Crud - Why the Ugliest Stuff You Find in Old Businesses Can Be Worth Big Dollars

There was a story online the other day about a man who had found a great big gold nugget in a stream in California. A few days later, there was another story about a team of treasure hunters who thought they had found a fabled shipwreck that was supposed to contain a fortune’s worth of gold coins – according to legend that is.

Those stories are exciting. Finding big bright pieces of gold or other precious metals always is. But have you stopped to think how rare discoveries like those are, and how much more likely it is that you will discover quantities of precious metals in powders, shavings, sludge and other stuff that doesn’t look valuable? In other words, the crud that you will find lying around in old businesses and factories? If you don’t know where money can be found in crud, we will tell you in today’s post.

Some people just see crud, dust and sludge. We see the possiblity of precious metals that can be reclaimed profitably by Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners. Credit: Antonis Liokouras/iStock.

Some people just see crud, dust and sludge. We see the possiblity of precious metals that can be reclaimed profitably by Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners. Credit: Antonis Liokouras/iStock.

Dust, Powder, Shavings and Filings

If you have ever used a lathe or a milling machine to shape metal, you know that they produce a lot of dust, chips, shavings and other small bits. Many of those machines have vacuum attachments that suck small particles away into canisters. Other machines have blowers that simply blow them away to who-knows-where.

Then we come to filing and grinding processes, which also produce a lot of powder and dust. Old dental labs that fabricated crowns and bridges by hand or with small machines typically produced a lot of gold filings.

Much as those companies tried to capture all those little pieces of gold, silver or platinum, they couldn’t. In fact, they fell behind machines, accumulated in corners and under floor planks, and even got stuck inside vacuum hoses. That explains why it pays to pull up floorboards, look behind old workbenches, and look everywhere you can in old fabricating businesses. Vacuum up what you find and send it to us for testing. All those little bits of silver or gold sweeps could add up to big money.


If you explore an old factory where gold or silver plating took place, you have to remember that nice clean water flowed into the place and that it got muddied with quantities of whatever metal was being plated. If you look in the small drain pipes that carried water away from plating tanks or in the great big pipes that that drained water from the building or production floor, chances are you are going to find some ugly brown goo that looks worthless. It might not be. Collect it carefully and contact us to have it tested.

Metal Sponges and Filters

Sponges that are used in plating processes started out looking kind of like Brillo pads, but usually end up looking like worthless black powder that you can find in drain pipes or caught in the drains on the bottom of plating tanks. Filters and strainers are made of more robust material – they were used to catch small particles in liquids that were being drained from plating tanks. A filter that is made of metal can look corroded and worthless, but it could be plated with silver or other precious metals.

Crud that Has Adhered to Tanks

When gold or silver are applied in plating tanks, those metals aren’t smart enough to adhere only to the eyeglass frames, cutlery or other items that are being plated. Small quantities of those precious metals also adhere to the walls of plating tanks and to the inside of drainage pipes. This kind of crud looks like tarnish, but think again. Send us those tanks and pipes for testing.


If you find a pile of dirt or sand behind a building where precious metals were processed or machined, don’t overlook its potential value. For all you know, employees of that company might have spent decades sweeping the floors and emptying their dustpans there, and that sand could contain trace amounts of precious metals.

There is another kind of sand that is worth mentioning too. It is the sand or dirt that you will find outside buildings in places where dirty water was simply allowed to drain from the building. Remember that in the days before environmental regulations, businesses often dumped stuff indiscriminately. Also follow old drain pipes to see if they once dumped wastewater into nearby streams. The sand you will find in those streams near drain pipes could contain small amounts of precious metals that the factory was using.

Welding, Soldering and Brazing Supplies

If you’re lucky, you might find old silver welding rods or wire in an old factory. But also be on the lookout for small end pieces and scraps from those wires – you might find them in old boxes, in drawers, or even scattered around the floors. More often than not, those little pieces contain silver.


Okay, ash is crud in the extreme. Even though precious metals do not burn, it might interest you to know that if you are poking through a facility where x-ray or photographic films were burned, the resulting ash could contain small quantities of silver that a qualified precious metals refiner like Specialty Metals can extract for you.

Call Us about Your Crud

Don’t forget that even though the stuff we describe in today’s post might look worthless, it might not be. If you have some, give our precious metals consultants a call at 800-426-2344. When you do, mention today’s post and ask about the free or discounted shipping fees we can offer for materials that you send us for testing.

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