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Knowing the Difference Between Types of Copper Wire

August 18, 2016

For the serious copper wire collector, it’s critical to know about the different types of copper wire before doing any collection, and before delivering to the scrap yard. Seasoned collectors already know about “bare bright” copper wire - it’s currently the hottest commodity, and will therefore fetch the highest price at the scrap yard. But it’s still important to now which copper is which, especially when collecting electric motors, copper yokes, or anything else that is copper-laden.

The fine points are important with copper wire. As an example, when wire is stripped right from a motor or a copper yoke, a scrap yard will likely price it as #2 copper wire because of the shellac that covers the wire. That’s why it’s vital to understand the different wire colours, and to further recognize the different grades – this will have a direct impact on the bottom line for most serious collectors, and will influence the type of collections that will make most economic sense.

No. 1 Bare Bright Copper Wire

By definition, No. 1 bare bright copper wire is uncoated and unalloyed, and is usually 16 gauge or more. The colour of the copper wire is faint orange and the hue is bright. Bare bright wire will be shiny, but without any surface oil or surface shellac. As such, this wire will bring the best price.

No.2 Copper (unalloyed solids)

No. 2 copper wire could be clean, oxidized, or coated – but it must be completely free of lower gauge “hair wire”. Copper wire from an electric motor will range in colour from a dark orange to somewhat reddish. The difference between these wires and “bare bright” is quite noticeable.

Copper Yokes (from tube TV’s)

Copper Yolks are usually in the shape of a cone and are found in the back portion of a “tube TV”. This copper wire might look like it’s “bare bright”, but it will probably get a No. 2 price. This is because the wiring is coated in some shellac, and because of the residue it’s not pure.

Serious copper wire collectors must always be focused on the bottom line, particularly with scrap metal prices fluctuating like they do. Beyond identifying the different grades of wire, it’s also very important to separate the wires so as to get the best possible price from the scrap dealer. For those deciding to take shortcuts, and mixing grades of copper, it’s a money loser.

Finding Scrap Copper Wire

Today, scrap copper wire is one of the most desirable in the industry. Finding reliable sources of copper wire is therefore essential to success – it’s about more efficient metal scrapping.

Best Places to Search for Insulated Copper Wire

Televisions and monitors - all monitors and televisions contain copper wire. However, the wires must be snipped, stripped, and prepared in order to get the best price from the scrap yard. 

Electronic components - whether it’s a VCR, DVD player, or laptop, insulated copper wires are abundant throughout. Again, the cleaner the wires can be, the better the price will be. 

Computers and towers - mother boards and hard drives contain various amounts of copper wire.  But there are a usually a few different types of wire, and separating is a challenge. 

Domestic appliances - fridges, freezers, dishwashers, dryers, and washers are an excellent source of copper wire (as well as steel). Small appliances can also add to the volume.

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