Update May 2009: The good news is that the theft of copper, platinum and other metals has waned as the scrap value plummeted. The bad news, of course, is that if you're sitting on a pile of scrap, its value has tanked as well. Not all is dire, however; China is finally beginning to restock, so the price should be turning in your favor soon.
So you need to scrounge up enough dinero to fill up your gas tank for your summer road trip to the beach but you sucked the couch dry of change just getting to work last week. What are you going to do?
Well, one way you can get some quick cash is to sell scrap metal to your local salvage yard or recycling center. My co-worker bought a used camper for just over $600 and took his old one to get scrapped. He was surprised to find out the scrap value of his camper almost paid for his new camper purchase! And while prices have dropped considerably since, then, it's still a market worth considering.
While this method isn't something you'll likely be able to survive upon for extended periods, legally anyway, I'm sure you can find something to get melted down.
We want to focus on the legal ways to get some money from scrap metal so first we need to find some. If you are remodeling or have unused copper pipes in your house it may be worth pulling them out and heading to the salvage yard. If pipes are out of reach, check out your garage, basement or shed, where I am guessing you can find something to salvage. This endeavor may be especially profitable if you have been something of a packrat in this metal treasure trove of yours.
Don't have a room or building full of old odds and ends at your disposal? You can still get in on the salvaging action! The first places to check are any refuse areas around your neighborhood, where you can look for discarded metal objects. If dumpster diving disgusts you then, look at your neighbor's property. Do they have an old swing set nobody uses or a garage packed full of "junk"? If so you can either be upfront and split the profits with them under the pretense that you'll do the heavy lifting, or you can offer to "clean up" their garage as a neighborly favor!
This is an excellent way to make some extra cash quickly, though unfortunately for most people this will be a one-time deal since it will take time to accrue enough extra odds and ends again. Even if you are just trying to get rid of an old vehicle or camper you may be able to pick up some cash. What are you waiting for? Get salvaging!