As an auctioneer based in Kansas City, David Schulman, WD0ERU knows a lot about selling things. But Schulman is a little different than most auctioneers: his specialty is selling ham radio equipment.
His business, Schulman Auction, offers an end-to-end solution for those families or hams who want to downsize their current estate, or completely liquidate their amateur radio or vintage electronics gear. They pick up estates from all over the country and take care of all the logistics of the selling process.
Although he’s been a licensed ham for four decades, he didn’t immediately appreciate the amateur radio community’s need for full auction services.
“I had a very large ham estate that I was selling at a weekly consignment auction,” Schulman says. “It did so well that I started thinking about taking ham gear online and see what happened.”
His auction business has grown substantially in just over a decade and he now has buyers from around the world and sellers from all over the United States.
While it can be easy to list gear on eBay or Craigslist, sometimes sellers don’t realize that they’re losing money when a buyer can’t verify that an item is actually “as described.” Schulman related one such case where he was working with a seller to auction a Hewlett-Packard signal generator.
“You could buy them for $300-$400 all day on eBay and other venues,” he says. “This one particular unit brought close to $1,000 dollars.”
Why did this particular one sell for almost three times the going rate? Schulman says for many buyers, getting the best price is about seller credibility. “When I asked what was so special about this unit, he said, ‘you tested it and provided all the data I needed, and I was willing to spend the money necessary to get it because I just never know what I’m getting on eBay.’”
What’s hot in the market right now? He says there are a few different things that seem to get the attention of serious buyers:
- Collins gear, both S-Line and the black boxes, such as 75A-4’s, generate quite a bit of interest, as do the “newer” vintage gear from the 80s and 90s.
- Anything Kenwood, Icom or Yaesu
- Equipment that is difficult find such as a Hallicafters SR-2000 Hurricane Transceiver with matching PS-2000 power supply or a Hammarlund HC-10 SSB Converter
- Military R-390’s and R-390A’s command decent prices and get a lot of attention
- Hewlett Packard test equipment from the 80s-90s does extremely well. They were built tough, and are still extremely accurate if they were kept in decent shape
Schulman says that no matter how you sell your gear, you should watch out for some common shipping pitfalls.
“Always check with the shipper and get an estimate first. You don’t want any surprises,” he says. “In each lot listing we have in an auction, we include the dimensions and weight of an item. The shippers contact information is also included. Some folks are truly surprised when they only spend $10 on something, to find out that it will cost over $50 to ship.”
It’s important to remember that the value of an item doesn’t dictate the shipping cost. “All shippers — UPS, USPS, FedEx — charge based on dimensional weight of an item,” Schulman says. “If your 10 pound item that cost you $10 has to be packed in a box that is 20 inches on all sides, you’ll get charged at the 60-pound rate. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is in the industry now, and we have to keep that in mind when bidding on these items.”
Another piece of advice: don’t skimp on the packaging. Here are his tips:
- Let the pros do it. Not just any UPS or FedEx location, but those that have the knowledge of packing and shipping this type of gear. Even though a vintage radio might have only cost the buyer $25, that radio might be one of a kind and irreplaceable.
- Use double wall cardboard boxes and double box when necessary.
- Wrap your radio in bubble wrap or plastic sheeting so that the packing materials don’t get lodged inside the chassis — but be careful because in some cases bubble wrap can chafe against the face of a radio and cause permanent cosmetic damage!
- Styrofoam peanuts are difficult to remove from chassis due to static and breaking down and disintegrating — don’t use peanuts if at all possible on items that weigh over 30 pounds.
- Use Styrofoam planking or foam inserts instead. It’s much more difficult for a heavy item to move around inside the box using these materials.
Buyers really like to know what they are getting as opposed to buying on self-service sites like eBay and Craigslist where they often see “I have no way to test this” or “powers up” — or worse. “I think this is one reason why our auctions have become so successful,” he says.
“I’ve talked to many families of SK’s who would have just scrapped their loved one’s ham gear if they didn’t find me,” Schulman says. “That is one of the things I love about doing what I do. I can’t save it all, but I know what I do sell will generally get into the hands of other hams who will use and enjoy the equipment.”