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Author Topic: Profit in restoring Boat Anchors?  (Read 25127 times)

Posts: 271

« on: September 14, 2014, 05:50:50 PM »

     I like restoring Boat Anchors and old Test Equipment.  Its a fun and educational hobby.  However, repair parts such as high voltage capacitors, tubes, etc. are expensive.   Plus I have only so much time to use and room to display the restored items.   

     Is there any $$  profit in purchasing old boat anchors, restoring them, and reselling them?     I.e. Sell some restored items to make enough money to pay for additional projects, plus maybe a small profit?

     I looked around on Ebay and purchase prices of old "derelicts" seem high, while restored items seem low.  What are your thoughts?



Posts: 4546

« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2014, 06:56:06 PM »

Think of it this way... I have several CenTech digital voltmeters acquired free of charge in exchange for a coupon at Harbor Freight.

Even though they are basic (Translation: Cheap!) meters they are many orders of magnitude more accurate and useful than a boatancker VOM or VTVM faithfully restored to like new condition. You can't read the wrong scale on a DVM nor is there any parallax error on an LCD display. The only advantage the old iron may have is in tuning for a peak or null where the actual value is irrelevant. Otherwise, a DVM is the preferred device for test bench troubleshooting.  Especially in terms of bang for the buck.

So what's the value of acquiring an older meter?  It's probably in the restoring, not the using.

And that could be the answer to your question.  Some people restore as a hobby, others collect as a hobby, but how many use as a hobby and are willing to pay a premium for well restored goods?

You'd be selling to a very narrow niche market that tends to be fickle.  Years ago console radios were a status item as best of an era, now they go begging.


Posts: 271

« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2014, 09:24:44 PM »

    I have the same meters from Harbor Freight.  Thanks for your feedback.  It confirms my thoughts.


Posts: 7039

« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2014, 10:11:21 PM »

MDT:  The best thing for you to do is to see how cheap you can buy a BA, any BA that you think someone might want.

Restore it and then try to sell it. 

This way you get to enjoy your hobby and answer your own question, much more accurately than any answer you'll get here. 

The answers you get here will be nothing more than speculation.  Personally, I have given away two classic BA receivers because I don't like BAs in any which way, shape or form.  However, the guy that I gave them to was overjoyed!  He loves 'em.


A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 1278

« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2014, 02:35:52 AM »

Do not forget that DVMs tend to have two drawbacks - which might not matter to you. One is the noise which comes out on the test leads - usually only a problem if working with very low AC signals - the other is a tendency to go mad in strong RF fields. So measurements on transmitters can be way, way out. More subtle, and I only saw it once, it wasn't far wrong but enough that the adjustment it was being used for ended up mal-adjusted.

Posts: 462


« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2014, 07:52:54 AM »

I've done well buying/selling radios and Test Equipment on Ebay.   Its made the investments in the hobby thousands less than it would have been otherwise.   When you have multiple money pits (aka hobbies), that really helps.   The crucial ingredient is daily study and waiting for the best deal.

Regards, Mike
Pics and bold print are usually links.

Posts: 4189

« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2014, 09:01:38 AM »

I restore a lot of equipment... I've never thought that tubes, parts or materials were overly expensive. There are many sources for parts and tubes. Even with inflation, tubes often sell for a lot less than when they were being produced. The growth of the internet has opened many new resources for restoration needs, information, and materials.

Good test equipment tools are a serious investment, but they often will last for a lifetime when taken care of. 

Restoring radios for a profit might be a challenge. The most desirable pieces in the best of condition command the higher prices. If you can't buy cheap and work efficiently, it will be more of a labor of love vs. being a profitable endeavor. Rather than resale, you might look into doing restoration work for others who are unable to do their own repairs if you are confident in the quality of you work and knowledge.


Posts: 1279

« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2014, 05:12:54 PM »

Restoring old electronics is a very rewarding and fun hobby. I have been doing it for more then 50 years. I do not worry or even think about selling my restored equipment for profit or not. I give some to the local museum where others can see what used to be. I love hearing music and shortwave from my restored National NC-98 or my 50+ year old Emerson 4 tube sort of pocket radio (had to fabricate a 67.5 volt "B" battery from series of 9 volt units to fit the small battery box, lucked out on the filament battery as it was a "D" cell). I had this type of radio bought for me new in 1947 as a present. It cost $39.95 then. I could go on and on, but I will not.

Replacement tubes and most components for these radios are inexpensive, if you look around. New old stock and new tubes are available for about the prices they sold for in the years produced. I buy the ones I need for $3.00 to about $15.00. EBay is not the best place to buy tubes. Do a Google search for stores that have the best prices. Other components (unless special) are also available at a good cost. Check around.

Restoration is fun and rewarding.

Just an opinion.



Posts: 2541

« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 05:18:27 PM »

I have restored around 40 boat anchor receivers, transmitters, and transceivers from 1950-1980.  I have them all.  IMO you can only make a little $$$ if you do not count the value of your time.  Even figuring minimum wage ($7.25 / hr) you will be hard pressed to buy a boat anchor, clean it, diagnose the problem(s) which is the BIG time consumer, purchase the needed parts, install the needed parts, align the radio, possibly paint the cabinet, and then make a profit.

I spent 3 1/2 years doing a complete body off frame restoration of a 1955 Chevy Bel Air two door hard top in the mid 1980's.  This was not what some purists would consider a professional restoration, but the average Joe would think the car just came off the show room floor.  I sold it to generate some $$$ to start my business.  When I sold it I lost my butt.

Dick  AD4U
« Last Edit: September 15, 2014, 05:22:03 PM by AD4U » Logged

Posts: 1309

« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2014, 06:37:37 PM »

I had this type of radio bought for me new in 1947 as a present. It cost $39.95 then.

That's a lot of money. The equivalent of about $427 today (

73 de Martin, KB1WSY

Posts: 1644

« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2014, 07:23:53 PM »

I sell them for a slight profit, and the profit allows me to continue buying more and fixing up more. So after a short while I am essentially spending NOTHING to buy a boatanchor, fix it up, use it, and then sell it for something better that is ALSO broken.

Then I fix THAT one up (spending the money I made on the first sale), use it, and sell it, etc... I got a HQ-170A for $100 and sold it for $300, that allowed me to recover the expenses on the loss of the S53A I bought for $50 and sold for $50. So not much profit, but not alot of money out of pocket for all the fun.


Posts: 379

« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2014, 06:04:31 PM »

Frankly I think the people that make out are the ones that buy them dirt cheap at estate sales, sometimes hamfests, Craigslist, etc.  and just flip them as-is.  No work at all, maybe test the promising looking ones to see if they work, then you can advertise them as working, otherwise you play "don't know, never tried it/I am a dummy, don't know nuthin' about raddidios, maybe works maybe not?/no way to test" etc.  and let the suckers build up their own expectations.  Not that I do that, but plenty do.  If you start messing with restoring them, you will not make any or much money, if you do it right and well.  It is fun to fix them up and rewarding but not financially.  Just a fact of life.  It is up to you.  Spend months restoring and maybe you get enough to compensate for your time besides parts, maybe not.  You have to bump up your price to where fewer are interested in spending the amount of money when they can see dummy selling for half the price. Then you feel obligated to give some sort of guarantees, which your pride demands as a reflection on your own abilities, and that carries it's own set of hazards.  Good luck.

Posts: 960

« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2014, 03:39:25 AM »

I'll respond with using an old RCA SeniorVoltOhmist vs a DVM because the DVM usually can not safely measure the higher voltages used in tube equipment. Maybe not receivers, but transmitters, for sure. I do not know how many DVM's claiming to be able to measure 750VDC, gave up the ghost around 500VDC.
I know a restorer who focuses on Collins equipment. And the finished piece is better than new. Fresh powder coated paint on the front panel and polished knobs and chassis. All known capacitors that have been bad actors in these units are replaced and then aligned. Howard, W3HM has a long long line of customers waiting at least 2 years before he completes their project.
I would think it depends on the make and model and popularity.

Posts: 12

« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2014, 05:20:58 PM »

The way you make enough money to finance more radios is really pretty simple.

Spend an inordinate amount of time looking at completed listings on EBay for several years.  That's because the antique market, which is what you're talking here, fluctuates. 

Spend a lot of time at auctions and garage sales that don't advertise any radios.  That's where the deals are. 

Go to the radio auction, spend all your money as early as you can.  In the beginning of the auction, everybody is holding onto their cash because there's one item they can't live without that's coming up.

When you go to the hamfest, go really, really early and make offers on stuff while people are unloading.

Don't limit yourself to ham gear, or just receivers, look at all old electronic stuff.  If it's easy to fix - fix it. Otherwise sell it as is.

Get a lot of space.  Whatever you buy, hold on to it.  Timing is everything.

If you're willing to do this, you'll be able to afford many more fine radios than if you just buy a couple and hold them.  It is a lot of work, and it takes years,  Do it for the love of the equipment.  Every so often you'll get a radio worth restoring - and you won't care how much it costs, or how long it takes.

The alternative is to specialize, get really good at one specific line/model, and restore only that.  I gladly paid a professional restorer over $900 to restore an old Zenith - it took them nine months, I did not care.  I loved the radio from the day I paid too much for it, didn't have the time to do it right, and didn't want to screw it up.  There's plenty of guys like me out there.  I shopped and shopped until I found the one guy who specialized in 1930's Zenith's.

Posts: 22


« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2014, 05:59:59 AM »

Well as you know eBay prices swing wildly. A radio of the same model and condition may sell for $200 one week and $75 on another. it all depends on who is watching and bidding, and that fluctuates with the time of year too. Things are cheaper in the summer. Towards winter guys are looking for winter projects, and Summer vacations always cause people to not buy as much. Not only retail but charities traditionally have trouble raising money over the summer.
As far as the prices seeming to be low on restored radios compared to unrestored, you are right.
For me, as someone that loves to restore them as a hobby, the more original the better.  So, good condition and all original usually sell for the best prices.
I hate buying one only to find out someone has been through it before and  mucked around inside.
So, what is the audience of people looking at old vintage radios on eBay? We are, the ones who restore them. I don't think a lot of average people with no electronics background are looking for restored radios on eBay, so the market is just not there, at least not on eBay.
If you love restoring them and don't have room here is my suggestion: restore them and give them away as gifts.
People that could never restore one will love you for it and you are preserving them for history in the process.
Check out John; AKA joernone on youtube;
if you have not come across him before.
He is the one that inspired me to get in the hobby, and his approach is to do just that, restore them and give them away,
"to a deserving individual".
Have fun and 73,
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