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Nate Malacowsky, a student at South Central College, checks out a computer monitor placed curbside for North Mankato's annual spring garbage pick-up for its copper power cord.

It wasn’t exactly a scene from “American Pickers,” but the spirit was certainly there — treasure hunters scouring the curbs of lower North Mankato looking for quality items.

Even during the rain and thunder Sunday evening, minivans and pickup trucks slowly crawled along the city streets, pausing when an object caught their attention.

The city’s cleanup days didn’t even start until Monday, but residents were hauling their old junk onto the curbs this weekend in preparation, and any good picker knows it’s important to get out there early. Monday morning, the majority of the pickers were after one thing: metal.

South Central College student Nate Malacowsky, a first-time picker, noticed all the stuff on the curbs this weekend and saw people clipping copper wires from electronics and appliances. So he decided that was a pretty good idea.

“I’m going around clipping wires off of stuff. It’s worth quite a bit of money,” Malacowsky said, adding that the value is about $2 per pound. “Copper’s kind of the main thing people go for.”

Malacowsky spent Monday morning going from house to house, cutting cords from computers, TVs and vacuum cleaners, which he said are the most valuable with about 20 feet of wire. All in all, by mid-morning, he had between 30 and 40 pounds of copper.

And the pickin’s were drying up fast.

“There’s a lot of people who go out and do it,” he said. “They get out there right away when people are putting stuff out.”

While Malacowsky was a newbie, plenty of veteran scrappers also were out bright and early looking for other kinds metal. Longtime best friends Don Thomas and Shane Schwichtenberg were among them.

In 15 minutes, the two had an exercise bike, mini-fridge, metal cabinet and water heater on their trailer, which they estimated would scrap for about $20.

“Free money,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ and Schwichtenberg’s item list wasn’t that detailed. Anything metal, they said, reminiscing over times when they’ve collected $300 worth of appliances to scrap in just a couple of hours.

A score like that’s pretty exciting to them, and they might even have a repeat experience next week when cleanup days are held for the richies in upper North Mankato, they said.

“Yep, we were just talking about that,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ and Schwichtenberg’s girlfriends, on the other hand, are more the type to look through the mounds of refuse for salvageable decor items. Not that the guys had any intention of bringing those kinds of things home to the ladies on Monday.

“Nah,” Schwichtenberg said, time is of the essence.


North Mankato cleanup days go through Friday for lower North and May 6-10 for upper North.

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