Copper is one of the most sought-after scrap metals due to its high value and widespread use in various industries. Whether you’re a seasoned scrapper or just starting, knowing which types of copper yield the highest returns can significantly impact your profits. This article will guide you through the different types of scrap copper, their characteristics, and tips for maximizing your earnings.

Key Takeaways

  • Bare bright copper is the most valuable type of scrap copper, containing 99.9% pure copper and free from any coatings or alloys.
  • Scrap copper #1 is clean, unalloyed, and has a minimum copper content of 98%, making it highly profitable.
  • Scrap copper #2, while less pure than #1, still holds significant value and includes slightly tarnished or coated copper.
  • High-purity copper scrap fetches the best prices, so testing for purity is essential before selling.
  • Common sources of high-value copper scrap include household items, industrial equipment, and electrical components.

Types of Scrap Copper

Scrap copper is one of the most valuable recyclable wastes. Many businesses gain extra profit from sending their copper waste to trusted scrap collectors. Scrap copper sells for high prices since it can be reused and re-purposed without altering the metal’s quality. In fact, around 80 percent of all copper used today is recycled and re-purposed. Scrap copper can normally be classified as either just copper metal or copper cable.

Scrap Copper #1

Scrap copper #1 is the second most desirable grade of copper for profitability. To earn this classification, the metal should be comprised of bus bars, clippings, commutator segments, or wire of at least 1/16th of an inch in diameter. It also must be clean in appearance, unalloyed, and uncoated.

Scrap Copper #2

Regarded as the third most valuable grade of copper, scrap copper #2 can be identified by its somewhat dirty or blemished appearance. Metal categorized as scrap copper #2 is generally comprised of miscellaneous unalloyed wire, pipe, or solid metal that continues to have solder, paint, or any kind of coating on it even after cleaning. Its minimum copper content should be 94-96%.

Bare Bright Copper

Bare bright copper is the most desirable and valuable type of scrap copper. It refers to pure, uncoated, and unalloyed copper wire or cable that is at least 99% pure. This type of copper is typically found in electrical wires and is highly sought after by scrap yards due to its high value and ease of recycling.

Characteristics of High-Value Copper Scrap

Purity Levels

High-value copper scrap is often distinguished by its purity levels. The purer the copper, the higher its value. For instance, bare bright copper, which contains 99.9% copper, is the most valuable type of scrap copper. This type of copper is clean, unalloyed, and uncoated, making it highly sought after in the recycling market.

Appearance and Condition

The appearance and condition of copper scrap significantly affect its value. Clean, untarnished copper is more desirable and fetches a higher price. Copper that is bright in color and free from any coatings or alloys is considered high-quality. This is because such copper has not been exposed to elements that could degrade its quality.

Common Sources

High-value copper scrap can be sourced from various items and industries. Some common sources include:

  • Electrical wiring and cables
  • Plumbing pipes
  • Industrial machinery
  • Motors and transformers

These sources are known for providing copper that is both high in purity and in good condition, making them ideal for recycling purposes.

Items with the Most Copper Content

Household Items

Household items are a common source of scrap copper. You won’t have to go far to find items containing good quality copper. Some of the most common household items include:

  • Electrical wiring
  • Plumbing pipes
  • Appliances like refrigerators and washing machines
  • Electronics such as old computers and televisions

Industrial Equipment

Industrial equipment often contains a significant amount of copper. This includes machinery used in manufacturing, construction, and other heavy industries. Common sources of copper in industrial equipment are:

  • Motors and transformers
  • Industrial generators
  • Heavy-duty electrical cables

Electrical Components

Electrical components are another rich source of copper. This is because copper is widely used in electrical applications due to its excellent conductivity. Key electrical components with high copper content include:

  • Power cables
  • Circuit boards
  • Electrical connectors

When it comes to scrap recycling, copper stands out as one of the most valuable metals due to its high copper content and wide range of applications.

Grading Copper Scrap

Understanding the Grading System

Copper is among the most valuable metals when it comes to collecting and recycling. Given the unique properties that allow it to be an effective conductor of both heat and electricity, copper is used and reused in motors, computers, construction materials, industrial machinery, and much more. Understanding the grading system is crucial for maximizing the value of your scrap copper.

Factors Affecting Grades

Several factors affect the grade of copper scrap:

  • Purity: The copper must be free from any paint, impurities, or signs of tarnishing.
  • Appearance: Clean in appearance, unalloyed, and uncoated copper fetches higher prices.
  • Type: Different types of copper, such as bus bars, clippings, and commutator segments, have different values.

Testing for Purity

To determine the value of your scrap metal, it’s important to note that copper wires have a separate grading system. Classifying copper wire is based on the yield of copper remaining after the insulation has been stripped off the wire. The different grades of copper wiring include:

Grade Description
#1 Clean, unalloyed, and uncoated wire of at least 1/16th of an inch in diameter
#2 Miscellaneous unalloyed wire, pipe, or solid metal with solder, paint, or any kind of coating

Scrappers should be advised that copper piping is not included in this classification.

Tips for Selling Scrap Copper

Preparing Your Copper for Sale

Clean and sort your scrap metals before you sell them. This will help you get a better price for your materials and make the selling process easier. Cleanliness matters when it comes to selling scrap metal. Contaminants like oil, paint, or rust can lower the quality of the metal and reduce its value. Store them carefully: Most types of scrap metal are best stored in a cool, dry place. Cover them with a tarp or tarpaulin if you’re storing them outdoors to protect them from the elements.

Finding the Best Scrap Yards

Check the current scrap metal prices before you sell. This way, you’ll know how much your copper is worth, and you can get a fair price for it. Find a reputable scrap metal buyer. This is important because not all buyers will give you the same price for your copper. It’s always a good idea to compare prices before you sell. Bring your ID with you when you go to sell your copper scrap. Some states require ID for all scrap metal transactions, so it’s best to be prepared.

Maximizing Profit

Sell in bulk if possible. Scrap metal collectors tend to offer better rates when buying in large quantities, so if you regularly collect scrap copper, it may be best to build up your supplies before selling. If you’re a home or business owner with a small amount of scrap copper, most scrap metal dealers will still do business with you from as little as £10 worth of copper. Keep an eye on the market: Scrap metal prices can fluctuate, so it’s always smart to keep an eye on the market and sell when prices are high.

Why Copper is in High Demand

Copper is highly prized as a base material because it is non-ferrous (not magnetic) and incredibly versatile and conductive. Pure copper is used in all kinds of electromagnetic applications, so is important to the telecommunication, electrical and engineering industries. Copper is very malleable, and can be hammered into sheets, stretched into wires or formed to make tubing.

As the price of mining new copper is expensive, recycled copper is essential to meet global demand. That is why it is always in demand at scrap metal yards. Most copper can also be recycled without any loss to its quality.

Global Demand for Copper is anticipated to Fly High by 2027. This makes it a valuable resource for both industrial and recycling purposes.

Bank of America predicts that a combination of supply shortages and growing demand will propel copper prices to surge to $5.44 per pound by 2026, representing a significant increase. This trend underscores the importance of copper in the global market.

Copper is a highly sought-after metal due to its excellent conductivity and versatility in various industries. As demand continues to rise, it’s crucial to recycle and repurpose copper efficiently. If you have any copper or other scrap metals lying around, don’t let them go to waste. Visit our website to learn more about our free scrap metal collection services and how you can contribute to a greener environment.


In conclusion, understanding the different grades of scrap copper is essential for maximizing profitability in the recycling industry. From the highly valuable bare bright copper to the less pristine scrap copper #2, each type has its own set of criteria and market value. Bare bright copper, with its 99.9% purity and bright, unalloyed appearance, stands out as the most profitable, while scrap copper #1 and #2 also offer significant returns when properly sorted and cleaned. As global demand for copper continues to rise, driven by its extensive use in electrical applications and other industries, scrappers who can effectively identify and process high-quality copper will find themselves well-positioned to capitalize on this valuable resource. By staying informed about the grading system and maintaining high standards of cleanliness and purity, you can ensure that you get the best possible price for your scrap copper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most valuable type of scrap copper?

Bare bright copper is the most valuable type of scrap copper. It is clean, unalloyed, uncoated, and at least 99.9% pure. It is often used for electrical purposes due to its high purity and bright color.

What is Scrap Copper #1?

Scrap Copper #1 is the second most desirable grade of copper. It includes bus bars, clippings, commutator segments, or wire of at least 1/16th of an inch in diameter. It must be clean, unalloyed, and uncoated, with a minimum copper content of 98%.

What is Scrap Copper #2?

Scrap Copper #2 is the third most valuable grade of copper. It includes miscellaneous unalloyed wire, pipe, or solid metal that may have solder, paint, or coatings. It has a minimum copper content of 94-96% and may have a somewhat dirty or blemished appearance.

Why is copper in high demand?

Copper is in high demand due to its essential role in various industrial applications, including electrical wiring, motors, and construction materials. Its ability to be recycled without losing quality also contributes to its high demand.

What items contain the most copper?

Common items with high copper content include household items like old electrical wiring and plumbing, industrial equipment, and electrical components such as motors and transformers.

How can I maximize profit when selling scrap copper?

To maximize profit, prepare your copper by cleaning it of any insulation, paint, or impurities. Find the best scrap yards that offer competitive prices and stay informed about market trends to sell when prices are high.