Selling gold crowns & other scrap dental restorations.
Some people have old dental restorations (crowns, bridges and partials) tucked away in a box or a drawer. If you do, you might be surprised to learn that the precious metal content they contain can make them valuable.
These items are your property.
What's been worn in your mouth is yours. We've never heard of a dentist who offers an old-dental work discount when giving a price quote for a new gold crown, or extracting a tooth that has one. That means it's your dentist's obligation to return any restoration back to you, if you want it.
What types of precious metals can dental work contain?
Many of the alloys used to fabricate dental restorations have at least some precious metal content. For example, you probably already know that some contain gold. Many also contain platinum and/or palladium too.
How can you tell if your old restorations have any value?
It's impossible for you to know the composition of the alloy that's been used to make your dental work. And unless the dentist removing your restoration is the same one who placed it, there's no way for them to know exactly either.
- The precious alloys used to make yellow gold crowns can run on the order of 10 to 20 karats (pure gold is 24 karat).
- Silver-colored ("white" gold) crowns may have significant precious metal content.
- The hidden metal substructure of porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and bridges is sometimes made from precious-metal alloy. (See below for an illustration.)
- Some dental alloys, having either a yellow or silver ("white") coloration, may have very little value as scrap.
You might be surprised at how much your old gold crown is worth.
The price of gold and other precious metals has risen dramatically in recent years. In 2012, 24 karat gold was priced at almost $1800 per ounce. In previous years, it almost reached $2000.
A sample calculation.
As a ballpark estimate, a gold crown may weigh on the order of one-tenth of an ounce. If its gold content runs somewhere between 10 and 18 karats, at even just $800 an ounce, it would be worth about $30 to $60. Not an insignificant sum for something that has no use to you.
How do you go about selling scrap dental gold?
With the rise in price of precious metals, the business of buying scrap dental work has been on the upswing too.
- A simple web search will identify a number of companies that offer this service. As opposed to selling to middlemen, try to deal directly. Look for firms whose websites state they are actual precious-metal refiners.
- Local stores (i.e. pawnshops) that buy gold are often just middleman who, in turn, sell to the same companies you could on your own.
How does it work?
You simply send your crowns, bridges or other dental restorations in and the company assays them (to determine their precious metal content). They'll then send you a check based on your scrap's market value the day it was evaluated.
What price will you get?
The value of precious metals fluctuates daily. So, the price you get will depend on current market activity.
Also, keep in mind that the metal you are selling is not pure and will need to be refined. Due to this, there may be some type of fee associated with your transaction or, as an alternative, the company may just take a straight percentage of the value of your scrap as their payment.
The company may offer a guarantee.
Some companies have a policy where if you don't feel that the amount they have paid you is fair, you can return their uncashed check (within an allowed time frame) and they will return your scrap to you. (This approach may unwittingly work out to your favor. Sometimes the company will simply counter with a more generous offer.)
Shipping your dental work to the refiner.
Once you have selected a refining company, go to their website or call them and ask for shipping instructions.
They may have a form that they want you to fill out and include with your shipment. Sometimes they will have packing materials they'll forward to you free of charge.
Make sure that you pack the contents of your shipment securely. You should check to see what insurance and tracking options the shipper involved provides.
Document your shipment.
Before sending it in, you should itemize your package's contents. This can be as simple as taking a digital photograph with your phone.
You might also want to weigh your items. As a ballpark figure, multiply your item's weight by half the price of gold. If they're worth more than that be pleasantly surprised.
It's not necessary to remove cement or tooth parts from the dental work. This can be a difficult and disagreeable job. Let the refiner do it.
What types of dental work should you send in?
- Clearly, yellow-gold crowns, onlays and inlays have a good potential for having value. They may be 10 to 20 karat.
- In comparison to all-metal restorations, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and dental bridges have less metallic content. But even these can be worth refining, especially in the case of heavy bridgework.
- Don't overlook "white" gold items. This silver-colored dental work can contain in excess of 40% gold, in addition to platinum and palladium content.
- At the other extreme, it is possible that many silver and even some yellow-gold items may not contain any significant precious metal content at all. You will simply have to send them in and let the refiner assay them.
- The metal component of partial dentures is typically made out of base metal and therefore not valuable. However, look closely at its color. Some partials (typically dating back before the 1950's) were fabricated using yellow-gold alloys.