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Selling Surplus Tech Stuff On eBay

Have you got a horde of old junk, er, good stuff, that is now taking up too much space in your home? Here's the good oil on how to get rid of it at the best price, by selling it on eBay.

By Barrie Smith

Like most SILICON CHIP readers I started early with technology, becoming fascinated with photography and audio in my early teens. Also like most readers, I became a collector by default, reluctant to discard even the most insignificant accessory, reel, roll, player or plug.

My first tape recorder was a weighty mono Pyrox ¼-inch machine that ran at 7.5 ips (inches per second) with a microphone and line input that I used to good effect to record some historic 1950s broadcasts.

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This vintage Altec microphone might look like junk . . . but at the time of writing there is one on eBay with a starting price of US$900. I have one in my collection but it is one I will NOT be putting up for auction!

My first camera was a German-made folder, with a pin-holed bellows that delivered OK shots indoors but produced such a degree of flare when used outdoors that these days you would need a Photoshop filter to reproduce it.

I lost my first collectible camera, a hefty Graflex, when it was stolen from a Paris youth hostel around the corner from the Folies Bergere.

Without realising what was happening, I then embarked on a 20-year adventure regaining the cameras of my youth.

So, one Saturday in 1977, without much forethought, I placed a 2-line ad in the Sydney Morning Herald’s classified advertising pages.The advert read ‘Old cameras wanted by collector.’

The phone started ringing at 6.00am and didn’t stop for two years.

I ended up with over 300 items: Bakelite box cameras, Kodak and Zeiss folders, stereo and panoramic cameras and viewers, boxes of Polaroid snappers, Russian knockoffs of German classics, TLRs, SLRs, plastic Dianas, a couple of Mickey Mouse cameras, Thornton-Pickard wood/brass and mahogany cameras, early lenses, cameras in the shape of a cake of soap, camera-shaped cap guns, camera ashtrays, a Luftwaffe Robot motorised camera etc. And only two Leicas. I avoided them!

My aim was to assemble a collection. I had no intention of selling the cameras. And who’d buy them anyway?

Gradually becoming an obsession, I then also haunted charity shops, auction sales, suburban markets etc. Well into the 1980s Sydney and Melbourne had quite a number of old camera shops that took vintage trade-ins and then displayed them in their windows; these I also pestered.

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Early tape formats like these U-Matic and Betamax are in demand . . .

For two years I begged and pursued the owner of a giant clockwork Cirkut camera (the ones that take photos 10 inch by six foot) until he eventually gave in. I later acquired two more in varying sizes.

Along the way I also picked up the odd tape recorder, turntables, hifi amplifiers, plus some broadcast microphones, piles of LP records, early 16-inch transcriptions of radio programmes. Just to fill in the holes!

Admittedly, I did have an obsession but not as bad as one collector friend who actually bought an entire house in order to acquire the collection stored within it! Then, in another frenzied acquisition, he hired a crane so that he could move a 6-foot process camera out of the fourth story window of a city building.

At one auction, I bid $50 on a mahogany box, decorated with brass fittings. Taking it home and digging into some early photo books (also acquired thanks to the SMH advert), I discovered it was a rare 1850s wet plate panoramic camera (without lens). A UK collector heard about it and offered me $20,000. A rare sale.

Sometimes the cameras found me. A Central Coast (NSW) junk shop owner called me to say he had acquired a gold Leica. Would I like to see it? Of course! It was bought for a tidy sum and later sold to an interstate collector within a fortnight for an even tidier sum!

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