Poured vs. Pressed Bars
Investors and collectors looking to purchase Precious Metals in large quantities will see both poured bars and pressed bars among the wide selection of Precious Metal bars at APMEX. Today we will look at these two popular forms of bullion and discuss advantages and disadvantages of each form.
Mints craft poured bars by pouring molten metal into molds or casts—hence the name “poured bar.” After the metal cools into a solid bar, they weigh the bar and provide appropriate official mint certification authenticating the bar’s origin, weight and purity. The process of pouring the metal gives each bar its own unique details and characteristics. Many buyers feel that these unique qualities, as well as the bars’ softer edges and dull finish, gives them greater aesthetic appeal. They very much have the look of a pirate’s treasure in an old movie. The hands-on time required to produce poured bars means that they are generally more expensive than pressed bars.
When mints make pressed Silver bars, it is an entirely different process. Instead, they begin by extruding metal from a larger source, cutting the metal to match a specific size and weight. The details of the bar’s weight, purity and origin are then pressed into the face of the bar. These bars are generally shiny and showier. Because of the process of their production is less involved than that of a poured bar, they are usually command smaller premium over spot price.
History of Pouring and Pressing Bars
People have been hand-pouring bars and ingots of Precious Metals throughout the expanse of recorded history. It’s a relatively simple technology that anyone could master as long as they had a hot enough fire and a few specialized tools. However, by today’s standards, poured bars take a long time to produce. In our automated society, pouring bars is considered inefficient, especially for small bars. However, there is a flip in this reasoning when companies wish to produce very large bars. If a bar weighs more than 100 ounces, it is highly likely that it will be a poured bar. Creating a pressed bar of that size would be greatly complicated by the fact that companies generally don’t make blanks that large. Pressing is an efficient method of producing bullion, but it works best when used for bars weighing under 100 ounces. Pressing is a recent technological advancement, relatively speaking, and has more in common with contemporary coin production than the traditional crafting of poured bars. While pressing may be faster and more accurate in most cases, few companies are set up to press very large bars. Generally, you’ll find that mints press small Gold and Silver bars while relying on the traditional pouring method to produce large bars.
Metals Used to Produce Poured Bars
Mints can make poured bars from several different Precious Metals, including those that are most popular for investment purposes: Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium. However, in terms of the production of Gold and Silver bars, Gold requires higher heat than Silver. Twenty-four-karat gold has a melting point of 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit while pure Silver has a slightly lower melting point of 1,761 degrees. The lower heat required makes it a bit easier for mints to craft poured Silver bars.
Metals Used to Make Pressed Bars
Practically any Precious Metal can be pressed into bars, as well, although Silver and Gold are certainly the most common options. Pressed bars allow mints to minutely control quality and uniformity; many companies prefer producing pressed bars for this reason. Another factor in concentrating on pressed bars is that their production doesn’t require melting metal into a liquid. Mints focusing on pressed bar production generally don’t need fires capable of reaching nearly 2,000 degrees. That saves trouble and resources. There are attendant costs to pressing bars, as well, but they are not ongoing as the cost to maintain a fire would be.
Cost to Produce and Buy Poured and Pressed Bars
Poured bars tend to cost more than pressed bars, and there are two main reasons for this. The first is that they are generally larger and the second is that they require actual hands-on artisans to physically pour the metal. Handmade items are always more expensive. It naturally follows that mints can produce only a limited number of hand-poured bars in a given time period. Pressed bars will usually cost less, as they represent the inverse of why poured bars cost more. However, certain pressed bars may bear fanciful designs that give them value as collectors’ items. If a bar is considered a collectors’ item, they may command a high premium over spot price.
Deciding between a poured bar and a pressed bar is not a quiz question with a “correct” answer. Some people like the soft, natural beauty and uniqueness of poured bars, while others might prefer the impressive mirror-shine of pressed bars. Like most precious metal purchases, you will have to weigh your goals, preferences and budget to decide which beautiful Precious Metals investment product is right for you.