Types of metal to refine:
- Scrap: broken/old jewelry (even bench sweepings and gold teeth)
- Scrap: perfectly fine, working order jewelry
- Gold Filled items
- Sterling or .999 Silver: from US recognized mints
- Pure .9999 gold or silver bullion bars or coins
By far the most cost effective and safest way to get the best value for your precious metal is to go directly to a Refinery which will smelt the materials and pay you based on the pure metals that they recover (often as much as 95% of spot - without additional fees). One thing I've learned is that not all Refineries are alike and the pay structures are often times quite different. Sometimes Refinery A pays better than Refinery B for Gold Filled....B pays better than C for solid Karat, C pays better than A for sterling etc. In general though I've gone through enough research and experience to settle on three refiners that I personally use depending on what I need to sell. I'll talk about each type of material in terms of selling it to a refinery including scrap, not scrap, gold filled, sterling, pure gold or silver bullion:
Cycle Time: The time it takes to get the check in your hands can range widely. It depends on how buys the refinery is which is generally driven by the price of metal - price goes up, people send in more, slows down how long it takes to get your check. Generally it takes between 7 to 21 days to get paid. Reminder though, with Kitco you book the price immediately at the time of your choice - and it takes about 7-10 days to get the check of a known amount. With the other refineries not only does it take longer but you might also end up catching a low dip in the metal prices (or a high spike - can go either way).
Doesn't matter to a refinery. Their job is to smelt precious metals. Payout rates are the same as scrap. Your only option to get better payout rates is to take it to a Jewelry store who might give you more than the melt value - if you take a store credit - to buy new gold. See section above on "Selling to a Jewelry store". Personally - it's all scrap to me - I want the money so it goes in the box to get shipped to the refinery!
There is a bit of a curve to get over in considering beautiful, perfectly functioning jewelry or watches or artwork - as scrap. It can be very painful at first to think about scrapping it, but remember - you want the money more than you want the item. Presumably if it was worth more than scrap value - someone else would have already bought it. So expect that decision to be painful, but over time you will get over it. If it helps at all, remind yourself that you are recycling. In fact it's WAY MORE environmentally friendly to smelt and reuse precious metal than it is to mine it. It takes something like several tons of earth to recover 1 ounce of gold.
This area requires a little bit more attention to details. If you don't know about Gold Filled items, first read up, and then come back to this section.
Assuming you have CLEAN Gold Fill (meaning you have removed all the stainless steel, watch movements, brass, etc) then you will have to validate that the refinery you are using, accepts and processes Gold Fill material such as Northern Refineries. The payout by refinery can vary when it comes to gold fill. Basic reason is that Gold Fill is exactly that...filled, with stuff. So you might send in 10 troy ounces of clean gold fill, but ultimately there is only 1/2 to 1 troy ounce of gold. All that other stuff is base metals that are removed during the smelting process - which takes more effort and material from the refinery. As a result, you might get 5 or 10% lower payout. In the case of Norther Refineries they pay out at their standard 95% gold rate and don't charge setup fees or waste fees etc which is why I use them.
There is no formal definition of "recognized mints" in terms of the 1970's era commemorative silver 'collectibles' so check with your refinery in advance. There are 2 possible outcomes when you send Sterling to a refinery. They will either smelt it and pay you based on the recovered material, or if you ask in advance, they might actually just accept it and say OK, no need to smelt because it's from a company like "Franklin Mint" and carries internationally recognized mint marks or wording indicating the maker (typically something on the edge or rim of the item will read Sterling, 925, grain or gram count, and manufacturer, sometimes with specialty hall marks). Just be ready for a refinery to say though that they want to be safe and smelt it. The only difference is really the turn around time of how quickly you get paid - and depending on the volume you are sending in you might be able to negotiate another 1 or 2% better payout if the refinery doesn't have to process the materials - but don't expect that.
Sell Pure gold or silver bullion in the form of internationally recognized forms such as bars or coins
Current Spot Rate:
Wait a minute...internationally recognized? Yes, don't panic, it's not hard - enter the concept of The London Bullion Market Association. This is a recognized international body that does many things including approval of the 'saftey' or 'certainty' of precious metals. Think of it as the "Consumer Reports" of precious metals. Basically some refineries are better known globally than others. And the LBMA is the primary reference that many refineries use. On the LBMA site you can look up lists of manufacturers of gold or silver, to see if they are recognized by the LBMA or not. If they are recognized - then that most likely makes a difference on the payout rate that you can expect! For example, if you have a 10 oz gold bar that's stamped "USA Mine Now .9999 fine" - it's not recognized by LBMA, so when you send the bar to be refined - the refinery will most definately smelt the bar, validate the purity and in turn pay you a lesser payout (because they had to smelt it). Whereas if the bar is from a recognized company such Johnson Matthey, Perth Mint, Royal Candian Mint, United States Assay Office etc...you'll get a better payout.
If I have items that are recognized by the LBMA, then I always send them to Kitco.com, why? Because unlike other refineries - Kitco allows you to LOCK IN THE PRICE IMMEDIATELY! Where as other refineries don't lock in prices until the metal is all smellted and accounted for, which could be weeks after you sent it...and the market could have gone south at that point - an ongoing risk. But with Kitco - you can lock in whenever you want. However, you MUST follow a strict set of actions within 24 hours or you break contract and are penalized with fines. Basically, for the privlege of booking the price in advance, you must send your package to Kitco, postmarked within 24 hours, sent by USPS Registered mail, and send the registration number to Kitco. Then in 2 weeks you recieve payment. The payout rates vary depending on the product you send in. Some items you get a couple percent OVER spot. Others you get Spot rates, and others still are 1-3% below spot. You can find out when you visit their site, plug in what items you have to sell and they will tell you what they will pay or look at their payout sheet which changes every few seconds - live. Typical examples that you might have on hand include:
Below are some live samples from my account showing real transactions for reference: