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Old dental gold gains new luster

NEW YORK — Dazzled by the bull market in gold, people are digging through drawers for old dental caps, fillings and bridgework they saved years ago and selling them at prices that would make the tooth fairy blush.

Instead of hanging on to the pieces as souvenirs, many are turning them over to pawnbrokers, coin shops and specialized firms that buy “dental gold,” hoping to take a bite out of the metal’s historic run to $1,000 an ounce.

“People are really cashing in. If a dentist passes away, their kids come in with a big pile of gold teeth,” said Scott Taber, owner of Taber Coins, a Shrewsbury, Mass., coin dealer that buys dental gold and then resells it to a gold smelter.

He said he used to see only a few customers a month selling gold teeth but now gets that many each week. “People are digging up the gold and starting to sell it,” he said.

A gold crown typically uses about one-tenth of an ounce of 16-karat gold, which would fetch around $40 to $50 at today’s prices, Taber said. Heavier pieces of dental gold can command prices of several hundred dollars, he said.

Gold set a record of $1,038.60 an ounce on March 17 and has since fallen to about $920, but experts say it could soon resume its upward climb.

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