Investors and collectors looking to purchase precious metals may encounter both poured bars as well as pressed bars. It’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of each option before you decide which is right for you. On this page, we will take a look at these two forms of bullion and outline their main differences, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.
When mints make poured bars, they pour melted metal into molds or casts. After the metal cools, they weigh the bar and provide appropriate certification showing its origin, weight, and purity. Due to the process of pouring and molding the metal, most every poured bar has its own unique and distinct characteristics. Due to this, as well as the bars not being highly polished like their pressed counterparts, it gives them a higher level of aesthetic appeal to some investors and collectors.
Mints making pressed bars take a different approach. Instead, they start by extruding metal from a larger source, cutting the metal to match a specific size and weight, and pressing the weight, purity, and refiner’s name into the metal’s face. These bars are often more glossy and have a higher level of shine to them. Because of the process involved with their production, they are often cheaper than poured bars.
People have been pouring bars and ingots of precious metals throughout recorded history. It’s a fairly simple technology that anyone could master with a hot fire and a few sturdy tools. However, by today’s standards, the pouring process takes a long time. It’s fairly inefficient, especially when making small bars that weigh less than 100 ounces on a large scale.
The pouring process is, however, useful at producing larger bullion bars. If a bar weighs more than 100 ounces, the mint almost certainly used a pouring method to make it. The pressing method would create too many complications, and many companies don’t make blanks that large.
Pressing is generally a more efficient method of making bullion, but it works best when working with smaller weights. Most bars weighing under 100 ounces are made by utilizing the pressing process. Pressing is a more recent technological development and is similar to the technique that mints use to create coins.
Pressing is faster and more accurate in most cases, but it can be inefficient at making large bars. Many mints use pressing for small silver and gold bars while relying on the older method (pouring) to make large bars.
Mints can make poured bars from several precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Higher heat is needed to make gold bars, however. Twenty-four-karat gold has a melting point of about 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit while pure silver has a melting point of only 1,761 degrees. The lower heat required makes it easier for mints to create poured silver bars than gold bars.
Mints can use practically any precious metal to make pressed bars, as well, although gold and silver are two of the most common options. Pressed bars give mints more control over quality and uniformity, so many companies prefer using this method.
Since pressing bars doesn’t require melting metal into a liquid, mints that focus on pressing don’t always need fires capable of reaching nearly 2,000 degrees. That saves some money, but the mints also have to purchase the supplies needed to cut and stamp pressed bars.
Poured bars usually cost more than pressed bars for two reasons. One being that they are generally larger and the second being that they often require a human to physically pour the metal. Needing to have a human present in order to complete the process makes it more time consuming and costly. This also means that a mint can only produce a limited amount of the bars in most cases.
Pressed bars will usually cost less, but for the same reason that poured bars cost more. However, some pressed bars may also have designs that make them collectors’ items. If a bar is considered a collectors’ item, prices are often higher than the metal’s melt value.
Deciding on whether to purchase poured or pressed bars isn’t always an easy decision. Investors and collectors should consider the value of each bar rather than taking a blanket approach that puts all poured bars into a single category. Some like the more natural look and uniqueness of poured silver bars, while others may like pressed silver bars for their special or commemorative design. Like most precious metal purchases, in the end it will simply boil down to your personal preferences.