Determining Types of Copper Wires

How Do You Know Which Copper Wire You Have?

When collecting your copper wire for the scrap yard, it is essential to know how to determine the different types of copper wires before bringing it in. Almost everyone in the scrap industry knows Bare Bright Copper Wire is a hot commodity and the highest-priced common item when going to your scrap yard. So when scrappers begin to collect electric motors and other items like Copper Yokes that contain copper wire, sometimes the color of the wire may seem like bare bright #1 copper wire.

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However, when these wires are stripped from motors and copper yokes, the scrap yards will not buy the wire at a #1 copper price. Instead, those wires will be priced at a #2 copper wire due to the shellac and covering on the outside of the wire. In the video below, you can see what Tom refers to regarding the different color wires and types. Once you see them side by side, you can recognize the color difference and what’s inside. You can also see if Tom thinks these wires are worth stripping.

Different Types of Scrap Copper Wire:

  • Bare Bright Wire – The color of the wire will be a faint orange/yellow and bright color. The wire itself will have a shine to it without any oil or shellac on the outside.
  • #2 Copper Wire – The color of the wires from electric motors can range from a darker burnt orange color to a reddish color. You can see the difference when you see the wires next to Bare Bright copper wire.
  • Tin Coat Wire – Tin coat copper wire will be cheaper than Bare Bright Wire. It is coated in Tin (silver in color). This is used in various types of cable to lower the percentage of copper for cost efficiency.
  • Insulated Copper Wire – This is a common type of copper wire you will typically find in electronics and appliances. Usually, it’s not worth stripping this wire for the copper inside due to the lack of recovery. But you can determine what makes sense with our stripping guide.
  • Computer Wire – These wires will be the ribbon and board wires inside your computer towers. Typically, scrap yards buy these wires differently than regular insulated wires because they have less copper.
  • THHN Wire – Otherwise known as 10-14 gauge or spaghetti wire, solid copper is inside. THHN is a name given that means Thermoplastic, High Heat, Nylon coated…and while that may not matter to you when scrapping, it is still a cool thing to be able to know.
  • Romex®Wire – Romex® wire, a housewire or non-metallic wire brand, is electrical wiring commonly found in homes. Generally, you can make more money by stripping the wires to get to the copper. Housewire has two jackets covering the copper inside.

Suggested Reading: The Best Handheld Wire Strippers

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By separating these types of wires from each other, you can get the right price for both materials. If you mix your bare bright wire together, you will lose money.