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Old 12th February 2012, 11:28 PM   #1
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Default Why do I go to hamfests?

I usually go to the as many hamfests (ham radio show and swap meet) as I can. It looks like that will be only two this year, but they are the largest and third largest in the US. I drove the 480 mile round trip to the Orlando hamfest this weekend.

I have an extra class ham license, but I am not that into ham radio. I will venture through the new products and commercial displays to see what's new, but don't buy anything, so why do I go to hamfests?

For the swap meets. I usually go looking for tubes, and cheap tubes at that. I usually set my limit at $1, but I did pay $5 for a pair of tubes yesterday.....a 45 and a 71A. To compensate for that expense I purchased 30 assorted 6 volt sweep tubes for $15, 50 cents each. A few other random tubes brought the total to 36 tubes, well below my usual haul. Still, hardly worth the trip.

Well there were the guitar amps......and the components......and tube sockets from ESRC.......and Vector board......

Guitar amps at a hamfest....I always go directly to the back of the swap meet when the show opens and work my way toward the front. I had just started when my phone rang. It was a friend asking if $100 for a Marshall 4 X 12 cabinet with Celestions was a good deal. I was about 1 minute too slow. I was almost to the spot where he was when he called. He bought the speaker cabinet, but the seller had 5 dead guitar amps, if I took them all they were $5 each. Deal. I planned on gutting them and using the cabinets for my own amps, but this funny looking Fender Guitar Digital Entertainment Center got my interest, so I fixed it. It is a cool toy. I will play with it for a while and then sell it of gut it when I lose interest. There is another Fender I might fix, but the others will be gutted.

What does $104 buy at a hamfest? The bag on the left is full of mylar and polyprop caps, the other bags are NOS Allen Bradley carbon comp grid stoppers.

The biggest hamfest in the world is in Dayton Ohio on May 18 through 20. That one tends to bring out some tube audio stuff too.
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Old 12th February 2012, 11:50 PM   #2
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Sounds like a good day. My experience is that the same old junk gets dragged out every year. I usually look for good used test equipment, but the classic stuff is mostly gone or overpriced. Sometimes a nice audio piece will show up, though all speakers will be blown, torn or cat-scratched!
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Old 13th February 2012, 12:14 AM   #3
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You go to hamfests for the same reason most of us buyers do. To find treasure. But I would get there at 5:30 and go in as a vender even though I don't sell. This gets me inside well before the general crowd gets in. Most of the good items are bought and sold during setup. And I've been doing this for the past thirty years. This includes Dayton back when it was much different then it is now. Years ago you could find lots of good stuff there like audio amps, tubes and test equipment at bargin prices. Today, too many sellers think their garbage items are worth a small fortune. I used to bring thousands of dollars with me and drive back with a car full. One of my favorites was the Hosstraders in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, those times are over. There are very few good items at true bargins anymore. And there are many more sharks swimming around looking for the same things.

Some of my best audio finds were a Marantz 7 for $15. A McIntosh MI-350 for $100. A couple of Harmon Kardon Citation II's for $50 each. (different shows) An Acrosound Stereo 120 for $50. All these were years ago.

The Maryland area used to provide a wealth of high tech serveillance receivers from Watkins Johnson, Racal and Interad since they were all based in that area. And NSA would occasionally dump some good stuff too that wound up at the shows. But not anymore
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Old 13th February 2012, 12:37 AM   #4
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Add the cost of admission and transportation... but still, nice haul!

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Old 13th February 2012, 12:38 AM   #5
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I get myself into enough trouble as it is. If I went to hamfests, I'd have to rent storage just to have living space in the house...
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Old 13th February 2012, 01:09 AM   #6
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Some people go to hamfests to unburden themselves of stuff the XYL doesn't want around the house. I may drive 600 miles to Dayton this year.
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Old 13th February 2012, 01:17 AM   #7
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If I had an XYL, she'd probably have to nag 24/7 to curb my packrat habits.
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Old 13th February 2012, 01:36 AM   #8
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Here in Germany we also have flea markets and those special ham markets. But prices are astronomic and chances you find some treasures are close to zero.
Furthermore, Gas is around 1.5€ per liter (7.5$ per gallon!!!) and having to get up very very early without the guarantee to find anything makes no sence. I rather have a quiet weekend and buy the things I want from ebay where I can have a refund when I'm not satisfied. Even when it costs more, yes.
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Old 13th February 2012, 01:55 AM   #9
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We go to hamfests and garage sales for the same reason.

We look for the deal, like HollowState wrote he found some great bargains

I too have been lucky at the TRW/Northrup Gruman Swap meet in finding
product that has been hoarded away and finally come to sale..
I'm afraid of going to Dayton in trying to find a way to ship back what I
find...So far never been there.

For me it's the art of the find...
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Old 13th February 2012, 02:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Add the cost of admission and transportation...
I spent $52 for gas, and used points to get a free hotel room. Dayton is a bit further away, 1100 miles, but I will be going to West Virginia anyway, so I just make sure I go there in May. I have already reserved a hotel room with rewards points. Dayton hotels charge stupid money on hamfest weekend.

Quote:
You go to hamfests for the same reason most of us buyers do.
I used to go to all the local hamfests including the late great Miami Hamboree. I went as a vendor for about 15 years. Tubelab has been around for about 7 years, but I have been making electronics kits for about 30 years.

Quote:
If I went to hamfests, I'd have to rent storage just to have living space in the house.......If I had an XYL, she'd probably have to nag 24/7 to curb my packrat habits.
Sherri and I were both packrats. Now recovering packrats. At the height of the insanity we were renting 3 storage bays. That worked since she was the manager of the storage facility, and got a break on rent. We have had to clean out the houses of both our parents, and help freinds through the same ordeal. We realized that we have far more projects than we have life left, and also know that our only child lives in Seattle and doesn't know an Ohm from a Gigawatt. We are now down to one rental unit, with a goal to be out of it before the end of the year.
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