How "Rare" are Audio Classics, Really

Sellers often say things like "RARE Eucalyptus finish!'" or increasingly RARE and hard to find!

I like to read about cars, where if a certain Porsche or Ferrari numbered only in the hundreds they are indeed more valuable than mass produced models.

Collector cars which number in the single digits can cost more than a nice house in Santa Barbara.

Which makes me wonder: how rare, really, are certain collectible audio components, in terms of their production numbers?

How many Tympani IVa's, Audio Research D70's, Marantz Tuners, McIntosh power amps, Rogers LS35a's etc etc have really been made?

Please note this question applies only to real classics, from reputable manufacturers.

Your purple gull wing doored fiberglass kit car replica of Magnum PIs Ferrari may indeed be "one of kind", just like your garage built electomagnetic shielding devices and custom African hardwood enclosed power stations, but a no reserve auction will quickly confirm the true value of those "rare" items.

What are the most rare, classic audio components, and how many might remain in the world today?
Infinity IRS ... any of the series of this speaker system. Rare, expensive and still a Classic. Original Retail was $20,000 when introduced to finally $70,000. (back when $20,000 could buy you a small house)
As you realize, there are quite a few examples of 1950's and 1960's tube equipment that are both rare and desirable, including the Marantz 10B tuner and McIntosh power amps you mentioned.

I would single out for special mention, though, in terms of their overall combination of rarity and desirability, the Brook power amps (which were designed in the very early 1950's by Lincoln Walsh, and used 300B or 2A3 power tubes!), the Marantz 1 preamp, the Marantz 2 power amp, and the REL (Radio Engineering Laboratories) Precedent tuner. The word "rare" would especially apply if those preamps and power amps were found as a pair, since each piece is mono.

I have read that the REL Precedent, which apparently helped inspire the Marantz 10B, had a total production run of just a few hundred pieces. I don't know how many of the others were built.

During the early 1990's I was able to acquire examples of most of the classic Marantz tube models (I eventually sold them, which was most definitely a mistake in the case of the 1's and 2's), a few McIntosh pieces which I sold, and a REL Precedent (which I will never sell). I found them mainly via want ads I placed in local classified ad publications, and in some cases also via auctions, tag sales, etc. My impression is that in more recent years finding such pieces at semi-reasonable prices is increasingly impossible, with most of them having found their way into the hands of collectors (many of them in the Far Eastern countries).

I would also comment that the rarity of these kinds of things probably varies considerably depending on the demographics of the particular geographical location. The possibility of finding them being greatest in locations that were both well populated and affluent during the times when the items were originally sold.

-- Al
Some numbers are readily available and some are more problematic. The LS3/5A was liscensed to a number of manufacturers, Chartwell, Rogers, Spendor, etc. So numbers are going to be hard to come by, but they are pretty common speakers.

But take the JBL Paragon, for example. A genuine classic. It is documented that the speaker was in production for 27 years. Approximate output was three pairs per month. It is safe to say that total production was in the area of 1000 units.

There are very few pieces of audio gear that were made in really small numbers like this. Certainly the Beveridge electrostatics and Roger Modjeski designed Beveridge preamp fall into the category, as well as The Rappaport AMP1. But Quad ESL57s and most Mac and Marantz consumer audio products were certainly made in much greater numbers.
Ohm A

I'd guess less than a dozen pair exist.

Almost as rare as the 1967 L-88 Corvette (depending on your source 23-26 produced; supposedly 3 surviviors)
ANY Futterman OTL amp: ( (
Most of the classic units have been reproduced with updated parts, leading to much better sound. The 'classic' designs are currently being sold by Cayin/VAS. Their business model is to take the classic designs and reproduce them in a cost effective way. I've owned many Marantz and Mac classics and no way do they sound better then today's units. People who buy the classics are doing a 'collector's' thing, not looking for better sound.
Just a pet peeve: the usual use of "rare" here does not seem to reference vintage collectables of the sort people like Al are interested in, but some or another unusual or custom option -- eg, "rare braised persimmon finish." Not sure why this is even worthy of mention, in many cases, and it usually drives me to click elsewhere: "Sounds like a paint-shaker, but you'll be the only person in your subdivision to have one." Sorry, I feel better now. John

Audiofeil mentions the Ohms which seem pretty rare indeed.

Can anyone else comment on production numbers in more detail?

In cars, I believe anything in the hundreds is pretty low.

Apparently there were only 36 Ferrari 288 GTOs ever made, and they sell in the millons of dollars.
Can anyone else comment on production numbers in more detail?
FWIW, I checked my records on the Marantz pieces I owned during the 1990's. Their serial numbers ranged from about 1,700 to about 10,800. That encompasses a pair of 1's, a pair of 2's, a 7C, a pair of 9's, and two 10B's.

-- Al
I like my steak cooked "rare" but I prefer my audio equipment to be "well done".
I'll suggest one more "rare" speaker system: The Infinity Servo Staik (static?) 1A. Note not the SS 1 but the 1A.
I think both are rare but I'll bet no one has a working pair of 1A's.

Great speaker when it worked.....occasionally. however.

Rick (RWD)
Rare has it's own issues.
First off, some megabuck items were rare for a reason - they didn't perform or catch the eye of the purchasing public. The car world seems to have better records of super-flops than I've seen in audio.
Second, in autos just as in everything else, long-term legend-making is far more important than actual rarity. If I had to put X of capital up with the condition that I'd sell it on for exactly the same amount twenty years later, for the same amount of money, I'd rather have a Superfast than a GTO... but maybe that's just me... But in real life, despite the fact that Superfast is rarer, well-appointed, is probably almost as fast, is certainly more comfortable over any distance that would matter, and would be more tractable in traffic, it doesn't get the love.
Third, a no-reserve auction for a GTO held in small-town USA is different than one in Scottsdale or Monterrey, trumpeted through the press. Audiogon may not be small-town USA but it does not have the pulling power of Scottsdale.

Maybe sellers of rare items should sell only 6 times a year (one-month auctions listed on the first day of every even-numbered month). That way people would be able to see what really is rare and what a gathering of people will pay for.

to 'own' a Superfast with the caveat that I'd have to sell it for the price I I'd rather have a Ferrari Superfast
T Bone

With great respect for most of your advice and opinions, particuarly on world travel and direct drive turntables....

I might suggest that the reason a Superfast does not "get the love" of a 250 GTO is the same reason Maggie Gyllenhal doesn't get the love of Angelina Jolie.

Nobody cares that Angelina is probably not a great girlfriend or wife.

In the end, I have found that Ferraris are actually priced pretty efficiently and the reason is simple.

You are a wise man and I am sure you are correct about the reason. But Maggie?... maybe I do overestimate the 500 Superfast?
Impulse H1's msrp £2800 made 1989 (now Aspara Acoustics), only 17 pairs (apparently) on the planet.Not seen a pair for sale on the used market.IMO and obviously the other 16 extremely happy bunny owners too believe they are literally
unreplaceable and if so, with what?, and how much bucko for comparable sound quality?!. Told a lie, a pair was seen on ebay that were badly damaged and repaired, they sold for £800 ($1500).If only I had known.
In early 1947 the first run of Klipschorns were made. These were the only Klipschorns made by the Baldwin Piano Company, under contract from Paul W. Klipsch. Twelve were made, serial numbers 002-013. Of course, being made in the mono era, they were sold singly. To add to the collectability of these, the tweeters were the Western Electric 713A. These early designs were actually two-ways, notably different than the Klipschorn of today. They remain the most collectable of this model that has been in continuous production longer than any other speaker extant.