Turn Your Trash Into More Cash

Turn Your Trash Into More Cash

If you detect for extra income, perhaps you clean and redeem the lost change you find, and maybe you turn in metal trash like cans, iron and brass into a recycle center for their scrap value.   I’m going to point out some instances where certain trash may have significant value over their scrap content, and share some ideas for making things out of scrap that you can sell.

Be Careful What You Call Trash
It’s a great idea to collect all of your trash instead of slinging things you think are undesirable into a nearby ditch or fence row to get them out of your way.   I keep a garbage bag nearby for obvious outright trash like cans, nails and foil.   I use the Garrett Treasure Pouch for everything else, especially whats-its.   This pouch is well made and goes on your belt and has a lot of room for “whats-its” and junky finds, and a separate zippered compartment for the good stuff.

Later on when you are emptying the pouch, take a closer look at everything.   Often, after cleaning a piece of “junk”, I find out it is actually something good.  I had a black blob a while back that turned out to be a beautiful WWI era UMC “US” hat insignia.   And be careful to throw away whats-its just because you don’t know what they are or they look like junk.  I once found what I thought was a 2″ metal ball used in grinding equipment.  Turned out to be a pristine piece of canister shot from the Civil War Battle of Franklin.  I also have a Civil War knapsack hook that I at first thought was just a bent piece of wire.   I can’t tell you how many harmonica reeds I threw away thinking they were pieces of radiator hose clamps before I found out what they are.

The point is the last thing you want to do is throw away or scrap an item of value just because you didn’t know what it was.  If you don’t know what it is, post it on one of the finds forums on the internet.   The community will be happy to help you figure out what it is.  The Friendly Metal Detecting Forum’s “Help ID My Finds” forum is the one I use.

Markets for Common Junk Finds

1) Steampunk Subculture Raw Material
I stumbled on this one and laughed until I realized it was legit.  Just go to eBay and search for “Steampunk Junk”.   I don’t necessarily understand it, but apparently a significant number of people build and wear things that are sci-fi and antiques at the same time.   The kind of things that would have been considered sci-fi back in the 1800s.  Here’s an example:


Uh…ok then.

Point is that you are digging up the raw material for this stuff.  You can sell it on eBay.  Remember to charge for shipping.

2) Antiques
Be careful not to send something to the scrap center that has antique value.   Antique car parts such as hood ornaments, chrome and brass parts often come out of the ground still useable.   Recently a guy posted all the scrap he took to a recycle center on one of the forums to show how much money he made.  I saw an item in the photo – an old green light fixture – that, in the condition his was, in was selling for $50 or more on eBay.  I messaged him but it was too late  – he had already scrapped it.  He was sick about it.  Remember that just because you wouldn’t pay a nickel for something doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t waive a C Note at it.

green light

3) Collectibles
A lot of people collect things that don’t seem at first to be collectible, or may seem odd to collect (like scabs).  The great thing about having a niche collection is you can get stuff without having to compete with the masses like you do with highly collectible items.  You have greater availability of even super rare items, and you pay less when you buy something.   Some examples of things I thought were junk that people collect are:

Old Shotgun and Rifle Cartridge Head stamps:  I find so many of these it isn’t funny.   I throw them in a big jar and when it is full I sell the entire jar to a collector I know for a flat $100.  He likes the fact that I don’t search through them to see if there are any rare ones.

Restoring Old Matchbox Cars:  You may find a lot of these as well.  Many of the old ones are bent with no paint and no wheels.  Many people collect them and some restore them.  I keep the cool ones, but I got over $200 for a shoebox full of junk cars on an eBay auction starting at $25 one time.  Must have been a rare one or two there.

The list goes on: buttons, clock parts, harmonica and squeeze box reeds, old bottle caps, mason jar lids with ceramic inserts, and even eyeball finds that aren’t detectable but you find while detecting like arrowheads, bottles and marbles.

Tip:  Sell Like Items in Bulk Lots:  I have several jars and boxes that I throw like junky items in at the end of each hunt.  I don’t have the time to sell these things, so I just sell them in bulk once my container is full.

If you are finding a lot of something that is old chances are there is a market for it on eBay or through a forum.  Check eBay and search for interest groups on the Net.

4) Make Your Own Crafts from Your Junk

My aunt once said you can tie anything onto a string and call it a necklace.   Etsy.com is a great place to sell crafts made from junk.

pull tab necklace

Now I know you and I would rather be detecting but perhaps this may be an opportunity for your wife, older child, or other family member or friend to get in on the action.

You can check out Etsy and eBay and find lots of jewelry clearly made from junk – lots of it from dug junk.   Some sell at very respectable prices.  Some sell for very exorbitant pricing.   The two main factors here are originality and the talent of the maker.    For example, over the past couple of years someone invented a necklace with a magnet on it that you could switch out old bottle caps that had various designs painted on them.  I imagine that person is on a yacht somewhere.

Another one –  for those that can weld – is sculptures.   Some are just simple desktop statues that are about 18″ tall or so – they get between $25 and $200 generally depending on where they are sold and the quality.    Some of the larger ones sell for thousands of dollars.


Talk about a junkyard dog.

The list of ideas for crafts are endless.  You can even make some serious dough if you can think of a fairly unique one and it catches on.

Final Thoughts
If you detect for extra income, it is important that you maximize that income and don’t let significant cash slip out of your hands.  Spend time cleaning and identifying all your finds to be careful to not let items get away from you that have “surprise” value.  Be creative and think of additional ways to present and sell your junk finds to get the most out of the time you spend digging.

Dig Deeper:   Check out this article on an identification process for hard-to-id finds:

Identifying Your Unknown Finds

Photo Credits:  
Steam Punk Ocular: Flickr: Some rights reserved by TopGold
Pull Tab Necklace: Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Pop Top Lady

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