Advice on buying Vintage Hi-Fi on Ebay

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Scams aside there are many genuine sellers out there wishing to sell on their pride equipment.  Much of this equipment now finds its way onto ebay.  But say the equipment is not as described or is being offered by someone who is not a genuine audiophile; they may just have picked it up in a house clearance, how do you know? Here  are some pointers to help you  acquire original/ mint condition items at a fair price:

  1. Check the sellers feedback information carefully for negative feedback and decide accordingly if previous buyers have been satified on all scores of the transaction. Only then and if you are still interested, look at the auction offer more carefully.
  2. Buying at auction is always a risky buisness unless you can visit the seller and inspect the item before bidding.  In most case this is not possible and we have to trust the seller and the information given.  For this reason always look for high definition picture of the article.  Ebay allow up to 12 pictures and a good seller will use this facility to help sell his equipment. Never accept poorly lit photos or library pictures, walk away.  These days most people can take good close up digital pictures even with the cheepest of digital cameras, so there is no excuse.
  3. If you are happy with the auction offer but still feel something might still be wrong email the seller with specific questions, something that will satify your expectations of the article's condition, i.e, is there any notable scratches or wear marks which have not been photographed and conveniently ommitted. Their responses, if any, should  be prompt and provide you with the information you require.
  4. Try and obtain original boxes and packing, these are important to the asking price, particularly if it is high.  Often, for genuine reasons, packing is not available but where they are they should be in good condition, relevant to age.  Beware when there is more than one auction, with linked equipment, where they are showing the same good condition box in each photo.  Assume second or third boxes are damaged and in poor condition unless shown otherwise.
  5. Remember the equipment is in many cases old and not guaranteed.  It is a known fact that even when the equipment is offered as new, unused or new stock, equipment will still deteriorate and will not perform as it it did when manufactured.  Most types of equipment will benefit from a full service and alignment and you should make allowance for this when you are setting your maximum bid.  Never accept claims that it should not be necessary.
  6. Remember equipment capacitors, especially in amplifiers deteriorate with age and non use and the cost of this replacement can be high.
  7. Avoid equipment that has been stored in the loft, or garage.  Give preference to equipment that has been used in the house or stored in a constant smoke free environment. 
  8. In many cases spares for old equipment are no longer available and also, in some cases, original manufactures  may no longer exist.  If you must have this item try and check out the spares and servicing costs first.   There are many good web sites for a lot of the old equipment.  Try googling Thorens, Garrard, Quad, Leak,etc. as an example.
  9. Read the auction information very carefully several times and be suspicious of auctions where bidding remains low.  It may be the article is not genuine, condition poor or not as described, etc.  Remember the vintage audio market is full of knowledgeable collectors who are constantly looking at ebay and if this was a genuine bargain the bidding would be stronger.
  10. Beware, beware of sellers who claim they are unable to test the item or don't have any leads or power cable.  Any genuine audiophile will have this equipment and will make sure the item is working properly, particularly tape recorders.  If they don't then it is probable the seller is not an audio enthusiast and is more likely to have picked up the equipment cheaply at a house clearance sale, or is selling it for a friend.  It may be ok but just beware, especially those unexperienced buyers.
  11. If equipment is described as mint, be sure the sellers interpreptation  matches your own expectation.  Mint should mean as new condition, no discernable marks, scratches, chips, colour variations, wear marks or signs of use other than testing/demo use.   Where possible ask seller for more pictures or clarification first before bidding
  12. Check out postage and packing costs carefully, these vary enormously and in some cases are excessive and can add to an already high puschase cost.
  13. Presentation is everything.  Beware of any seller who has not obviously spent any time cleaning the item being offered.   It costs nothing at all to spend a little time just gently cleaning an item to show it at its best.  It speaks volumes of anyone who does not think it is worth bothing about and should send out a warning to beware once again.
  14. Try and insist on a PayPal payment for high cost items.  Even if you have done your home work your money is still at risk until you safely receive the item.  Ebay auctions are a matter of trust and for the most part sellers are genuine and trustworthy, just be careful and happy bidding. 



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