I never thought a single coin could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. My curiosity got the better of me and I started researching more and learning about scarcity, supply and demand, variations, grading, error mintages and much more.
Muzeum: The store has been around for more than three years, so what changes have you seen over the years?
Ilmer: When we first started out, the goal of opening the store was to have a stay-at-home location where customers could reach out to the Great Canadian Roadshow in case they wanted to mail us items if we’re not coming to their region. But we’ve shifted away from the antiques side of our business and moved towards precious metals. There’s a generational shift going on too, since we have noticed at least a 60 percent drop in the market for rare furniture and sports memorabilia while reselling coins and money is still very popular.
Muzeum: Who would you say are the main group of customers you see?
Ilmer: Mainly folks who inherit gold, silver, coins or paper money from someone who passed away. When the average person inherits something like that, it can be an overwhelming experience so we try to take that stress off people and pay them fair value for what they inherited.
Another customer we often see if someone who has items laying around the house, whether broken or intact. They are often shocked by the actual value of what they bring to us. That’s why we decided to advertise our prices on our website in order to be as transparent as possible.
Before we opened our storefront location, Max and I thought it would be a valuable experience to bring a bag of gold (of which we knew its true value), to all the different gold buyers in Toronto to see if they would offer us a fair price. We were really surprised and disappointed by what we saw. The truth is, it was disgusting.
The average offer was 20 to 30 percent of the value of our gold, with tons of tricks and shadiness happening in every store.
We quickly realized how we could separate ourselves from these buyers and that’s when we decided to be open about what we pay and to advertise those prices online. We also offer a fully transparent evaluation service, completely FREE of charge.
It was our goal to switch how gold buying in Toronto was done.
Muzeum: What do you find most challenging about your job?
Ilmer: It’s hard to tell customers they have fake gold or jewellery. That kind of disappointment is common after a divorce – and when I have to tell someone that the engagement ring she got is made of fake gold and the diamond is acttually cubic zirconia, it breaks my heart.
Muzeum: And what do you find most fulfilling running Muzeum?
Ilmer: My favourite thing that happens, which occurs a lot, is when a customer comes in with a jar full of assorted coins, paper money, gold jewellery or any other item where they truly have no clue about the potential value., When I get to blow their mind and reveal those items are actually worth $10,000, the look on their face is what makes me happy.
By visiting us, I give our customers a chance to go on a vacation or help them pay down their mortgage. That kind of stuff gives me a lot of pleasure.
If you’re one of those customers Daniel Ilmer discussed, whether you have inherited jewellery or gold, or came across a jar full of coins, Muzeum is here to help. Come in for your FREE in-person evaluation at our Toronto headquarters or, if you live outside of the GTA, contact us anytime to take advantage of our FREE mail in service.
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