Cobalt Price

Cobalt (symbol: Co; atomic number: 27) is a naturally-occurring free element that, once subjected to reductive smelting, becomes a hard and lustrous metal with a silver-gray appearance. In its natural form, it can only be found in combination with other chemicals (i.e., chemically combined form) except for small deposits found in natural meteoric iron alloys.

Below is the historical Cobalt price per metric ton.

YearPricePrice (Inflation Adjusted)Change
1937$2,843.96$48,950.890%
1938$2,998.28$52,714.075%
1939$3,086.47$55,035.073%
1940$3,306.93$58,556.227%
1941$3,306.93$55,767.820%
1942$3,306.93$50,286.590%
1943$3,306.93$47,395.460%
1944$3,306.93$46,603.210%
1945$3,306.93$45,555.430%
1946$3,306.93$42,064.110%
1947$3,483.30$38,730.365%
1948$3,637.62$37,415.574%
1949$3,880.13$40,394.706%
1950$3,968.32$40,782.642%
1951$4,806.07$45,775.9417%
1952$5,291.09$49,455.909%
1953$5,357.23$49,676.701%
1954$5,732.01$52,782.507%
1955$5,732.01$52,994.470%
1956$5,687.92$51,809.70-1%
1957$4,475.38$39,462.74-27%
1958$4,409.24$37,820.56-2%
1959$3,902.18$33,238.54-13%
1960$3,395.11$28,435.94-15%
1961$3,306.93$27,423.15-3%
1962$3,306.93$27,151.640%
1963$3,306.93$26,803.190%
1964$3,306.93$26,459.220%
1965$3,593.53$28,299.568%
1966$3,637.62$27,839.431%
1967$4,078.55$30,275.4211%
1968$4,078.55$29,055.100%
1969$4,232.87$28,582.434%
1970$4,850.16$30,984.5513%
1971$4,850.16$29,678.690%
1972$5,401.32$32,026.4610%
1973$6,702.04$37,418.9419%
1974$7,650.03$38,479.0812%
1975$8,774.39$40,453.2813%
1976$9,854.65$42,942.9911%
1977$12,389.96$50,695.7320%
1978$54,057.28$205,562.2777%
1979$72,377.67$247,285.4925%
1980$48,104.81$144,806.04-50%
1981$34,546.40$94,281.28-39%
1982$18,871.55$48,495.98-83%
1983$12,698.61$31,620.93-49%
1984$23,016.23$54,950.0845%
1985$25,198.81$58,070.359%
1986$16,512.60$37,343.56-53%
1987$14,462.31$31,570.26-14%
1988$15,630.76$32,777.057%
1989$16,843.30$33,702.007%
1990$22,244.62$42,229.2024%
1991$37,302.17$67,960.1340%
1992$50,551.94$89,417.1326%
1993$30,401.71$52,208.80-66%
1994$54,365.93$90,996.5944%
1995$64,396.95$104,850.4916%
1996$56,217.81$88,867.28-15%
1997$51,455.83$79,510.95-9%
1998$47,245.00$71,854.58-9%
1999$44,231.50$65,823.26-7%
2000$41,590.50$59,857.88-6%
2001$39,239.50$54,936.06-6%
2002$44,423.50$61,214.3312%
2003$39,213.50$52,820.24-13%
2004$35,502.50$46,564.32-10%
2005$30,122.50$38,208.92-18%
2006$34,864.44$42,852.5614%
2007$61,120.50$73,078.2043%
2008$93,242.12$107,402.8334%
2009$80,420.80$93,006.36-16%
2010$46,980.42$53,477.05-71%
2011$38,329.39$42,276.86-23%
2012$31,234.49$33,742.68-23%
2013$24,423.54$25,994.87-28%
2014$27,102.10$28,391.5010%
2015$33,864.20$35,439.8720%
2016$23,861.40$24,410.21-42%
2017$37,347.38$37,347.3836%

Brief History

Since ancient times, man has used cobalt compounds in giving glaze, glass and ceramics a rich blue color, thus, the term cobalt blue. The element has also been used across civilizations, such as in Persian jewelry and Egyptian sculpture from the third millennium B.C., as well as in the Pompeii ruins dating back to 79 A.D. and in China since the Tang Dynasty. The rich blue color was even used in adding vibrant hues to glass in the Bronze Age!

But it was only around 1735 that cobalt was shown to be a distinct metal from bismuth, among other metals that it was usually found with on the Earth’s crust. Georg Brandt (1694–1768), a Swedish chemist, is credited with its discovery.

Cobalt is distinguished from all other metals known to man because it’s the first metal discovered by man since the pre-historical period. All the known metals, such as iron, silver, copper, lead, gold, silver, and mercury, don’t have discoverers on record.

The metal’s name is derived from “kobalt”, a German word that means “goblin” since the cobalt ore was connected to the supernatural creature. The ore was also notorious for its extremely volatile and toxic nature, no thanks to the presence of arsenic in cobalt’s primary ores. When the primary cobalt ore undergoes the smelting process, the arsenic became arsenic oxide, a harmful chemical.

Today, the mining and manufacturing methods used for cobalt are safer, as well as more effective and efficient for the miners and manufacturers.

Price History

The producers of cobalt have largely set the price of the metal in the market. Keep in mind that cobalt is a rare metal and, thus, its prices tend to be higher because of the supply-and-demand law. But since the industries that use cobalt have also established effective and efficient ways of recycling the metal, as well as in using cobalt-free alternatives, the metal’s prices are relatively stable considering its scarcity.

Before World War II, the producers agreed that cobalt supply should be controlled but that cobalt prices should be uniform. The main producers then were Belgium, the United Kingdom, Canada, Finland and France. After World War II, the Belgian Congo producers quoted the price and the rest of the producers generally followed it.

When the producers controlled the cobalt market, the majority of its sales occurred as direct transactions between the producers and the consumers.  Sales agents were also oftentimes used by both parties.

When it’s a free market, which sometimes happens, the sales can be between independent traders and consumers, as well as between merchants and their fellow merchants. In this case, the cobalt can come from several sources including official and unofficial producers, releases from government stockpiles, and consumers with excess stocks. The cobalt prices in a free market can sometimes change so rapidly that investors have reason to be worried.

But historically, the prices of cobalt in the market have remained relatively stable except for the rapid price increases in the last 1970s. Known as the cobalt crisis, the period was preceded by the limited cobalt production capacity worldwide, cessation of sales by the U.S. government, and the issues of supply from the Zaire cobalt mining region, among others.

Today, Zambia and Zaire are cooperating to stabilize the prices of cobalt in the world market. The two countries limit sales of the metal to the free market and establish a producer price.

Use as an Investment

Interested individuals can invest in cobalt in two ways, namely:

  • Cobalt futures are traded on the London Metal Exchange (ticker symbol: CO). These have been traded since early 2010 with their quotes made in U.S. dollars per ton. Investors have the opportunity to make bets because of the average 15-month contract period.
  • Cobalt stocks are available in a wide range of options. But emphasis must be made that U.S.-based exchanges offer fewer options so the better alternative is to find them in foreign exchanges, such as Canada.

What It’s Used For

Cobalt is used for a wide range of applications including:

  • The manufacture of super-alloys, the primary application of cobalt produced today. These super-alloys are, in turn, used in turbine blades for jet aircraft engines and gas turbines; medical orthopedic implants like hip and knee replacements; and permanent magnets.
  • The production of batteries (e.g., lithium ion battery cathodes) and catalysts, to name a few.

With the valuable quality of cobalt, you’re well-advised to invest in it. But be sure to study the cobalt price trends to maximize your returns on investments and minimize your risks.

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The displayed metal prices are estimates only. They are aggregated using multiple sources. Actual prices may vary based on region, supplier, or various other factors.