Hand-picked e-commerce team the most specialized employees in Goodwill CC’s retail sector

How do you tell the difference between gold jewelry and a cheap metal substitute? How can you determine if that luxury Coach bag is authentic? How can you possibly put a value on a signed Fantastic Four comic strip?

Those are tough questions, but not for the e-commerce team from Goodwill Central Coast. Each day a team of 15 sorts through the most coveted items donated to the nonprofit, putting them up for sale on Goodwill’s auction platform at shopgoodwill.com.

E-commerce provides the most coveted jobs at Goodwill Central Coast, but they also the most specialized.

Alan Martinson, vice president of retail for Goodwill Central Coast, hand-picked his team, store associates with experience and a sharp eye who could cull specialty items from the tons of donations, separate them, tag them, photograph them, process them, upload them, and ship them — all in one facility.

The Salinas team ships 400 to 500 items each day, from gold jewelry to clothing, musical instruments and more.

“We once sold a $15,000 Rolex,” Martinson said. “The oddest, craziest stuff you can imagine.”

It’s up to the highly trained e-commerce team members to authenticate each item and then put a value on it.

Melissa Saler is only one of the team’s experts in sorting, identifying and valuing donated jewelry.

“I have a passion for this,” said Saler.

Working in a special room with tight security, she is trained to identify genuine jewelry, using visual marks, magnets, loupes and a $15,000 precious metal testing machine. She routinely pops off the back of watches and searches for identifying marks and movements.

Once identified as high-end jewelry, she then has the difficult task of writing an accurate, concise description of each piece and taking clear, detailed photographs. The costume jewelry goes in bulk to the Goodwill stores.

The rare, signed Fantastic Four comic strip eventually sold for $7,500, which goes a long way to supporting Goodwill’s mission of providing jobs for the community.

To ensure authenticity on luxury items such as designer handbags, Goodwill adopted Entrupy product technology. Each verified item receives a certificate of authenticity and financial guarantee, enabling shoppers to trust their transactions.

“If it’s fake we will shred it,” said e-commerce manager Patrick Sagara.

Books are another big seller. E-commerce team member Joline Testroet has worked at Goodwill for 21 years, sorting and valuing books since 2012.

These days she lists for sale up to 500 paper books (nothing digital), DVDs and video games each day. She must have a keen eye for what’s popular and what value to place on each book, and she must make sure each DVD is cleaned and operable.

Her efforts lead to an 85 percent sell rate, leading to roughly $50,000 a month in sales.

Martinson said he gets help from various work programs. “Some may start with scanning books, or detangling jewelry knots, but they feel like they are a part of something, making an impact,” he said.

It’s all part of the most specialized department in Goodwill’s retail sector.