Garage Sale Steals - What to look for?

Am I the only one that has that dream of tagging along with the wife to some garage sale, only to find some audio equipment for sale and the guy doesn't know what to ask for it, saying, "make me an offer"? The thought flashes, boy I'd like to run home to look it up on the 'net to be sure! You return home, find out it's a gem, return to the sale only to find out someone with knowledge purchased it and you wake up in a cold sweat! (Sorry, I got a little carried away there.)

A year or so ago I was interested in Nak decks and used to have such thougts of finding a deal, though I am rarely, if ever, at a garage sale.

A recent discussion on here about Threshold amps prompted me to create this post. What "legendary" piece of audio equipment would you like to pick up for next to nothing? (This way I can create a cheat sheet for my wallet! LOL)
I'm looking for the nice aluminiom or even gold-plated volume knobs at least 1" in diameter.
I always keep my eyes open for that Realistic, Optimus & Bose product. It makes my target range practice a side-spliting-hilarious undertaking.
I found a MINT NEC CD player at a yard sale for $20.I know its far from great but it did list for $300 at one time.My 12 y/o daughter is using it with her Sony 'rig'
Boy, this is kind of "frustrating". I really WANT to name names and quote prices here, but i can't. You see, if i tell you what i found and at what price i found it at, i'll never be able to get anything for it when i list it for sale. Everybody will know what i have in it and expect me to pass it on for that same price i.e. "next to nothing". DARN !!!! : )

Having said that, i found a piece at a local "flea market". I had NO idea what it was but i did see the name on it. It first caught my eye as it looked like some type of "homebrew" electronics project, but was very well constructed and obviously a labor of love. Knowing that this company made nice audio gear, i asked the seller what it was. He told me he had no idea, but if i had $3, i could have it. Needless to say, i paid the man the $3 and walked away with what turned out to be a .....

Wait, i can't say what it was. DARN IT !!!! ( again )

Then there was this other time at the same flea market. I found this "XXXXXX" for $20. Boy, was that a ...

Oh, nevermind.... : ) Sean
What you mention happens occassionally on America's garage sale, eBay; even though usually prices on eBay end up higher than classifieds. The main reason this happens is bad spelling so folks who search don't find it, or it is in the wrong catagory.

I picked up some $400 audio cables for $65 because they were listed under Car Stereos. The seller did not notice or even seem to care they sold so cheap? The classic Rotel RCD-855 I use at work was listed at Consumer Electronics Other and was spelled Rotell. I paid less than half of what they sell for used usually. It was mint, and had the manual, remote, transit screws, etc. The Conrad Johnson preamp (with phono) I use in my small home office system had a "Buy it Now" price of only $350. New list is $2250. Last was a Yamaha TX950 tuner I got for $175. Did not care for it and resold it for $350.

To find this stuff you have to search for what you want at the main home page, so it searches the whole eBay database. Good Luck!!!

Anything with tubes in it.

Sincerely, I remain
I got a Hafler DH500 for $1, non working of course. I also got a Audible Illusions Mini-mite pre-amp for just $1, it did work, just needed a couple of tubes. And some DCM towers
for $15, which sound great and I still use. I also got a ton
of MFSL records and other Hi-fidelity discs for 25 cents each. It was the funnest sale ever.
I believe one guy over on found (and bought)a pair of B&W Matrix 804's (maybe higher, but not 801's) at a garage sale for $125--not bad.
Pelv is on to something. Sometimes non-working units being sold for parts have a blown fuse or something simple.
I concur with Bob.
I just picked up two box sets of of Glenn Miller 78 rpm LPs. Each box set contains 4 LPs. One box set is called "Glenn Miller" The other box set is called "Glenn Miller Masterpieces." Both box set are RCA Victor recordings. Inside one of the boxes I found what looks like a plastic, paper, 3 minute recording called "giving The Prayer Of THE HOLY YEAR" in english and the papal blessing in latin. On the other side is a picture of pope Pius XII. Are these a good find or of no value. Thanks for ny help
(1) Read whatever you can on "classic" audio gear. C. Kittleson's "Vintage Hi-Fi Spotter's Guide" (Volumes 1 & 2) are good places to start. (2) Learn as much as you can about older tube or solid atate gear and about "cult" pieces (tube or solid state) that bring good prices even though they aren't particularly noteworthy as hi fi. I got a McIntosh C-11 preamp, MR65B tuner, and MC-240 power amp for $50 each at an estate sale. When I asked the guy if he had any stereo gear he said "just some old junk in the garage". All 3 pieces worked perfectly, I sold them later for $2300. I found an AR turntable for $5.00 at a flea market which I later sold for $95. (3) Have a good wad of cash with you. 'Nothing worse than losing out on a great piece because you don't have the cash and they won't take your personal check during a moving sale. (Would you take a stranger's personal check if you were moving the next day?) The most important thing is to educate yourself. Know what you would like to find BEFORE you go out looking... and (4) make sure you know the model numbers that are desireable and the one's that are not; not EVERYTHING McIntosh (or anybody else) made is desireable. (The Scott 310-E tuner is the highly prized one, not the 310-C). "Infinity" and other companies changed hands so often that there are periods when really good stuff was produced and absolute junk, depending upon who owned the company at the time. When Arnie Nudell was an owner, Infinity was pressing the edge of speaker technology, not so when TWA Airlines owned Infinity. You've got to learn this stuff the way an antique dealer learns his/her craft so you know instantly if you buy it or don't. (5) Expect to get "burned" occasionally with a "bum" purchase, we've all done it. But the more knowledgeable you become, the less this will happen. There is no substitute for knowledge. I bought old rusted, dirty, homemade and kit tube amps for $50, and the guy laughed at me to his wife that some jerk would actually give him $50 for all this rusted junk. I pulled all the tubes, among which were four Westinghouse 300B's, and told him to throw the amps in his scrap heap. My Cary SEI never sounded so good when I replaced the Sovtek 300B's with the Westinghouse. (New Westinghouse 300B tubes have a "retail" of about $1000 a pair). I got a bundle of smooth plate Telefunken "diamond" 12AX7 tubes by buying old, dented Dyna preamps ($10 to $15) that I guessed probably still had the original, stock Telefunken tubes that lasted forever in that simple circuit (Note: the tubes are marked "Dyna" but I knew from the plates and the "diamond" on the bottom that they were genuine Telefunken's.) Know what to look for... and why you would buy a certain piece of gear.
Check pawn shops also. I found a Linn Kairn Pro with Brilliant Power Supply (retail $2400) for $225. The best audio deal I ever made.
great post Richgib!
Richgib, great post!

I did a search for the books you recommend, these cover older equipment than I would ever be interested in (maybe), but I also saw this book listed: "Vintage Hi-Fi Price Guide New Edition 2000-2001 New Listings!"; are you familiar with it? If so, is it a good book to have and what years does it cover?
Hi, Brian. thanks for your comments. No, I am not familiar with that book but I am going to look for it. Do you know where it is available, I would appreciate the info. Richard
Oops! Please allow for a correction to my earlier post, the 300B tubes I found in the junk old gear were "Western Electric" 300B's (not "Westinghouse" 300B's) My age is catching up to me... BTW, it also helps to have a good tube tester and a Variac if you're going to look for older tube gear...
My earlier post said Westinghouse 300B's found in rusted old amps. My error, they were WESTERN ELECTRIC 300B's... not "Westinghouse".

It can be found at this link:
Damn Richgib!! I had an old Westinghouse range I was trying to get back in the kitchen and for a minute I thought I had a lead!! Best tube cooker I ever had. Gas stuff doesn't give food the same rich warm flavor if you ask me.

Great post. I'm ordering the book.

Sincerely, I remain
Where to find "Vintage Hi-Fi Spotter's Guide". Paste the web address at the end of this comment into your browser and "click". Didn't even know Chuck had them up on a website! There are also some newer books offered by Chuck. I would recommend these to everyone seeking to learn more about vintage and collectible audio. Thanks, Brian, for researching this for me, and "Clueless", keep that Westinghouse range warm...:-)
I once found a cool old Advent Model 300 receiver at the Salvation Army for $17.95. It worked just fine. Vinyl heads love this thing because it has a sweet phono stage. A few weeks later I saw one at my local used hifi store for $250.

I am a firm believer in thrift store hifi. It's time- consuming and risky, but if you carry an RCA cable, a CD, and a little speaker wire, you can do basic tests.
Have not been lucky enough to find the hifi steals that some of you have found at garage sales...but I did find a 20" Zildjian cymbal for $1.00. I was 12 years old and this was my first REAL cymbal.
The going price for the classic Advent Receiver on the used market is $65 to $100 depending upon condition... leave it to a dealer to ask $250...