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The Evolution of the Price List for Catalytic Converter Value

A few decades after the first converter was invented, people began to realize that catalytic converter prices were spiking. Because they contained precious metals, converters had a significant recycling value.

Converter prices appear on a price list for the first time

Catalytic converters were first introduced to the North American automotive sector in 1973.  Widespread use of converters in automobiles didn’t happen until the early 1980’s. 

In the mid to late 80s, the price list was born; the first tool to help recyclers determine catalytic converter value. The initial lists only had 2 categories of converters: Beads and Honeycomb. There have been a lot of changes since those first days of catalytic converter recycling and the birth of the converter price list. 

Let us walk you through the history of the converter price list, from its inception right up to how catalytic converter prices are determined in today’s highly competitive market.

The 1990's : the early days of the converter price list

The automotive recycling industry generally knew very little about recycling catalytic converters in the early 90’s. During this time, many converters were sent to the shredder instead of being recycled since very few scrappers understood the recycled value of scrap catalytic converters.

Back in the day, converters were categorized as either Beads or Honeycomb, and prices ranged between $2 and $5. Recyclers were making a lot of money, as the average value of a converter was 14$ to 17$ per converter. Can’t complain about 150% profit!

The division of the Honeycomb category

As recyclers caught on to raising catalytic converter prices, the Honeycomb category was separated into two sub-categories: Import and Domestic. This now made for three categories in the mid 1990’s. The change came as converter buyers wanted to be more competitive and precise in their buying. 

However, analyzing the different types of material was very labor intensive, time consuming, and expensive. There were very few laboratories that could accurately give feedback.

Scrap catalytic converter prices spike

As time progressed and  environmental standards got stricter, the average recycled catalytic converter prices increased dramatically due to higher loading of precious metals. In addition, the price of platinum, palladium, and rhodium skyrocketed in the late 90’s and early part of the 2000’s. The root cause of the increase was due to decreased supply and increased demand for these precious metals.

The early 2000's : the all-star converters era

As word got out that there was  money in converters, core buyers began to create their own converter price lists based on information that was highly guarded by catalytic converter refineries. And as more and more buyers came into the marketplace, they needed creative ways to earn business from automotive recyclers and muffler shops. 

That’s when the “all-star converter models” were born. You may remember seeing big names on converter price lists, such as Big GM, Spoon, Stop Sign, Kidney, and so on. The converter price lists with the all-star models were the only way converter buyers were judged back then.

Where are we today with converter price lists?

During the early days of converter recycling, the catalyst industry was difficult to break into because information about individual piece values was highly guarded and controlled by refineries and not freely given out. The lack of information and openness created a culture of secrecy when it came to converters. Why? Nobody, buyers and sellers included, wanted to reveal who they were dealing with or where their information came from for fear of not getting the best price on either end.

Fortunes were made and lost, depending on the quality of the information most converter price lists were based on. As true as this was in the beginning, it is equally important today. The quality of information highly impacts the profitability of a converter core buying business. Price lists are still highly sought after but also secreted away. It’s important to work with a toll-refiner that gives you access to their price list as well.

How to navigate the modern price list?

Because of the numerous converter categories that exist today, recyclers are searching for catalytic converter price lists that are extensive: with pictures, easily accessible on apps, and continuously updated.

The most important step in searching through converter price lists is to be well informed on their content. We offer extensive price list knowledge in our resource center and as a company committed to the success of our suppliers, our devoted Help Desk team is available to answer all your questions and concerns, Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm EST – Contact Us

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