How To Scrap Silver Plate, and Recycling old Silver Plated Items

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The price of silver is going up, up, up! The first thing you expected to happen, has: The silver pieces you have been picking up at garage sales and thrift shops are harder to find. Things are still around of course… But what is left sitting out is the silver plated stuff…

Silver plated items have been gong up in value… But surprisingly, it’s not only because silver is going up in value. It’s actually rising more because copper is going up in value.Thats right, folks. Silver plate is usually a Copper alloy base.

When people hear this, they are often taken aback… Well then, why is it sometimes white? Well that brings me to my second major point. Silver plate is also often a Nickel alloy base.

So to summarize, silver plate is either a mixture of Nickel or Copper, two of the most expensive metals in the scrap base metal recycling industry.

What are the different types of silver plate?

  • Pure Copper Base: This is easy to spot. Hit it with a file, or hit it with a grinder really quick, and when you see that beautiful copper color, you’ll know. When you come across a piece of plated silverware or something of that nature, it will usually NOT be pure copper under the silver plate because copper is too weak to be used as a utensil. It would bend and deflect too easily, so there is often some type of alloying elements.
  • Copper/Zinc Brass Base: This is just the standard yellow brass we are all familiar with.
  • Cupronickel: is an alloy or copper and nickel, and is german for copper nickel (Germans are not very abstract when it comes to words, it seems). Cupronickel comes in all sorts of alloys, and all types of values. 30/70 curponickel (30% copper and 70% nickel) is the most valuable but rarely used in silverware. 90/10 cupronickel is worth the least. I often find 70/30 cupronickel as the base for silver plated pieces, and many times silver imitation is also 70/30 cupronickel. Many yards will have a separate list of cupronickel prices (often worth more than copper), and less interested yards buy it at brass price.
  • German Silver: This is an uglier version of cupronickel, containing copper, nickel, and zinc. Usually in a mixture of 60, 20, 20 respectively. This is worth at least brass price at your local scrap yard, but is hard to discern from regular cast zinc: The trick is to look for some type of green oxidizing, which means it’s a copper alloy. If it is a white metal, but has green oxidizing, then it must be a nickel/copper alloy of some sort.
  • Pure Nickel: Very rarely seen in anything modern, but more often found in very old silver plated pieces. Honestly, if you find a pure nickel silver plated piece, it is likely worth much, much more as an antique then as scrap.
I hope you see this as an opportunity to make some money! Usually you will need to buy some of this stuff in bulk to feel like you are getting any sort of deal. Some places, like garage sales and thrift stores, will often have this type of stuff lying around gathering dust. Use this to your advantage!To cash in on your scrap silver plated items, you can easily sell them to your local scrap yard. Some scrap yards will be friendlier then others, so call ahead for pricing and to get a feeling for whether or not a yard seems understanding. Some scrap yards even have a special “silver plated scrap” price.

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