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The More Things Change, The More They Change!

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By Don Belisle, Sr.

With the price of both PT (platinum) and PD (palladium) being very strong lately, a lot of yards are deciding it is a good time to sell their converters. They are right! We are seeing many lots of converters that yards have been sitting on a for a while. These lots vary from cars scrapped last week to converters that have been held for much longer.

Old, but rich in platinum

Recently, a scrap dealer called saying he had been holding on to a bunch of converters for over fifteen years. This dealer wanted to sit down and discuss our process of metal recovery and be sure he was getting the most he could for his product. I explained that selling, based on actual precious metal content and being paid for every gram of material, was definitely the way to go. As it turned out, this dealer had about 3,500 pieces, most of which were at least twenty to as much as thirty years old! I explained that his product would have significantly different chemical makeup than what typically is being sold by yards today. All converters contain platinum, palladium and rhodium, however, back in the beginning of converter production, the primary metal being used was platinum. As the years went by, manufacturers gradually decreased the platinum in favor of palladium. Palladium will have the same chemical reaction as platinum in gas powered engine; it just takes a different quantity of metal. Naturally, the manufacturers wanted to build converters as economically as possible, while still, meeting emission standards. I knew that this dealer’s converters were so old, it would make them rich in platinum.

The amount of precious metals

Let me explain about the amount of precious metals contained with respect to the ceramic honeycomb material the exhaust gasses pass through. Metal quantity is so small that we don’t use percentages (parts per hundred) we use ppm (parts per million). When you consider 1% is .01 and 1ppm is .000001 you can readily see that we are dealing with very small quantities of material. For this reason, if you want the best return, it is extremely important to sell based on quantity of metal contained rather than guestimate-based converter price lists.

We compared assays

We made an agreement to purchase and process the converters from the dealer. It just so happened that this lot of converters went through the milling/sampling/assay line right beside a lot we were processing for a yard that deals in very late model parts cars. This late model yard sells to us regularly, so, I knew his material was from very late converters. When we compared the assays of the two dealers, you would think you were looking at assay results from two vastly different products. The late yard had some sub lots with palladium above 2,800 ppm, and no results of any sub lots having platinum above 500 ppm, whereas, the “old” material, had sub lots with platinum in excess of 1,000 ppm and no lots of palladium above 900 ppm! This really brought to light the big change that has occurred with converters over the past thirty years. Both loads had great value - just in very different ways.

Less palladium and no platinum

The changes are certainly continuing to this day, just going a bit differently. We are always doing individual assays on new converters as they become available. As recently as a couple of years ago, we were seeing some Japanese and other manufacturer’s converters being produced with very high concentrations of palladium and very little platinum. We saw numbers like 4,000+ ppm palladium and 400 ppm platinum. In some of the very newest converters we are getting our hands on, we are seeing less palladium than we saw in recent years and no platinum. We started wondering how the manufacturers were meeting emission standards with such low loadings of precious metals. Converters on brand new cars had as little as one-fifth the amount of palladium as converters built three years ago. How can this be? We realized that the manufacturers had installed multiple converters on many of these new cars. They were meeting emission requirements by installing multiple “low load” converters in sequence on the same car. So, if you are dealing in very late model scrap, the individual converters may be worth less, however, you will have more of them to sell. The final numbers are not in yet, but, I feel the total converter value for each car will still be strong and increasing. After all, emission standards are only getting tougher worldwide.

And don’t forget hybrids! Their converters are extremely precious metal rich!

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Don Belisle, Sr. is the owner of Recore Trading Co., LLC, located in Southern NH. Recore, pioneers of small lot processing, specializes in in house catalytic converter processing and assay based payment. Recore has been in business for 29 years.

Phone: 603-437-3000,

Or online: www.recoretrading.com.