- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - When Philip Dodge rode his bike through Columbus neighborhoods as a 14-year-old, delivering local newspapers, he had no idea it was the beginning of something special in his life.

Dodge used about $150 he saved from his Republic and Indianapolis Star paper routes in 1979 to purchase about 13 ounces of silver from a precious metals dealer on Washington Street. Today, he is 49 and president of Great American Mint and Refinery Inc. in Anaheim, California.

His business-success story will be told to the nation Saturday on the H2 Channel, which is part of the family History Channel programming on cable, The Republic reported (https://bit.ly/1vbn1Bt ).

Dodge said he didn’t know the silver bars he purchased in Columbus as a teenager would foreshadow his professional interests and successes as an adult.

“I don’t know how many times somebody can look back at an event like that and pinpoint a time frame that might change the rest of their life,” he said. “What’s really ironic is that I kept them. That silver is sitting right behind me in a safe.”

With the silver he purchased, Dodge learned the importance of saving and investing his money. He advanced his understanding of finances when he graduated from Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana in 1983 and Indiana University in 1987 with a degree in economics.

Dodge’s first job after college was as a commodities broker in Newport Beach, California, specializing in trading precious metals. He shifted gears professionally a few years later to become a real estate broker and continued in that field until he resigned at age 35 to manage properties he owned and to travel and surf.

But about five years ago, Dodge and longtime business partner Nelson Brewart, who also lives in California, began building a chemical refining operation that today produces almost 500,000 ounces of pure silver bullion per month that’s worth nearly $8.7 million. Dodge said the company moves about $100 million in silver annually.

Dodge has been fascinated by rocks, minerals and metals since he was a child growing up in Columbus, said his mother, Pat Dodge. She said he would make her drive to Seymour and Shelbyville to attend rock club meetings and would dig around the neighborhood for whatever he could find in the ground.

When Dodge was in third grade, his family moved to Mexico City because his father, Parker Dodge, had a job with Cummins that required the family to travel. While they were there, Dodge’s interest in rocks continued to grow, Pat Dodge said.

“When we were in Mexico, he went to the opal mines and got opals,” she said. “We have jars of them here. He brought back about 2,000 pounds of rocks from Mexico.”

Now, Dodge’s early fascination for opals has been replaced by his interest in silver.

The refinery he co-owns buys and sells silver with companies throughout the world, melting existing silver products into bullion that can be molded into coins and bars, while also producing customized products for its clients.

The company buys, refines, manufactures and distributes silver through the entire metals lifecycle, including buying, melting, analyzing, refining, casting, extruding, rolling, blanking, rimming, burnishing, striking and distributing silver and gold bullion products.

The facility is encapsulated with different levels of security that moviegoers might see in a James Bond film, ranging from biometric doors that require fingerprint IDs to access, metal detector checkpoints, monitoring stations and armed security guards, all to ensure that none of the silver gets mishandled.

Dodge’s company produces what he describes as pure investment products. He sells bars and coins made of pure silver in small batches to the general public and in large batches to private clients.

In a few months, some of those clients will include governments from around the world, Dodge said. In that same time frame, the company will start dealing in large amounts of pure gold as well, the same way the company currently deals in silver.

“Right now, less than 5 percent of Americans have precious metals in their portfolio. That’s changing dramatically because of the concern about a dollar,” he said. “Our target markets are those people that fear the government, that fear the dollar, and also wealthy people.”

Silver and gold can’t be manufactured or created like dollar bills and quarters can, Dodge said, which keep their values high and makes them universally desired around the world. Gold and silver also maintain their value and are less likely to fluctuate with the economy.

In June, the History Channel took note of Dodge’s refinery and asked if he would be interested in being a part of an episode of “10 Things You Don’t Know About” that would center on U.S. currency.

Jim Wasas, Great American’s vice president of refining operations, said the company is the second-largest private mint company in the country but probably has some of the most relaxed rules when it comes to letting camera crews into the facility.

He said the History Channel crew was allowed to shoot pretty much whatever it wanted, except for one area - the vault. That’s where several tons of pure silver blocks and coins are stored.

A History Channel crew of about 11 people followed Dodge and staff around the refinery for about 12 hours to film the episode.

As the crew left the facility, members were checked by security to make sure they didn’t leave with any “souvenirs,” Wasas said with a laugh. The camera tripods were taken apart by security guards to make sure no coins were found in the tubing.

Dodge said he was excited to have the History Channel at the refinery.

“Being a newer company, given the fact that we’re trying to get on the radar internationally, I jumped at the offer,” Dodge said.

The episode, titled “The Almighty Dollar,” premieres on the H2 channel at 10?p.m. Saturday hosted by American musician, actor, journalist and writer Henry Rollins.

Dodge’s family plans to watch the episode together on Saturday night, Pat Dodge said.

Dodge hopes people in Columbus will watch the episode and learn about how precious metals play a role in the economy but also how someone can make a life for themselves from humble beginnings.

“I come from a very average family. My dad’s a Cummins employee. I was not wealthy growing up,” he said. “The fact is, if you set your mind to something, you can do it. If you work hard and you make the right decisions, things can happen for you.”

Dodge said a couple of times a year he opens his personal safe and pulls out the 15 ounces of silver he purchased in Columbus when he was a kid as a reminder of how hard work and dedication can change your life.


Information from: The Republic, https://www.therepublic.com/



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