How To Sell Your Radio: A Dumbo Guide

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So, you've been clearing out the attic / garage / elderly relative's house, and you've come across an old radio that you think might be worth a few bob on ebay. You know absolutely nothing about radios, except that they are boxes that music comes out of. How do you advertise it to get the best return? This short guide will, I hope, set you on your way to riches...

Imagine for a moment that you wanted to sell a car. If you posted an auction ad that read

4 wheels
Wing mirrors

do you think you'd get many people queueing up to buy?

Of course not. The same is true of any item, and especially true of old radios. If you want to sell your old radio for a tidy sum, you need a plan.

The Plan.

In order to maximise your returns, you'll need the following:

A digital camera
A tape measure
A set of kitchen scales
A screwdriver
A pen and paper
Two hours free time

Step 1: Weights and Measures

Start by weighing the radio. You'll need this to work out shipping / postage charges. Yes, you could always list the item as Collection Only; many people do. However, listing an item with both the option of collecting AND a price for shipping gives prospective buyers outside your local area the chance to bid; the more buyers you can attract, the better your prospect of a sale. Many buyers won't want to travel more than ten or twelve miles to collect an item; offering to post it is therefore a must. (If you haven't got kitchen scales, take it down to the post office; they won't mind you weighing it on their scales if they think they'll get your business later...) So, now you have the weight, you need the dimensions. Take your tape measure, and note down the length, breadth and width of the radio. If it has one, fully extend the aerial and measure that, too.

With all this information on paper, move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Details

Now, take a good look at the radio. What do you know about it? The basics first: Who made it? Most manufacturers will have their namebrand emblazoned on there somewhere. The same is true for a model name and/or number and even the serial number. Jot these down on your paper. Next, how many wavebands does it cover? List them, together with the frequencies they cover. Often, this can be a useful tool for buyers trying to work out the age of a piece; for example, FM (or VHF) is 88-108 MHz. However, this is a comparatively recent spread; in the 1970's, the spread was 88-101 MHz.
Now look at the dials on the radio; what do they do? Again, note them down, especially if there are more than 2 (tuning and volume). Radios with 'treble' and 'bass' dials would have been more expensive to buy new than those with a single 'tone' dial, which would in turn have been dearer than a radio without such a knob.
Are there any sockets on the radio? An external aerial socket, for example, or a headphone socket? Does the radio have a carry case, a strap, or a handle? What colour is the radio? Is it covered in plastic, in leather, in simulated sharkskin? Is it made of wood, plastic, metal or bakelite? Get as much information from the exterior as you can, and put it all on paper, because we're about to get fiddly...

Step 3: Guts

Remember the screwdriver? Well, you are now going to use it to very carefully open the radio. Remove any screws or clips and take off the back (or, occasionally, the entire casing) of the set. Be prepared for lots of dust, and some weird electronics inside.
There are several reasons to check inside the radio. First, the weird electronics. You need to know if you are selling a valve or a transistor radio. Valves look like lightbulbs, and were common from the earliest radios right through to the mid 1960s, when transistors took over. Second, opening the back will help determine the type of power source the radio needs. This may already have been apparent (if the set is mains powered, for example, its power lead might have been hanging out the back, and a battery operated set may have had a separate battery compartment); however, many battery powered radios, particularly before 1960, used odd, obselete batteries (such as the 90v high tension B126, or the even odder 90v high tension / 1.5v low tension B136). Look for indications inside the case as to the battery type. If you get lucky, such information may be on the back of the set.  
You might be tempted at this stage to give the insides a bit of a clean. Resist that urge. Most collectors and restorers like to see the dirt - it can help determine which parts have been replaced, or need to be replaced. On top of that, cleaning out a radio chassis may well lead to damage. Steer clear, and move onto step 4 instead.

Step 4: Smile...

Now is the time to start to prep for the auction ad proper, and that means getting photographs of the radio. Photographs are essential, especially if you know little or nothing about the radio you are selling; and it goes without saying, the more photos, the better. However, quantity is not as important as quality. Pictures should be well lit, pin sharp and with as little background as possible. Ideally, you need four photographs; one of the front, one of the back (with the back panel in place), one of the back (without the back panel in place), and one of the tuning fascia (showing the station / frequency markings). Additional close-up photographs can be taken of the various knobs and switches, or of any blemishes or damage visible.
Having secured your photographs, you can play with them using photo-editing software before you include them in the ad. (Make sure, for example, that the radio is the right way up in all pictures.)

Step 5: Go for it!

You are now ready to compose your ad. Ebay has guides a-plenty on how to build your ad, so I won't go into the process itself; however, the following is an example of a standard, comprehensive ad text.

Hacker Sovereign II Portable Radio

Three wavebands: LW (1100 - 1800m)
                                   MW (200 - 550m)
                                VHF (88 - 101Mhz)

Inter-station Muting, sockets for external aerial, Gram Input, Tape Output and headphones. Bass and treble controls.

Size: 14" x 8" x 4", weight (including 2 PP9 batteries) 4Kg. Aerial (36") is complete and straight. radio is covered in black rexine (imitation leather). All grills complete and undamaged. Carrying handle is missing.

This item can be collected from my home, 8 miles outside Manchester, or securely packaged and posted via Royal Mail parcels.

Add your photos, and you are almost good to go.

Step 6: Almost there...

The last thing you need to do is set your price. Check out the web. Run a search, and see if you can find an identical radio for sale on another website, (or on ebay) and set your price accordingly. If you can't, you'll just have to use your best judgment. As a guide, though, remember to cover your costs at least. Factor in the cost of the ad, and the cost of packing materials for posting the radio to the buyer. (That way, you don't have to inflate the postage costs - something that might deter prospective purchasers). I'd recommend using PayPal as your primary payment method; although it costs a bit, it is remarkably hassle free in 99.99999% of all cases. You can also accept cash on collection, but be warned - doing so occasionally leads to people trying to haggle down the price on the doorstep. Cheques and postal orders should be cleared or cashed before you post the item. NEVER accept cheques or postal orders from those collecting the radio.

To work out postage costs, visit the Royal Mail's website. Remember to factor in the weight of the packing materials - generally speaking, add 1Kg to the weight of the radio to work out your shipping costs.

Step 7: Afterwards

During the course of the auction, make sure you check on a daily basis to see if anyone has posted any questions. If they have, answer them as honestly - and as promptly - as possible.

Once the radio has sold, (and the payment cleared) you need to post it (unless, of course, it is being collected). This is not the time to cut corners.
Valve Radios: If you are posting a valve radio, you need to protect the valves from damage in transit. I have used any number of materials to do this, but these days tend to opt for cotton wool balls, filling the inside of the radio with them before securing the back. I then take a box, slightly larger than the radio, and line the bottom with polystyrene 'packing peanuts'. Insert the radio, and cover with more polystyrene. tape up the box, and put it in a larger box filled with either more polystyrene or shredded newspaper. Seal it with lots of packing tape.
Transistor radios: As above, although there is no need to fill the innards with cotton wool.

In both cases, write the words "Fragile: Handle with care" and "Glass: Handle with Care" on the outside of the larger box.
Take it down to the post office. Job done.
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