One of the more difficult decisions in maximizing profits on large pieces of vintage electronics or machinery is figuring out whether to sell the entire item on EBay, or to take the item apart and sell the interior components.
There are several things that will affect your decision. The first is the overall size of the item. It is common to find large appliances, console stereos, exercise equipment and other similar-sized items with a ‘FREE’ sign on them along the roadways in any small town. Should you pick them up? Heck yes, you should.
The question then becomes, how do I sell this bulky piece of junk? Obviously, nobody is going to pay the shipping fees for shipping these items weighing several hundred pounds, unless the item is extremely valuable.
It is possible that you can sell the item on EBay, with a free local pickup option for the shipping method. The winning bidder then has to make arrangements with you to pick up the item after the auction is completed.
You can also list the item on Craigslist or in the local classified section of your newspaper. Selling the item whole is often the fastest and least time-intensive method of selling large items. There is almost zero preparation time, and you can often unload items in one week or less.
You should sell items whole if you determine that the item is collectible in the condition you find it in (no restoration costs to you), and if you think somebody near you would want to buy it. This is often the case with audio equipment, juke boxes, large advertising items, and arcade games. These types of items have many collectors, and they will buy whole items whether they work or not.
There are some issues to consider when selling whole items, such as the ones that we have discussed. The most important issue is that in order for you to sell the item, you have to know whether it works, or not. If you advertise that the item works, it had better be completely functional. This is especially true if you sell your item on EBay, as you do not want to receive negative feedback from your buyers, or nobody will want to bid on your auctions.
You may decide to advertise the item in ‘As-Is’ condition, which means that buyer or bidder is buying your item as they see it in the ad or auction page. ‘As-Is’ condition means that you are unsure of the operating condition of the machinery and components, or that you know that the machine does not work. This is often a safer way of selling large pieces of machinery with many moving parts.
You also have to keep in mind that old machinery that has not been used for a long period of time will often break down quickly when it is put back into use. In other words, if you test something for a couple of minutes and it seems to work fine, it may still break very soon after your buyer starts using the item. Then, you have to deal with possibility of having the buyer leave you negative feedback or having to at least partially refund the sales price because the item broke. Imagine how you would feel if you bought a cool collectible vintage juke box, and then it broke down after you played less than ten songs on it. You’d want your money back, right?
I honestly have sold very few large whole items, due to the problems I’ve already discussed. Nobody wants to pay shipping costs on these types of items, and gas prices prevent people from driving long distances to pick them up.
It is also routinely more profitable to disassemble large items and sell the components on eBay. I can remember multiple occasions, where I attempted to sell electronic items that weighed between ten and seventy pounds on eBay and received no bids at under $10, due to the shipping costs. After I received no bids, I disassembled the electronics and sold the components for 5 to 10 times that amount within several weeks.
One good example of this was a vintage 1960s console stereo / record player that we found at a garage sale for $5. We hauled it home and put in our basement. It worked great! It had a sharp looking wooden cabinet, and contained a radio, a record turntable, and even an 8- track player with some old working Elvis, Aerosmith and Johnny Cash tapes. I don’t remember the manufacturer, but it was a mid-range brand name that I was familiar with. In other words, it was not a top-of-the-line collectible brand.
Everything worked great on the console, and I used it a lot when we first got it, and then less and less frequently over time. Eventually, we decided that the console took up a lot of room, and we wanted to go another route with décor in the basement, so we tried to sell the stereo.
We listed the whole console on eBay for $20, with a free local pickup shipping method. It did not receive a bid for three re-lists at $20.
My wife wanted to put the console out for free at the roadside, but I said no. Even though this was at the beginning of our selling careers, I knew enough to take apart the console and try to sell the interior parts.
It has been about seven years since we sold the console, but from my recollection, it took about four hours to completely take it apart. It took a couple of hours to research which parts to sell on EBay, and another couple of hours to list the items. After about two weeks, I had sold the 8-track tapes for $20, the 8-track player for about $25, some parts off of the turntable for $15, two sets of large interior speakers for $35, the cloth wiring for $10, the tuner assembly for $15, and then scrapped the rest for another $20-30 in scrap copper and other metals. If I knew then what I know now, I would have made another $20-30 in selling name plates, the turntable stylus, the cloth speaker coverings, and other items, and also an extra $10+ in scrap gold and silver contacts. You get the point.
Recently, I helped my mother remove a 10-year old treadmill exercise machine from her house. I took it apart in less than an hour, and sold the motor for $25, the digital display for $15, the rollers for $10, the track for $5, and it had about $25 worth of scrap metal in it afterwards.
I found a dead Pioneer tuner stereo at a garage sale for free about three years ago, and sold the oak case for $50, the metal screw-on feet for almost $20, and the name plate for another $10. I sold assorted components for another $20, and there was about $10 worth of scrap metal inside, mostly copper, aluminum and brass. These are not just isolated incidents, I find this stuff all of the time.
If you think about it, the selling of components makes much more sense on many levels. The shipping cost for these smaller components is usually going to be under $10. People can afford to pay for shipping for parts, rather than paying significantly higher shipping costs for whole units.
There are many, many collectors of these types of vintage electronics. If you can think of a popular type of electronics, somebody probably collects them. Collectors enjoy tinkering with interior components, upgrading parts, and customizing their units. Plus, old systems often break down and parts fail. In other words, people that like these old machines need parts often, and they are the type of people who enjoy being on a computer and buying things online.
Vintage components are also very difficult to find at physical stores, even in metropolitan areas. Do remember seeing stores that sell vintage audio or computer components? Me either. It’s much easier to go to eBay and find what you are looking for there, than to locate a physical store that sells vintage replacement parts.