It never fails to amaze me how cheap hams are

So, this morning, I loaded up the Freestyle and took some junk great stuff to the Chelsea Amateur Radio Club hamfest. Now, this is a small hamfest, so I guess that I didn’t really expect much, but I was rather disappointed that I didn’t sell even $150 worth of stuff. What really got me, though, is how cheap some guys are, even after I explain that a lot of what I had for sale was donated to the Hands-On Museum and that the proceeds would go to funding our station there.

For example, I had a small speaker with a small bracket for mounting underneath a shelf or underneath a dashboard. I purchased it for $11-12 bucks at Purchase Radio not long before they went out of business. I had put a $5 sticker on it.

Two guys walk up, and the first one offers me $2 for it. What an insult! When his buddy offered me four bucks for it, though, I accepted.

I couldn't even get $50 for this paddle and keyer.

I couldn’t even get $50 for this paddle and keyer.

The other item that I had for sale was a HamKey paddle and keyer combination, like the units shown at right. I was asking $40 for the paddle, $25 for the keyer, and $60 for the combination. One guy said something, “I can’t go more than $40 for them.” When I politely declined, he said he’d come back later.

When he did come back, I offered to give it to him for $50, but he stuck to his $40 offer. Needless to say, he went home without them.

There’s another hamfest–the Monroe Hamfest–in a couple of weeks, and I’ll try my luck down there. There will be more attendees down there, and hopefully more people ready to buy.

Apparently, I was not alone this morning. When I complained to a friend of mine that I had sold relatively few items, he said that several of the other sellers had told him the same thing. I guess the cheap hams had cheaped themselves out of some good deals.


  1. Good evening Dan, funny thing I have had the opposite happen to me….I have been at hamfest and seen items where the seller was asking the same as new or more! I saw some mono band whips that were “used” and the seller was asking 45.00 each. I told him I could walk over to a dealer at the hamfest and for the same antenna I could pick up for the same price and I was told his was without the tax!!!! I have also seen on used ham radio posting on the internet hams hoping to get 50.00 or more than the asking price for new equipment……..what I say is “dreams are free”

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      I’ve seen that too, Mike. I don’t even bother with those kinds of sellers. I just pass them by.

  2. I see where you’re coming from, but it also never ceases to amaze me what people want for their used (and usually abused) gear. I don’t think that’s the case here, but the used market for ham equipment is extravagantly overpriced, which I think is what is driving your observations. Radios, especially, after 5 years of use, priced at 90% of their sticker value brand new. Guys asking $50-100 more than a rig can be bought NEW from HRO. Need we mention eBay? My thoughts are “price it high, bicker fair”. Ask what the nutjob “ham market” is asking, then be willing to take half of that, and you both walk away feeling like you’ve won something. And you’ve sold your gear.

  3. Dave W0DLR says:

    You are 100% spot on. I quit going to hamfests years ago partly for that reason. You could see and SMELL the same old farts year after year after year. They wouldn’t give .25 cents to see the proverbial piss ant eat a bale of hay.

    Dave W0DLR

  4. Jim Myers KD7EIR says:

    We sure do seem to be a proud bunch when it comes to valuing our used gear. I think it comes from what I call “Ham Hoarding” – A ham has never seen a piece of gear/junk/anything that we didn’t have an intimate attachment to. This attachment causes us to place artificial value on the item subconsciously preventing it’s sale.

    When we are looking to buy we subconsciously expect the other ham to have placed this same emotional price on the items, and so we demand an artificially high “markdown” to compensate for it.

  5. Dave, N8SBE says:

    Did you check Ebay for current prices on the items you brought to Chelsea?

    I know that Ebay is not the best indicator of current pricing on used gear, but it tends to be the resource that hams wandering flea markets will refer to using their smart phones, to get an idea of whether or not a given piece of gear is ‘priced to sell’, or just ‘pricey’.

    Anyway, if the idea was to raise money for the museum radio shack, a sign stating that prominently displayed would help to keep some folks from just bypassing your spot when they spy the prices. Also, some folks have already too much ‘junk’, and might even drop a dollar or two (or even five) in a donation jar that you might set up specifically for that purpose. It wouldn’t hurt to ‘seed’ it with some money (old trick, I know) so that folks will think that they wouldn’t be the only ones to donate.

    Just food for thought. I find it never helps to get mad at any potential customer. You’ll never change their mind that way, and a lot of them can ‘tell’ your attitude easily.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      I did check the prices on eBay, and when I talked to the buyers, I did mention that the item was being sold to raise money for the station at the Hands-On Museum. I agree about getting mad at buyers. I wasn’t mad at them, perse. It was some combination of disappointment and bewilderment.

  6. Hey Dan, have you tried Swapmeet @ QRZ.COM or similar resources?
    That would give your great stuff and great cause a way larger audience…

    P.S. The price for paddle/keyer seems very reasonable to me based on my shopping experience at local hamfests here in VE3.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      I have sold stuff on QRZ.Com before, but it’s always a hassle to ship the stuff. Also, by selling at a local hamfest, I’m helping to support the club. I guess for the more “specialized” stuff that’s the way to go, though.

  7. On a ham mailing list last week, one guy was flabbergasted that an iPhone code practice app cost FIVE DOLLARS when the ARRL practice transmissions are free.

    This is an app that has adjustable Farnsworth speeds, Koch method, multiple live news feeds, personalized QSO simulation, and handicapped accessibility. I’ve probably left out something.

  8. Couple years ago, when a move compelled me to get rid of a lot of ham gear, I gave it to my local club so it could be used to get other hams, especially new ones, on the air. I figured out the time and effort it would take to sell the stuff, and the amount of money I was likely to get, and it did not compute. This doesn’t have to be a terribly expensive hobby, but for a lot of new hams, especially younger ones, the dollar cost of starting up from nothing can be challenging. Other hams helped me get on the air when I got licensed, and I’m still grateful.

    • Mark K5LXP says:

      Well Dan, the truth of the matter is that a Ham Key is a pretty crappy paddle (I’ve owned one) and the keyer is long obsolete, lacking features that even a $8 K1EL PIC keyer offers.

      I think in addition to your judgement that hams are cheap you need to extend to the notion that they don’t think much past themselves. So to them an overpriced item is just overpriced irrespective of where the proceeds go.

      I think you would’ve been better off to price these items realistically, and put a jar on the table for donations to the club directly. The net amount might’ve been the same but it’s easier for the average ham to understand.

      Mark K5LXP
      Albuquerque, NM

      • Dan KB6NU says:

        Oh, I agree that the HamKey paddle is not a very good paddle, but $60 for both the paddle and the keyer is still a fair price, I think. As far as the donation jar, I’m not really interested in the money, per se, but getting rid of the items donated. I would rather give these away to someone who wants to get started in CW than accept such a low price.

  9. Dan, I see this all the time both at Dayton and the web sites, i.e. I often check the pricing on items based on buying new via the web. The pricing on what hams are asking for used equipment is almost 80-90% from new w/o warranty or any option to return the equipment. I’d say just move on and consider that this is a hobby where hams have been trained to only look for “deals” and not a good value.


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