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Prevent eBay Sellers Ruining Vintage Equipment

January 8, 2012

Please work with me to educate eBay sellers NOT to do the “powered up, light came on, no further testing performed” routine, this KILLS vintage equipment. That the light comes on is meaningless in terms of function, this so-called “testing” results in either more work for restorers or in a great piece of history being scrapped prematurely.


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  1. Steve permalink

    I agree. It’s a shame that most of the people with access to instruments have no idea how to properly test the instrument. Sellers think Spectrum Analyzer and Oscilloscopes are the same thing other than a name, etc.

    Good luck, and awesome blog


  2. IG Saturation permalink

    If you educate them too much, they may get a better idea of value and the price can rise.

    Ebay sellers are mostly salesmen, not technicians or engineers. A few that are qualified often sell their gear at much higher prices. I’d rather get it cheap because in the end, all equipment will need repairing in one way or another. If it blows during the ‘test’ it may sell for very cheap. I think its more vital that unobtaniums are working: vintage meters, switches, casings etc., are usually not destroyed by power on tests, and PSU failures can easily be replaced en masse or rebuilt.

    • A valid point of view. My concern is that most often the damage will be to the power transformer which in many cases is near irreplaceable. It is possible to have transformers re-wound and it is expensive and it won’t look the same. I am about to pay $250 for a re-wind for a USM-24 ‘scope, the instrument is not worth that in terms of monetary value and that is not a winning argument for me. Read my adventure with the Tek 511A to see what it can take to substitute a different replacement transformer! It takes ability and the will to do it. In my candid arrogance, I know that combination is rare.

      • IG Saturation permalink

        Yes, the transformer is ~ unobtainium. I have limited experience with equipment were a modern transformer isn’t substitutable but I wonder, if a gentle startup would preserve electrolytics but also reduce the stress on an aged transformer, but is it simply delaying an inevitable? Should we find this out on receipt of the old friend or should the seller find out for us, and reduce the sell price? I have no answer! Its a dilemma to consider.

      • It depends on the skill and knowledge of who is doing the start-up. Electrolytics lose their chemical insulation film due to lack of use, mostly this old equipment hasn’t been turned on in years, a gentle start-up will re-form any electrolytics that will re-form and if there are any that will not, they will be revealed without wrecking the power transformer. Once a piece of kit is working again, the deal is to turn it on regularly to preserve the electrolytic film in the caps. I am clear, discourage anyone who is not skilled from “powering old equipment up”. That’s it. Have you read my post on electrolytic capacitors?

  3. IG Saturation permalink

    Sorry, rude of me, … I enjoy your blog. I have subscribed!

  4. mcinsand permalink

    I strained myself when a local antique ‘expert’ on a radio show told a person with an old Zenith to power test it while the caller was on the air. Later, we exchanged some messages offline, where I told him how tube gear needs to be repowered with care (current limiter, recapping, etc.), as well as the hazards of hot chassis in transformerless gear.

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