Scrap Metal Auctions: What You Need To Know

If you’d like to take on a fun hobby that will allow you to retire a wealthy man or woman at a young age, then buying and selling scrap metal is not the answer. If you routinely listen to Judas Priest, Metallica, and Black Sabbath, then you should know that you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you enjoy hanging out at storage facilities and scrap yards and could use some extra cash to fund your coffeehouse-chain-based-in-Seattle habit, then welcome!

Here are a few things about scrap metal auctions that you…well, you don’t really need to know anything about scrap metal auctions…that you may want to peruse, shall we say, as you sip your Venti Vanilla Half-Caff Mocha with Whip.

Where To Find Storage Auctions

When a storage facility tenant doesn’t pay the rent on his unit, the facility owner is allowed to hold an auction of the abandoned storage unit contents to recoup their losses. (God, don’t you wish you could do that with your slacker roommate’s crap?) The best way to find a storage auction in your neighborhood is to search via a handy auction finder website. Actually reading those poorly-crafted and typo-heavy signs stapled to telephone poles is another way. Not a good way, but another way. And who knows? You may actually find someone’s lost dog or finally get started with a personal trainer.

What To Bring

A bottle of wine or a box of pastries is always a nice gesture. Or, if this isn’t a dinner party, gloves, flashlight, magnets, padlock, several boxes, and space in your car. You’d be surprised how many people already use their vehicles as a self-storage unit. Speaking of scrap metal, maybe you could just auction off your Hyundai Accent. Actually, you should bring a truck because if you win the auction, you’ll have to haul the contents away that day or rent your own storage unit (and then wouldn’t it be ironic if you forgot to pay your rent, got your storage unit auctioned off, and wound up buying your own stuff?).

One final note: bring cash in small, unmarked bills to bribe Moe, the tall guy with the neck tattoo who will make sure you win the auction. Of course we’re kidding. It’s a birth mark, not a tattoo. Seriously though, you’ll need to bring cash because auctions don’t accept checks, credit cards, debit cards, gold bullion or oxen.

What To Look For 

No, not the single ladies or gents. If you’re using an auction as a pick-up place you must be really desperate. Try Tinder. All scrap metal is not equal (now we’re talking about the auction, not the dating app). There are two categories of metal: ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metal will stick to your magnet and is worth less because it’s more common. Non-ferrous metal won’t stick to your magnet and is generally worth more.

So here’s what you want to be on the look-out for:

Ferrous metal:

  • Iron (griddle pan, 9-iron, complete multi-vitamin)
  • Steel (nails, horseshoe, Superman)

Non-ferrous metal:

  • Aluminum (pots, soda cans, pie tins)
  • Copper (stripped extension cords, piping)
  • Brass (faucets, keys, people in authority)
  • Stainless steel (many kitchen items)
  • Appliances, bicycles, tools, motors, and other equipment
  • Precious metals (gold, silver, platinum)

 Where To Sell Your Scrap Metal

Two words: Scrap yard. Google this term or “metal recycling.” Different scrap yards will buy different metals, so be sure to ask before making the trip out there. If you’re clear on what metals you have in your possession, you should call around to compare prices. Also, keep in mind that most scrap dealers will pay more for larger volumes of metal, so don’t show up with just a wok and an extension cord.

Rather than finding a rare comic books worth two million bucks, you’ll probably wind up purchasing a unit filled with soggy boxes full of personal photo albums, clothing from the ‘70s, a couple of Iron Maiden records, and a jar of Canadian pennies. And, if you’re lucky, a bunch of scrap metal.

Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is a writer and editor who sees the world through Giggle Glass, a type of wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display plus false nose and mustache. It reveals the absurd, amusing, and inappropriate goings on of daily life and displays it in a lap top-like hands-on format, from which she posts to various blogs such as Self Storage Finders, Romantically Challenged, and SelenaTempleton.com. As a former professional organizer and a current Virgo, she is a self-diagnosed authority on storage, packing, organizing, and general neat freakishness.

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