Vintage stereo amplifiers can bring a pretty penny… if you know what to look for. When I first started going to sales I had no idea that vintage electronics were highly collectible and sought after by not only audiophiles, but also the average consumer. Because not only do vintage stereo amplifiers look great, they are also built incredibly well and sound even better.
I’m going to be talking about tube stereo amplifiers.
There are many things to keep in mind when buying a stereo amp at a garage sale. First thing, what is the brand? Even if the amp is in terrible condition it could still be worth a ton of money… if it’s the right brand.
Here is a list of brands to look for at your next sale:
If you see any of these brands immediately grab it, put it in your buy pile and then do some research. First, look for the model number which is usually somewhere on the front of the unit. Then, look up the unit and see if its a model that is sought after. Some brands are so sought after, like McIntosh, that it’s going to be a buy no matter what, even if you just sell it for parts.
Next, you want to check the condition.
- Does it look like there is any water damage, mold or mildew? This can be a big problem if its been sitting in the garage for 30 years.
- Look at the screws and make sure they are all the same, look for evidence that the unit been opened a lot? That could be an indication it has been worked on and possibly have parts removed.
- Obviously test the unit while you’re at the sale if you can. Check if all the lights come on, do all the dials work?
- Ask the owners if the unit sounds good, how long they have had it, if it had any problems and of course how much they want for the big paper weight.
Some other things to keep in mind when buying a vintage amp. Cosmetic shape sometime is more important than the function, meaning that if the unit works perfect but is in cosmetically really bad shape, the unit will sell for far less than the other way around. This is because it may cost more to fix cosmetic damage then to fix a transformer or replace a tube.
Just remember, vintage amps have a warmer sound then modern amps and they are easier to work on then most modern amps. This is why they are highly sought after and sell for good profit. Never pass up a vintage amp, always check it out, you won’t be sorry.
I went to an estate sale about 4 years ago, at a 5 million dollar house. I knew they would have nice stuff but I also knew it was a professional sale, which means everything would be priced high. Well I opened a big cabinet and saw a rack with Technics gear. I could not believe what I found and the price was $100 for everything!!!! I’ll post a picture soon but I made about $3000 off this deal. And the lesson is… always take a look at the vintage gear, you won’t be sorry.