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Selling Your Used Radio Equipment at a Hamfest

Selling used, surplus, or inherited radio equipment at a hamfest can be a very enjoyable experience.  It can also turn out to be a few hours of torture.

Because you are reading this article we are going to assume that you have only been to one or two hamfests, or perhaps never.  We will also assume that you are going because you have some of grandad's old radios and you really don't know what to do with them.

Find a Hamfest or Swapmeet Near You

Finding a hamfest or antique radio swapmeet near you can sometimes be very easy, sometimes it can be difficult.

Look here!  Go to the Advanced Search page, select the category events.   I suggest that you then select location by your own state.  The website will then return all hamfests, swapmeets, exam sessions, operating events, etc. in that state.

Other places to search:

Preparing for the Swapmeet

First you want to find a hamfest, radio swapmeet, telephone collector swapmeet, or antique radio swapmeet in your area.  Give yourself plenty of time to prepare.  You are going to want to make a list of what you have to sell; write down as much as you can find out about the old electronics such as model number (or model name), manufacturer name, and perhaps, whether it is currently operating or how many years it has been since you have last seen it turned on.  Write all this information down.  It will save you hours of repeated questions during the swapmeet.  

This brings us to a very important point.  If the electronic equipment has not been turned on in many years, do NOT try to see if it works!  Most electronic components "last forever", however there are devices called capacitors (or condensors) that go bad with time.  When regularly powered up, they will age, but when left unpowered, they age very fast.  So plugging in a 30 or more year old radio could damage it!  (You may also want to read my article "dangers in antique electronics"). 

Do not be overly concerned that I recommend that you do not plug it in and turn it on, there are methods known to antique electronic collectors and restorers that can test these things with a verly low likelyhood of causing damage;  but let them make these tests after you have their money.

Testing battery powered equipment is much safer.  Battery powered equipment is less likely to have the type of circuits that have electrolytic capacitors.

Now box up your equipment carefully.  Be cautious of old speaker "grill cloth" it might be very fragile.   Look for loose items in the old equipment, even gently tilt the equipment and listen for things that might be shifting or rolling around inside.  If you do detect something loose or that needs attention, now is the time to look at it. Don't wait until the day of the swapmeet to find out what to do.

One great time saving and money making tip is to gather up ALL accessories, no matter how trivial they might seem.  Especially you do not know what they are.  These little things could double or quadruple the sale price of that old gear.  It is also possible that those doo-dads you packed up are worthless.  However, having them on hand will be invaluable should a potential buyer ask "do you have the frammerhonklewiggler for this thing"?  Be honest and say "I don't know, but we can look in this box of doohickies and find out."  

Swapmeet Day

Get there early.  It's a mystery to me, but many swapmeets begin way before dawn.  Bring a chair, bottled water, and hat & sunscreen if it is an outdoor swapmeet.  Also bring a folding table for yourself if they are not provided by the swapmeet promoter.

Take your time unpacking your car and set up your display.  Be wary of the vultures! There will always be those annoying bargain hunters that will make stupid ridiculous offers on your equipment before you even get it on the table - tell them to back off or all prices will be doubled for them!   The very least these 'people' will cause you stress, and that is not why you went to the swapmeet.  Let them wait, you have all day and so do they.  If they are ready to offer a fair price, they know that your gear will still be there for them to look at when you are ready.  If you treat every vulture this way, they will get the message an go bother someone else.  You have invited them to look at your equipment when you are ready.

Don't be afraid to say NO to an offer if you suspect someone might be trying to take advantage of your because you don't know what grandad left you.  Politely ask the looker to write down his name & email and offer on a card.  By asking for this you will soon find out if he is just a lookie-loo, someone wanting to rip you off, or if it is a genuine offer.

I once bought a tower, antenna, and rotator from a ham-radio widow by doing just that.  I made her an offer, and it became obvious she didn't know what it was worth.  So I wrote down my offer and telephone number and told her that when she is ready to sell to give me a call.  I also asked her that if she found someone ready to pay a little more than I offered to also give me a call because I might go a little higher, but we would all have time to think about it.

Did you go to the swapmeet alone?  Then take it easy on the coffee and soda.  You won't feel comfortable searching for the facilities while your radios sit unwatched.   If you did bring a friend or spouse, they do not have to know anything at all about your items.  When watching over your table they only need to say you went to look around and you will be back soon.  Never let your table-watcher sell anything unless it is for the price marked on the item.  There are some vultures that will wait until you go away, then tell your table-watcher "here is the $10 he said he would take for this $30 turntable".  Let them wait until you get back to your table.


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