When I started my recycling business, I traveled around and had the opportunity to see places in Western Canada that most people pass through when they are on the way somewhere else. As I did road trips about every two weeks and was gone three or four days, I took some time to stop and visit these small towns. The dentist in the small town was usually able to provide me with good results (and profit). More bonuses?
It was several years ago that there was A LOT more competition in the scrap metal market due to high prices. The larger refineries along each coast sent out their “professional buyers”, which is essentially what I did in the film industry. It was a costly proposition for someone to earn a full-time salary while traveling the world. The overhead costs were enormous. NOBODY CAN AFFORD TO HIRE PEOPLE TO DO THIS NOW, SO there’s almost NO COMPETITION for this type of business.
Nevertheless, I made a stop in a small Montana town one day. When I said I paid CASH for amalgam and scrap gold, the dentist in town was very receptive. The dentist pulled out a large box from a drawer that was FULL of shiny yellow gold. He was happy to accept my CASH (admittedly, low) offer because I was the only one who was interested in buying his scrap.
First and Second Lessons: I’ve yet to find a “professional” buyer of any type of scrap who is efficient. The “professional” buyers are paid on results, so they buy in large quantities. This means that the largest and most numerous customers are where you will find them. They still use the’shotgun approach’. Second, the person who arrives with the most cash first wins. They don’t want to waste time mailing their scrap material or shipping it out. The scrap is a tiny percentage of what they do – to them, it’s GRAVY!
Back to the story. The doctor asked me if I reprocessed metals after we had made the deal to buy his gold and amalgam (worth $350 alone in profit). He asked if I refined metals. I said no but I knew of some great refiners. I was told to wait for a moment, then he went back into the room. He came out, holding a Mason Jar, which was apparently filled with dirt. It was obvious that it was much heavier because he held it with both hands.
He told me his father and grandfather were both dentists when Montana was still a Territory. He then told me about the history of dental care, and how gold refiners used to send free sisal mats to the dentists before vacuums or suction pumps were invented. These floor mats were placed in the operating room to catch the silver and gold filings that patients spit out. Old low-speed drilling machines would produce a lot of dust, which included gold and silver filings. Most of this was inhaled or ended up on the mats. The sisal mats were very effective at collecting these metals. Refiners sent replacement mats, and the dentist would ship back the old mats. Refiners burnt the mats in order to get the metals, and made a small payment to dentists.
This jar was filled with dirt and metal filings. This jar had been in the office of this doctor for decades. It was actually from the days when refiners provided dental offices with floor mats! The sweepings that were left behind by the floor mats were collected in this jar. It was hard to know from the jar’s weight, which was about 4 pounds. I said I would be happy to have it tested by my refiner. He had given me his trust, and I was not criticized.
Refinement costs, recovery percentage, or other aspects of returning values. Take it, tell me how much it’s worth and then bring it to me next time.
When I returned to Utah I put it aside for two weeks, before I did anything. It was probably silver and not worth much. I didn’t want to rush. My refiner melted it for me and did an analysis. Final score: Dirt – 40%, metals -60%. Silver and gold were the metals. Gold was almost 18K (75 percent pure) in the jar and yielded nearly a pound!
After spending only twenty minutes at his office, I earned his trust and made $1327 profit. He was very happy to get a few thousands $$$ in exchange for a DIRT jar sitting on the shelf.
In my recycling education, I’ve learned that the ‘deals’ are wherever you look. They won’t come to you if you don’t go out and look for them.
It is also amazing to see how many business deals are done without formality, just by handshakes. Your greatest asset is the trust that you gain in any venture you undertake.
In the years since, I’ve had many life-changing experiences. A retired dentist called me with two plastic five-gallon buckets FILLED WITH GOLD that he had saved throughout his long career. The retired dentist would contact me every year to get rid of a few ounces to pay his taxes. A farmer’s barn contained nearly 10,000 catalytic convertors, a scrapyard had over five thousand. I have been offered scrap material of all types with the promise of payment in future.
Is it a frequent occurrence?
No. It happens often enough to make your daily life feel like an endless treasure hunt. You wake up excited each morning, wondering what new discoveries you might find! The excitement never seems to stop!