Manhole covers disappearing, police looking for 4 large turtles!

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manholeWith scrap metal prices going the same direction as the price of gas at the pump it's no wonder that thefts of metal have been trending up as well. Recently a disturbing trend has shown up in cities across the U.S. where manhole covers are being stolen and sold for scrap! This rash of heavy metal thefts has led some cities to begin welding the covers in place, which has unfortunately prevented the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from getting their fill of delicious pizza!

On a more serious note, the theft of manhole covers is not just only an expensive pain for cities to deal with -- replacement costs range from $200 to $500 -- but also a danger for pedestrians. In Philadelphia, where 600 covers went missing last year, two children have already fallen into the uncovered manholes. Thankfully they only suffered minor injuries. The missing covers have also done damage to many cars whose owners are asking the city to cover the damages.

With all of the problems these thefts create, and the fact that it takes quite a bit of work to replace a 200-pound manhole cover, you'd be surprised to learn that the manhole bandits only receive $10 to $15 per cover. Some of the blame for these rash of thefts lays with unscrupulous scrap metal buyers who don't understand that manhole covers emblazoned with "Property of NYC" mean exactly that!

Even if we take into account the diminished ethical capacities of someone who would steal a manhole cover weighing more than most men, the return on investment is horrible! Assuming the thieves drive to the manhole and then again to a scrap metal location, they'll easily use a gallon of gas, leaving a net profit of $6 to $11. Unless the thief is a body builder the final take will need to be split in half which leaves barely enough to order off the value menu at Taco Bell; let alone enough to buy a significant amount of drugs. With meth's prices starting at $20 for a 1/4 of gram, a team would need to steal four manholes to make a buy, and causing between $800 and $2000 in labor and materials for cities, not to mention any children or vehicles damaged due to the theft.

Manhole covers disappearing, police looking for 4 large turtles!
While businesses are promoting the concept of "gold parties", we prefer the concept of just putting some gold in an envelope and sending it to a broker. The good ones will email you immediately to tell you how much they're willing to give you for your gold. < a href="http://goldprice.org/buying-gold/2005/12/selling-scrap-gold.html">Gold price.org has a good primer on how to sell your gold, or you could just try your local pawn shop. It's a good idea to remove any non-gold valuables first, if possible (for instance, pry out gems from their settings). And Tom Barlow has an excellent warning for you to read BEFORE you sell your gold!
Depending on the size of your steel, you can get between $6 and $7 per 100 pounds; it may not seem a lot, but steel is heavy and a few lengths of left-behind construction fencing could end up netting you $20 or $30 at your local recycling center.
Copper has gotten so valuable that thieves have been stealing public and private art made from the malleable metal to sell for scrap. I wouldn't suggest going THAT route to make cash, but certainly don't throw away left over copper roof materials, old copper pipes, or small sculptures; it's worth your while to sell them at your local recycling center.
At $0.93 per pound as of March 2007, this soda can is worth about 3 cents -- or, almost as much as most states with can and bottle return laws charge per each. I think it's time I loaded up the bike trailer!
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