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The scrap metal story you all want the details on

John Reyes, a realtor in the Inland Empire area, was helping his wife, Elizabeth, clean out her father’s 1900s-era home last year when they discovered more than 1m copper pennies in a cramped crawlspace in the basement, according to KTLA news. The trove has a face value of at least $10,000, but could be worth more than $1m.

OK, so, copper value. These are pre-1942, so are high in copper.

Except we don’t get paid copper value. We get paid copper value minus cost of processing.

1864–1942 bronze (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc) 3.11grammes

Hmm. Bronze scrap today is an average price of: 1.64 USD/LB

So, $1.64 x 2.204 / 1,000 x 3.11 for scrap value. 1.12 cents per coin scrap value. Because we don’t get paid copper value, we get paid metals value before metals processing costs.

Much of a muchness therefore. But maybe rarity value?

Once you get up to speed, know what you’re looking for, you can check one penny every 10 seconds? Say? 6 a minute, 360 an hour. Labour’s what, $10 an hour? $27,000 in labour costs to check ’em for rarities.

Hmm, if I were there then yes, I probably would take a punt on that. Offer $10k minimum for the lot – ie, cash value. Plus some percentage – 30% if I could get away with it – of any value received over $40k. Labour input would be time spent perhaps, over a couple of years. That sort of deal at least.

The metals scrap value is misdirection that is, it’s the hope of finding a rarity or three in there – an 1873 Indian Head (?), just the one, would pay for it all.

What’s rather more amusing about this:

Pennies were initially made of pure copper until the US Mint switched to zinc-covered steel in 1943 because copper was needed for the second world war. By 1982, pennies were primarily zinc.

Fritz most probably started collecting pennies once the US began switching over from copper to zinc, Reyes told the LA Times.

“You have German immigrants who came over very young and these were two great men who thought you should own things that are stored in value,” Reyes said. “They don’t believe in much besides the value of precious metals.”

The 1943 zinc pennies are, these days, often worth much more.

11 thoughts on “The scrap metal story you all want the details on”

  1. Entertainingly enough, when I check the prices of some of the old books I’ve got hanging around, they’re worth a bit of money.

    But that’d probably only be if they were in good condition. Clearly copper store value much better.

  2. I’d do the sorting while doing something else, watching TV or eating. In clearing my Mum’s house I found two heavy bags of copper coins. Whenever I had a break and a cuppa I’d sort a handful into plakky coin bags. When I got to the end I had £8 in sorted bags. I dropped them off at the bank along with a pile of notes and cheques next time I was passing the bank.

    It’s the sort of low-value thing you do while you would be doing nothing else anyway, not something to divert your time to. Like growing potatoes. I’d be weeding the garden anyway, so I’ll stick some seed pots in while doing it.

  3. BB: I’ve got a 1920s neophone, which according to online sales could be worth at least £500. Plus, mine has the bellbox! But I’d have to put the effort into cleaning it properly and working out how to package it up to prevent breakages.

  4. Any good books I own will have been enhanced by my notes on them. No doubt this adds to their value.

    Coins: (i) anyone interested in pre-Euro Belgian coins? I keep them in case I want to drill them out for washers.
    (ii) When one of my wife’s grannies died there was found a half crown under each tread on the stair carpet.

    Somewhere I presumably have some paper currency I bought as a boy – notes the Nazis printed for their future rule in India. Or was I taken for a mug by the Bridgnorth Stamp Club?

    If I had the time, and sufficient remaining brain power, I think I’d like to collect pre-Roman British coins.

  5. Always worth looking under doorsteps. Often a coin was put there when the house was built. Usually the year of the house.

  6. An automated coin date checking machine sounds like something some nerd could make out of Lego and a Raspberry Pi, likely for less than $27K.

  7. It is not just a question of checking the date. A major factor in determining a coin’s value is condition. But also, as far as collectors are concerned, is the question of striking errors. Collectors, and particularly US collectors, are a weird mob and can pay big bikkies for the right sort of error. Recently a 1958 cent with a double struck legend went for over a million.

    Someone who knows what they are doing would need to slowly work their way through the entire mish mash. You need to up your timing Tim.

    And I wonder if there are any large cents in the hoard. Even in seemingly very worn condition they could be worth a bob or two.

    And, dearieme, British Celtic coins are experiencing a major boom. Prices have been soaring in last couple of years. Those of Boudicca’s mob would have been a great investment.

  8. By the way, a few, very few, of those wartime 1943 cents got struck on bronze flans. One sold a few years back for $1.7 million.

  9. An automated coin date checking machine sounds like something some nerd could make out of Lego and a Raspberry Pi, likely for less than $27K.
    A tad more than that. First stage you’d want an ultrasonic cleaner & dryer to clean them up. Then pass over a glass plate with cameras top & bottom to image both sides. (UV light?) How fast you could run it would depend on processing power. Might need more than an R Pi though but you would need those sort of pin connections to interface. That’d pick up dates, miss-strikes & limited strikings if there are any. At a guess, you could put something together for 5 grand*. All the parts are off the shelf. It’s really just making the chassis. Still need some labour time to feed & clear it but you might be able to run at 1 a second or more. And far less error factor than human judgement.
    It’s just one of those things machines are good at. Simple, rules based, data processing & materials handling. That should throw out anything not normal coin & leave you valuable dates in one stream & damaged/miss-struck etc in another, to assess by eye.

    *Maybe there’s someone here who knows what’s involved in writing the code. Would there be anything in the libraries to work from?

  10. BiS
    “ A tad more than that. First stage you’d want an ultrasonic cleaner & dryer to clean them up.”

    Not necessarily, I gather in the US coin market at least, that cleaning is an absolute No No and kills the value of the coin.

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