How To Sell Scrap Copper

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The trick to selling scrap copper is to sell it directly to a scrap yard. If you are in the USA, chances are there is one or more scrap yards somewhere in your town/county/city that you may or may not know about.

Every scrap yard will be interested in buying your scrap copper. It is your job as a scrap seller to find the scrap yard with the best price, and that is closest to your house or place of business. You can always call a scrap yard and ask about their current pricing. (You can expect to get prices at or a little below those listed in the upper right corner of this web page.) To find the nearest scrap yards, I suggest using google maps, google places, or a similar local search engine.

Before you haul your payload off to the scrap yard, you will want to first sort it into its separate categories. Unless you sort it properly, the scrap yard will demote it all to the lowest priced category, insuring that you get paid less then it is worth. Scrap copper that is contaminated with steel, aluminum, or other less valuable metals will lower its value significantly. If you have copper pipes with soldered in joints, for example, these are called copper #2. But if you take your time cutting all of the soldered joints out, leaving just the copper pipes, you will have the higher paying copper #2.

These are 5 general types of copper that you will be getting your hands on when selling scrap metal, and all types of scrap copper can be broken down into further sub-categories:
  • Scrap Copper Solids
  • Scrap Copper Non-Solids (Turnings, dust, chips, ect)
  • Scrap Copper Wire
  • Scrap Copper Breakage (Scrap Motors, Scrap Transformers, Scrap Copper Windings)
  • Scrap Copper Alloy

Selling Scrap Copper Solids
Congratulations! You have gotten ahold of the good stuff!

Scrap copper solids are any type of unalloyed, or pure, copper scrap . Scrap copper solids are usually the most sought after scrap metal in our industry (Read as “Mass epidemic of Metal Theft rocks scrap metal industry.”) If you stole your scrap copper, go to Hell. Otherwise, place it into one of these three categories:
  • Scrap Copper #1 (Copper number one): Defined as clean copper clippings, punchings, busbars, commutator segments, tubing and wire not less than 1/16 of an inch thick. (Includes any type of solid copper, including mill grade copper, clean copper welding tips, etc)
  • Scrap Copper #2 (Copper number two): Defined as unalloyed copper solids, at least 96% copper,  and free of excessively leaded, tinned, soldered copper scrap; brasses and bronzes; excessive oil content, iron and non-metallics; copper tubing with other than copper connections or with sediment; copper wire from burning, containing insulation; hair wire; or burnt wire which is brittle.
  • Scrap Copper #3 (Light Copper):  Light copper solids are any type of copper sheeting that is less then 1/16 of an inch thick. This scrap copper is worth significantly less then copper 1 or copper 2.

Selling Scrap Copper Non-Solids
This basically covers all things like dust, chips, turning, ect. I don’t feel like I need to really get into this too much, mainly because most yards have their own prices and procedures for selling those.

Scrap Copper dust, chips, and turnings, ect are worth only as much as your scrap yard is willing to pay for them, and unfortunately, that is usually not that much in my experience. (Around 25% of spot price.)

If you end up having more than about 10 pounds of these, I would suggest trying to melt them down into your own copper nugget to make more money. I have used propane to melt turnings down in the past. Find a method that works for you, and stick with it… If you don’t think it is worth doing: Dont do it! (I decided it wasn’t worth the propane!)

Selling Scrap Copper Wire
Every yard is different when it comes to insulated scrap copper wire. You may find that it is worth stripping your wire if you cant sell it for a good price, or maybe you will find that you never should strip wire…

Scrap Copper wire can be sorted into 5 different grades:

  • 85% Wire: Thin case with a diameter comparible to a pencil’s. If you have this type of wire, just strip it yourself and get full copper price!
  • 70% Wire: Romex/machine wire without any attachments. Found inside of any type of electronics or appliances
  • 50% Wire: Extension cords and appliance cords
  • 35% Wire: Thinly gauged wire with a considerable degree of attachments. “Communications wire” For example, VGA cables, telephone wires, ect.
  • 10% Wire: Christmas lights

Unfortunately, most yards do not segregate scrap wire into so many types. This will usually result in just 2 types of categories for you scrap copper wire:
  • High Grade Coppe Wire: Any copper wire with a single layer of insulation.
  • Low Grade Copper Wire: Any copper wire with a double layer of insulation.

Again, THESE ARE JUST GENERAL GUIDELINES! Every scrap yard is different. Every scrap yard will purchase scrap copper wire with standards which have been agreed upon between them and a refiner.

Selling Scrap Copper Breakage

Scrap “copper breakage” is another way of saying anything with copper winding. (See How To Scrap Copper Transformers )

If you have scrap electric motors, scrap starters, scrap alternators, scrap transformers, scrap inductors, scrap ballasts, or scrap power supplies you could be getting payed over 3.5x what you are getting for shred steel.

As a general rule, if I have any type of scrap copper breakage that weighs more then 20 pounds, I will break it apart into scrap copper and scrap steel. Depending on what your yard buys, you may not even have a choice, and to get a decent price, you must disassemble!

To pull out scrap copper winding, I cut through the winding that stick out of one end with a sawzall. Then I use a 5 point hammer and punch to hit the copper windings out of their slots. If They slide out easily, I will cut through one end of the copper winding, and then pry the winding out on the other side using a pry-bar/ crowbar. This is also one of the techniques you will need to perfect depending on your situation.

It is different for Scrap Transformers.

Selling Scrap Copper Alloy 

The world of metallurgy revolves around the broad range of alloys that can be created from any type of metal, but you are most likely familiar to the more common scrap copper alloys: Brass and Bronze. These are effectively the same thing, as the definitions have become blended in modern culture. This has lead many scrap yards to just call this price “Copper alloy” as opposed to scrap brass or scrap bronze.  (Technically brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, or other elements.)

In the beginning of 2011, scrap copper alloy is worth about $1.75 per pound, and is increasing with the price of bullish copper.

But other then scrap bronze and scrap brass, scrap alloys also come in the shape of Cupronickel, Inconel, and Monel. These specialty alloys are worth much more, and you need to find a yard that buys them for their higher scrap values.

One unusually Scrap copper alloy source is in Scrap Silver Plate, and Scrap Immitation Silver. These are actually cupronickel, copper, or German silver.
Check out my other how to scrap metal guides, and Good Luck Scrapping!

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