By Jen DeVincenzo Staff writer

TOY TREASURES ¿ Rita Smith looks over her husband's antique toy fire engine collection while waiting for the results of their appraisal. Her husband, Neil, was a lieutenant in the Rome Fire Department for 23 years, retiring in 2003.  The International Coin Collectors Association is appraising items at the Wingate by Wyndham, 90 Dart Circle, through Saturday.    (Sentinel photo by Stefan Matwijec)

If the price is right, the payoff can be sweet — especially in these tight economic times.

That’s where buyers of old gold, jewelry and antiques come in. One such outfit, The International Coin Collectors Association, has set up shop in the Wyndham hotel near Rome Free Academy. Free appraisals will be available today through Saturday starting at 9 a.m.

Field Manager Angela Wright said so far they’ve seen mostly average coins and some gold, adding that gold is best for people who want immediate cash. She said while they are hoping for anything from unusual coins to rare guitars, they are always "looking for that one unique item we haven’t thought of yet." In the past those items have included a vampire killing kit that went for $10,000 and Johnny Cash’s bed, fetching $30,000.

On Wednesday, Wright saw the most interesting items yet at this stop — a collection of 1940s toy fire trucks owned by former Rome Fire Department Lt. Neil Smith, and brought in by his wife, Rita. Smith retired in 2003 after 23 years of service. He passed away on March 3, 2009. Wright appraised the items for about $200, explaining that "things are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them." Rita decided to hold on to the 10 metal trucks for now.

Personally, Wright’s favorite find was at an event in Texas — a rare $5 dollar gold coin with Carson City mint, one of the finest ever found. She said she’ll never forget the call from her boss saying "You’re not going to believe what that sold for." The single coin went for $25,000.

Company spokesperson Dennis Couts said, "We hope to spend at least $200,000 while we are in town by purchasing people’s old coin collections, vintage bank notes and scrap gold, silver and diamonds. We buy a lot of class rings, mismatched earrings and broken necklaces. Just a small handful of gold can add up to hundreds of dollars very quickly. I encourage everyone to clean out their drawers, lock boxes and jewelry boxes, and bring their items to our show for a free evaluation and perhaps walk out a little richer."

The ICCA hosts hundreds of events each year. While meeting one-on-one with each guest, specialists review, research and evaluate the items and will make an offer to purchase all gold coins, silver coins made before 1970 and paper currency printed prior to 1934. The amount of the offer depends on the silver or gold content, the collectability, the rarity and the condition of the items. If the price is right for the owner, ICCA will pay them on the spot.

For more information call (217) 787-7767.