Out of all scrap metal you can sell, copper tends to fetch the highest value.
Whether it’s selling construction material, copper wire, a copper pipe or an appliance part of sorts, you can make money, but it’s important you’re making the most money.
In this guide, I wanted to talk about the many ways you can sell copper as well as who wants to buy copper in your area. Plus, I will tell you how much you should expect to make.
As always, I’m 100% honest and will only recommend services/tips that I would use personally.
So, if you have anything copper, let’s jump in and see how you can successfully sell copper as early as today.
Categorizing Your Copper
First, it’s so important that you know the different categories of copper as well as sort it before you take it to a local scrap yard.
If you fail to sort your copper and/or know what you have, the scrap yard will take it, but they will just categorize it as the lowest price and cut you a check. This isn’t what you want.
You don’t have to be an expert to sort your copper as it’s as easy to categorize. I will explain my best below.
In the copper world, there are five categories:
- your solids
- your non-solids (such as dust, chips, etc)
- copper wire
- breakage (copper taken from items)
- alloy (mixed with other metals such as brass; not a true copper)
If you’re working with solids, the most in demand copper at nearby scrap yards, then you will want to understand what you’re working with. This is just it — your solid pipes, etc.
In the solids category, you have three common numbers: #1, #2, and #3.
Your #1’s will be defined as a clean copper clipping no less than 1/16 of an inch thick. This can include any type of solid copper and is considered as the highest grade of scrap copper sold. There should be no soldered parts, excessive oil or any other connections. Picture it as a solid pipe in pristine condition and that’s it.
Your #2’s will be a step below your #1’s. These copper pieces are defined as your “unalloyed copper solids,” but will contain at least 96% copper and will also be free of scrap, brasses, excessive oil, connections and/or burnt wires. The biggest difference relies in the appearance.
Lastly, your #3’s are the lighter sheeting copper that is less than 1/15 of an inch thick. Out of the three, it’s worth the least.
As one of the five categories, you will also have your non-solids. This can include your chips or dust, to name a few. Basically, if it isn’t a solid pipe and/or wire, then you can safely categorize it here.
A lot of scrap yards will pay for your non-solids; however, you will be lucky enough to get 20% of what you could get for a solid copper piece.
If you have enough of these non-solids, usually 10 to 15 pounds or more, then you may want to consider melting it down to create a nugget of sorts. In doing so, this could lead to much more money. But, it does depend on how much you have to sell as the effort may not be worth your time. To successfully melt, however, you will need a kiln or furnace that can reach a temperature of more than 1,981 degrees Fahrenheit. For that reason, you may need to hire someone, which may not be worth it.
Aside from selling solid copper pipes or your non-solids, another common copper item includes your copper wire.
Much like your solids, your copper wires are broken down into grades as well, with certain grades selling for more than the next.
Depending on the scrap yard you choose, some may ask you to stripe your wire, while others may do it for you. I can’t stress it enough that every yard is different.
If you plan on selling copper wire, then it can be broken down into the following five grades:
- 85% (about the diameter of a pencil)
- 70% (found in most electronics or your appliances)
- 50% (appliance/extension cords)
- 35% (thin wire, such as your VGA cables, telephone wires, etc)
- 10% (Christmas lights)
The higher the number, the more you can expect out of it. If you have thicker copper wire, one of which that falls into the 85% category, then it’s wise to strip it down so that you can get the copper price rather than the wire price. ForScrap does a good job breaking it down as to whether or not it’s worth stripping the wire or not.
In the breakage category, this is more your parts, such as a power supply, motor or a scrap starter, for example. It’s moreso a part filled with copper fittings.
Dependent on the scrap yard, some may accept the parts as-is and offer you a price, most of which is much less than the copper categories mentioned above, whereas other yards may request you to tear it apart and pick out the copper.
As there are so many types of “breakage,” I recommend searching on YouTube to see how you can break down what you have to take out the copper for a better price.
And, in the last category, your alloy copper is a broad range, but it commonly includes your brass and bronze. Technically, it’s considered as an alloy of copper and zinc, whereas bronze is an alloy of copper and other elements. While it isn’t truly copper, you can still be able to scrap it.
To distinguish copper from brass, it’s best to examine the color beneath a light. A real copper will always have a reddish-brown hue, similar to that of a penny, whereas a brass item will have more of a yellow, orange-yellow tint.
A scrap yard will be able to tell you right away, but be prepared to receive much less in a price if you have any alloy material.
TIP: I-Buy-Scrap does a wonderful job breaking down the categories as well as providing pictures to help you sell your scrap copper.
Now that you know the many types of copper and what it could be worth, it’s now important to know how to prepare before you bring it to a buyer.
Separate It All
While this is optional, I do recommend that you sort your copper into the categories as mentioned prior so that you can at least get an idea of what you can get as well as what you can have. This can also help you determine what you may get in terms of a price quote. Separation is key and is highly recommended.
Strip/Disassemble Your Copper
If you have the tools to do so, you’re going to want to make sure you strip the copper out of any wires you have as well as any parts you want to get rid of. The same can be said about any copper fittings that have any connections, soldered parts, etc. It’s your goal to have a pure piece of copper with nothing else attached to get a top-dollar quote. While some scrap yards will do this for you, the price will reflect the time they have to take to do the work themselves.
Melt the Copper
Only consider this option if you have more than 50+ pounds of non-solids, such as your dust and debris, and you feel it’s worth the investment/time. What you’re going to find out is that a lot of your buyers won’t even consider this option, but if you’re able to melt it down into a nugget of sorts, then you’re talking. In this case, you could recoup more than 75% more than that of a non-solid quote. If you consider this method, keep in mind that you will need the right equipment, including a kiln that can actually do the job, so for that reason, and as mentioned, you more than likely will need to outsource this job. Again, do the math!
Research the Price
And, lastly, before selling your copper, make sure you know what the current market values are as of today. Like any commodities, the price will always rise, but as a rule of thumb, I would refer to this CNBC chart to see what copper is selling for at the moment. The price you see is what copper is worth per pound. While you won’t get this exact value at a local scrap yard, it should be somewhat close.
Before you even head to a scrap yard, it’s extremely important to call to confirm that they accept the copper and to confirm the prices. I’m sure you know the old saying, “let your fingers do the walking.” In this case, it makes all the sense in the world. You don’t want to waste your gas, only to find out they don’t accept copper or they offer you next to nothing. Any honest scrap yard, which I show you how to find next, will always be happy to let you know over the phone.
I mention it multiple times below, but make sure you research the scrap yard you may choose to ensure you’re dealing with an ethical company. Pay close attention to the Google and Yelp reviews to see what other people are saying. Even if the rating is average, see what people hate as well as what they like. From there, you can then use your own judgement skills to see if they are worth going to.
How to Sell Copper
As you can see, selling copper is a lot more than just taking it out of a bin and heading up to your local scrap yard. Sure, you can do this, I guess, but you won’t get top dollar. That’s why I wanted to create this simple, yet effective guide. I wanted to show you how you can maximize your bids by more than 75% in some cases.
Now that you have hopefully categorized as well as broken down your copper into 100% copper pieces, then it’s now time to determine who will buy your copper. That’s what this section is designed for.
In this section, I will tell you who will buy your copper as well as how you can go about it.
GotScrap.com has two search functions you can use. You can either request a pickup if you don’t have the means to get to a scrap yard or you find a scrap yard near you that’s willing to buy your copper.
Using the website is easy. Just input your zip code and then take a gander at the results. Depending on where you live, you may only see one listing or multiple choices. In the case you do see more than one option, be sure to Google the company’s name to check out their reputation. As there are some shady characters out there, you will always want to be certain you’re working with someone who’s ethical and 100% legit.
- Website: GotScrap.com
The cool thing about the iScrap app is that it lists the average copper price scrap yards are paying near you as well as where these scrap yards are located.
Of all the options I list in this section, I would say this is my favorite one, simply due to the simplicity and number of results that pop up. In playing with these tools, I had the best luck with this app.
Like the many I list here, to use it, you will need to enter your zip code or let it view your location, and then click on a scrap yard of interest. If there are any reports, you will see what people were paid in the past for their copper scraps.
- Website: iScrap App
Recycler Finder makes “recycling made easy.” It’s the first online mobile application that helps finding a recycling facility “fun and easy.”
To use it, just enter your zip code, followed by the type of material you have as well as how far you’re willing to travel.
In doing so, you should find some locations nearby that may be willing to buy your scrap copper.
- Website: Recycler Finder
Search for a Local Scrap Yard
The websites/apps mentioned above won’t always find a local scrap yard and/or it may be limited as to what it spits out.
For that reason, you can also search Google, using search terms such as “copper scrap yards near me” or “copper scrap yards + (your zip code).” Yelp is an option as well.
In using these search terms, you should get some results, no matter where you live. Again, be certain to pay close attention to the reviews to ensure you’re dealing with an honest company.
Once you categorize your copper and find a scrap yard of choice, it’s now time to drive there. Depending on how much copper you have, most yards will weigh your vehicle before and after to confirm the weight. In smaller cases, they may use a scale on site. Be prepared to include all of your personal information, including giving up a copy of your driver’s license, due to the theft commonly seen in the copper world. In some cases, a thumbprint is required, too. As long as you’re not stealing it, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about here.
In the end, selling copper is easy, but you will just want to make sure that you’re taking the time to get the best price for your copper as well as the right place. In following this guide, it should help you achieve that goal.
As long as you feel you have at least 30-50+ pounds of copper, then it financially makes sense to drive up to a local scrap yard and dump it off as that’s an easy $30 to $100+. Again, it’s dependent on the current market prices. It could be much more!
As always, if you want to share your thoughts, vent or even ask a question, then you’re more than welcome to do so in the comments below. Remember, keep it civil and on topic to ensure your comment gets accepted.
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