Boatanchormania or is it just greed

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by WA7KKP, Dec 28, 2002.

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  1. WA7KKP

    WA7KKP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Recently I've seen for sale ads posted by hams for vintage boatanchor equipment with (what I consider) outlandish prices.

    The first was for a Johnson transmitter, which by his description didn't have an original paint job, and had obvious modifications done to it. He was asking in $ the better part of a K-note. Within a couple weeks he reposted it at a price closer to $500.

    Recently I saw a Johnson electronic T-R switch advertised for under $200. Considering that it is only a nice perforated steel cabinet with one tube and a handful of parts, I'm trying to figure out that value ---- certainly less than what he was asking!

    Has boatanchor collecting/use turned into the greed found on E-bay? If it has, it will price many hams out of the thrill of finding a rare item at a hamfest that he'd like to either operate/restore, and learn something in the process.

    Yes, there are the Collins-philes who have substantial investments in their equipment (like Leica cameras), but lets not get ridculous when it comes to that Hallicrafters, Johnson, or Heathkit sitting in your pile collecting dust.

    Many people have the opinion that ham radio is expensive, which it doesn't have to be. Maybe if more people, especially wannabes and new licencees, saw that a few bucks combined with a little headscratching, troubleshooting, and repair could give them more satisfaction than just calling an 800 number and exchanging Visa/MC numbers for ricebox numbers.

    In my years of amateur radio, I've discovered many of us tend to be frugal (I won't use the word cheap here), and now I see the opposite from some individuals. I guess the latin phrase Caveat Emptor still applies.

    Gary Hildebrand WA7KKP
    St. Joseph, MO
     
  2. AE4FA

    AE4FA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Some of it is greed, some of it is willingness to pay for braggin' rights, some of it is the internet itself.

    I would love to recreate my original shack, or several of the subsequent ones, but - let's get real here. How much is it really worth to me?

    E-bay and other on-line swap/trade/sell outfits have decimated hamefests. Been to one lately? Lots of computer junk, very little radio equipment.

    At least that's the story here in the po' South. We just can't afford NY and CA prices, so that's where the goodies go, thanks to the internet.

    Some folks just don't have enough to do, so they become afficiandoes of some particular line of products. They study the most minute details, and can discuss them for hours. Then - in a couple of years - the thrill is gone, and its all for sale, but at prices inflated by self-delusion. Other folks at that point reach the beginning point of the cycle, ony up the bucks, and it continues ad nauseum.

    73, Bob
     
  3. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    There are definitely people out there who do like boat anchors (take a look at the photos on http://home.attbi.com/~k9sth ). What you have to realize is that none of this equipment is being made any more and the prices are now starting to show that. Also, look at the value of the dollar between when it was made and what the value is right now. A radio that cost $200 in 1960 would run at least $1000, if not more, in today's dollars. People don't "wince" at paying $1500 for the latest and greatest today. That same $1500 back in the 1950s and 1960s would be more like $200 - $250.

    Certain items, like the Johnson T-R switch are relatively rare, and thus command a higher price. The parts contained therein, including tubes at today's prices, would run about $50 including the cabinet. Putting them together today would about double the price, getting it to around $100. But, the T-R switch was made over 40 years ago and has a nostalgia value to many people.

    It is just like older cars. To some people they are junk, to others they are collectible. Everyone has his/her own opinion.

    Most Heath equipment goes these days for less in absolute money for what it sold for originally. There are exceptions, mainly in those items that were manufactured before 1965. Even those go for much less than the original price in terms of dollars adjusted for inflation.

    eBay has affected some prices, but not that many. The prices of "boat anchors" goes up and down pretty much following the stock market. A couple of years ago they were really climbing, now, with the stock market down so are the prices of boat anchors.

    Certain items like the Conar transmitter and receiver command a much higher price than what they are worth in terms of operating. Frankly, both are minimum "entry" level equipment. But, since they are fairly rare, and have achieved a "cult" status, they do command a price well in excess of their true value. I have one of the transmitters in excellent condition, but, so far, haven't been able to justify the price of a receiver. I did get a Conar capacitor checker a couple of months back for a very good price on eBay that is in excellent condition and did come with the original manual.

    Right now I have 3 pieces of Heath equipment in for restoration. Frankly, all three together are not worth $200. But, the owner will be paying around $300 just for the work on them. He knows what the gear is worth, but he also has some very strong sentimental attachments to it. Thus, he is willing to spend the money.

    Certain brands have not held up very well at all in value. Other brands, but actually more specific models within those brands, have a value today that is above their actual usefulness. It is sort of like buying art. Frankly, I wouldn't give you a dime for what the "art lovers" pay millions of dollars for. But, for various pieces of "boat anchor" equipment, I am willing to go for a lot more than other people who do not appreciate the gear.

    You can still find the older equipment for cheap prices if you look around. But, unfortunately, there are a few amateurs out there who do prey on older amateurs and widows of amateurs buying the old equipment for "pennies" and then immediately reselling it for a "fortune". Making a decent profit is one thing, but taking advantage of people and reselling for thousands of percent over what was paid for the equipment is another.

    For a beginning amateur, he/she can purchase Heath SB line equipment for well under $300 and get a very good operating station for 80 - 10 meters (without the WARC bands). A lot of times the transceivers go for well under $200 with the power supply. Of course, you are not going to do this with Collins! But, the "run of the mill" boat anchor equipment is still very reasonable in price these days. For the scarce or rare items, that is another matter. But, if I had only $300 to spend I could get a very good station on the air, running about 100 watts output on SSB and CW without any problem. It won't have digital frequency readout, but you can read the dial to the nearest 200 Hz without any problem.

    Remember that no one is making the old boat anchor equipment any more. Just like car values they bottomed out in the 1970s and 1980s and are again rising. If you want to operate using the older equipment and don't already have some, then you are going to have to pay more than if you had bought it 20 years ago. Unfortunately, that is the "breaks of the game".

    Glen, K9STH
     
  4. wb6bcn

    wb6bcn Ham Member QRZ Page

    If it is in fact a "RARE COLLECTORS ITEM" and in mint or near mint condition (Original paint, parts ETC), and you are buying it for its antiqueness that is one thing. If someone is selling a cannibalized item as an antique, at an antique price, then that is outright fraud.
    Unfortunatelt, to many people that don't understand the difference, and are being defrauded everyday. [​IMG]

    There is a boatanchor bluebook, and the prices in there are for units in the factory original condition. Not every piece of vintage equipment qualifies as a "RARE" item, or even notation or listing in the bluebook.

    It is up to te buyer to know what they are getting. And as long as there are gullible people this practice will continue.
     
  5. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Actually, true antique radios are a different "animal" alltogether. Among most of the radio collectors an "antique" radio is one that was manufactured before 1920. A "vintage" radio was manufactured between 1920 and 1930. The "classic" period is from 1931 until 1950. Anything that is newer is considered "contemporary". Within the amateur ranks anything manufactured between about 1945 and 1965 is considered to be "boat anchor" whether or not it is really large enough to hold a boat in place. There are some radios out there that could hold a battleship while others couldn't hold a rowboat.

    In my opinion, the only thing a "guide book" is good for is for reference purposes. There are just too many variables to set a "price" for any radio. What it comes down to is what one individual person is willing to pay another person for the item.

    It is definitely immoral, and usually illegal, for someone to misrepresent any item sold whether or not it is "old". The absolute condition of any particular item is definitely a factor in its value. An original condition set is worth more than a restored set if in comparitive condition. A restored set is worth more than a "repaired" set (one that has been repaired with modern parts). A working set is usually, but not always, worth more than a non-working set.

    There are basically three different areas where "boat anchors" are considered.

    The first are the collectors. These people are looking for excellent condition radios (a "mint" radio is, for all practical purposes non-existant - a mint radio is new, in the box, never been hooked up, etc., not just in excellent condition) or at least the best condition that they can find. These people are investing money, rarely turn their equipment on, etc.

    The second are the users. These people make necessary repairs, modifications, etc. (like replacing the paper capacitors, etc.) to get their equipment in top notch operating condition. They like for the equipment to look good, but performance is what they are looking for, not the absolute investment value of their equipment.

    The third are those who think the stuff is junk! They have to have the latest and greatest thing out even though the old "boat anchor" stuff just might outperform the newest (and, depending on the particular boat anchor unit just might do so!) equipment on the market.

    There are a few who use boat anchors because they can't afford the newer equipment, have had the older stuff around for decades. Frankly, for the most part, when a boat anchor is heard on the air either the station receiving the signal can't tell it from a newer unit, or, remarks on how good the signal sounds.

    The arguments for using the older equipment include being much less likely to suffer receiver overload from nearby transmitters and to having a "cleaner" transmitted signal (less in-band noise, distortion, etc.).

    But, as to value, as I said before, it is up to the buyer and seller to agree on a price. For those who think the price is too much, then they obviously don't want the equipment bad enough (or can't afford the price - that hits most of us at one time or another - champagne taste and beer pocketbook!). For those who think that the price is too little, then if they get such an item they can always ask for more. For those who think that the price is just right, then they probably either have, or are going to buy, a similar item.

    Glen, K9STH
     
  6. KD7KOY

    KD7KOY Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my experience depends on what your buying..
    If the item is clean, no mods and working condition..higher price of course.
    The majority of this stuff is in "serious" need of replacing caps, resistors etc.
    More serious restoration is replacing transformers ($75.00-$250.00 and up a pop..), tubes etc. (abeit the majority of time tubes surprisingly are still good..)
    I would say in my experience about 60-70% are "modified" (translate that butchered.) to the point of non working or hanging on by electrical tape.
    People I think confuse the "romance" of old rigs with the actual performance and the work and money it takes to get it back on the air safely. So they spend alot of money and find it's not what they want, or are not capable of restoring and it ends up on Ebay. (I have seen the same rigs two or three times by different sellers.)
    Glen is correct in that alot of boatanchor rigs sound great. But only "if" you have the knowledge, equiptment and patience to restore it. Alot of boatachors will outperform a newer rig handsdown as far as audio and "punch". But it's not the rig per se, it's the guy/gal behind the microphone that spent alot of manhours in research, reading and restoration.
    This stuff is not "plug and play". You can work on one of these rigs for months; finding parts, scedmatics, research etc..
    On the other hand some buy the rigs what I call "wall hangers". Just to look at (serious..)
    I pay according to the condition of the rig, how much it will cost to put it back on the air, if it is monetarily feasiable to restore it,  and most importantly, my own skills or limitations.
     
  7. W8FAX

    W8FAX Ham Member QRZ Page

    This discussion comes up now and again on all the reflectors. I really don't see what difference it makes WHAT a guy asks for a rig...any rig. If someone wants it, they will pay it, high or not. The BEST price is the one that both parties agree to, and that's free enterprise I guess. A Hallicrafters, Johnson, or Heath rig is no less important to a collector of these rigs, than a KWS-1 is to a Collins hoarder. Some stuff seems high, but if it sells, obviously it wasn't......................
     
  8. K1ZC

    K1ZC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't see where greed comes into it; that is a highly subjective determination that implies there is some "fair" price other than what the free market sets. Some items are rare and highly desirable; if the seller can get the asking price there is no reason why he should take less. If the seller asks too much, the item will not sell.
     
  9. KG6JTB

    KG6JTB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Brands like Johnson, Hallicrafters, National are becoming highly revered by collectors, due in part because Collins equipment is so expensive. I think there is something magical about equipment that glows, and requires both hands to operate- that is what keeps me buying.

    The T/R switch has an adjusted market value of $130 in CCA grade “MINT” condition. Some have sold for more, others less. You have to look at the average over a period of time. I have done the research in my price survey that I have been selling since June.

    Ebay is a representation of market value, since consumers drive the price up in a real-time auction format. Looking at one or two closed auctions is NOT a good way to determine what something is worth. Looking at 15 to 20 closed auctions over a period of 6 months and establishing a trend is much more accurate.

    But the bottom line is how bad do you want it, and does it make sense. I would like to find another clean SX-42 for my office at work, since it has narrow band FM, I can tune TV or broadcast. I would be willing to pay $200.00 for a unit out-of-state, but may pay $350.00 if I can go and pick one up locally and not pay shipping. The other benefit is being able to inspect before purchase.

    Dave – KG6JTB
    SMARTS Book - Ham Radio Price Guide
     
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    An item's actual worth is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

    I don't buy anything on eBay, and I'm quite certain I never will. I don't need anything that I can't hold in my hands prior to purchasing it, so this is a very easy decision for me. Evidently, there are millions who would disagree!

    The "ham" (one interpretation: cheapskate) in me prevents me from buying anything for more than it originally sold for when it was new, and I extend this to stamps and coins, or antiques, as well. But there certainly are "collectors" who don't follow this theory. I just find it more fun to hunt for the deals...like most recently, when at a local Swap Meet I found a man selling Eagle, quarter Eagle and half Eagle gold coins minted in 1920. He wanted $150 for a $20 gold coin. I said, "But it says $20, printed right on it. If I took it to a bank, they'd give me $20, and nothing more. What makes it worth more than its face value?"

    He thought for a minute, and said, "When I think about it, nothing, I guess. I've had these for 70 years, and I'm sure I didn't pay anything more for them than what's shown on the coins. Okay, you can have it for $20."

    So, I bought it. It may be worth $250 to a coin collector, but I'm not one. To me, it's worth $20. What I could buy with it at the grocery store, and nothing more.

    I see virtually every boat anchor posted on eBay at the local (southern California) monthly radio swap meets, and the gear goes for a lot less than the asking prices on eBay. And I get to hold it, sniff it, maybe even try it!

    Way better deal.

    WB2WIK/6
     
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