Tubes, Tubes and more Tubes...

So I inherited probably over 500+ vintage tubes 9 pins, Octals, some strange ones that look like 16-pins and some 4-pins that look like mini 300Bs. They are from an old radio station that used them in their equipment and also in radio repair in the 50's through the 70's. Once they switched over to new equipment in the 70s and 80s all the tubes were all shelved. I've pulled the ones I can use for my equipment (6SN7GTBs, 12SN7GTB,s 6BQ7As, 12AU7,12AT7s) but I'm not sure what to do with the rest. They are 98% NOS in boxes, Mostly RCA but lots of Tung-Sol, Amprex and PhilipsECG with the used ones marked. I was thinking of listing them on Reverb but... It's soooo many it would take years and most are singles. What would you do? 


You could sell them as a lot to a tube dealer by taking photos and listing what you have but I wouldn't let them cherry pick- make them take 'em all- you'll get a fraction of what you might be able to sell some of them for at retail, but dealing with tire kickers, returns and shipping is a fair amount of work. The usual suspects:

Andy at Vintage Tube Services- my fav- but he is a little slow on the retail side- still a good guy to deal w/, knows his tubes;

Brent Jesse- well known in these parts;

Tube Depot and a couple other retailers of that ilk.

Brendon Bievers- Tube World (Express) 

I'm not friendly with the Upscale guy and don't do business with him- some folks like him.

I'm assuming you are in the States. If not, these dealers are probably not the droids you are looking for. 

Good luck- with the paucity of tubes, particularly NOS (and especially NIB NOS) you might make out ok if you aren't interested in top dollar. 

i agree

andy baumann or brent jesse, maybe jim mcshane as well, would be very happy to buy the lot for a reasonable bulk price and sort through... they do this all the time

They are not going to be worth much unless they have been tested. Tube dealers will want them super cheap. Even though they are in the boxes doesn't mean they are NOS, they need to test NOS. I have sold 3400 tubes in a year and a half using eBay & Craigslist. 




they did have a methodology to their madness. All the used tubes have a penned "X" on them or have the tube type written over the original printed box. I've opened roughly 20 of each to see that the pins are visibly discolored and the silkscreening is not perfect on the X'd ones and the non-X'd ones have no heat discoloration on the pins and the silk screening is great. 

And "NOS" doesn't mean never used. It's a marketing term for a tube that "tests" good. How are the tubes tested? At high voltage? Good luck doing this on your own unless @dill is suggesting he can do this and handle marketing. 

I buy quality tubes- I'm picky, I don't buy used up tubes- it's getting harder to find true never used NOS of desirable tubes. The OP will have to decide what amount of time and effort he wants to put into the process and how much return he expects. I'll pay for the right tube. Some are pretty much unobtanium on the open market. Or you pay through the nose for them. 

If gear can use a modern production tube and sound good, more power to you. 

500 tubes can be listed on ebay "sold as is" and get you good cash.

Finding a dealer to sell them all at once will get you much less.

Buying a tube tester and list them with readings will get you much more.

Depends on rarity of tube, your time spent and how professionally you want to do it.

Hi Dave -

This is from personal experience, which I don't believe you have heard from yet.

My dad had a repair shop that he opened up following his return from the Army in 1947.  His stock in trade was TVs, Radios, and all Appliances.  The business name was Chief Radio (a play on the military rank of Radio Chief).  The store was in Brooklyn.  That's me with the Chief in my name photo.

When we liquidated the business, there was a wall of tubes in boxes to contend with.  Every manufacturer you could think of.  Plus drawers full of used tubes.  From the smallest tubes to the largest tubes.  Had to be a few thousand.  

NO ONE (let me repeat NO ONE) wanted this stock at any price, plus I would have to pay shipping costs, if I would give them away for free.  It wasn't just tubes.  I went through similar with the Major Appliance Makers' In-House Museums (GE, Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid) as I had several dozen new in the box household appliances that I wanted to donate.

Several issues with tubes.  It is expensive to store & grade & catalog & value all your tubes to eventually sell.  Also, it was a popular practice to re-shelf tubes that were not completely spent.  What you think are NOS, are unfortunately not NOS.  Everyone realizes this.  You are not the first one to deal with this situation.  Also, most tubes were made for TVs, not audio.  Unless you wish to make this your new career, it is as though you just acquired a new albatross.

I held on to the stock for several years.  At one point, I invited Art Dudley (Stereophile) over to the shop.  I had a number of larger raw speakers that I gifted him, along with some old wooden radios.   He shook his head with the tube task in front of me.  Also had Gary Dell'Abate (Howard Stern) over for some old microphones and radios.  Contacted just about every tube dealer that I could identify ... no bites.  

I eventually tossed everything.  Bothered me greatly.  Also had to exercise caution as I was throwing out glass and cardboard, both recyclables.  

This is only my story.  Others may disagree.  Hell, most may disagree with what I did.  You have the problem now.  Good luck.



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"This is from personal experience, which I don’t believe you have heard from yet."

- Evidently you haven’t read all the responses on this topic. I sold 3500+ tubes in 1 1/2 years working on them part time, he only has 500+. All one has to do is write up an inventory, see what they sold for retail & on ebay. Tubes are easy to pack & ship. Then group the lower price tubes and sell the higher priced one in singles, pairs or quads. All the tubes have to be tested with test results included for the more valuable ones. All low value tubes can be sold as a lot on Craigslist. After expenses I made just shy of 24 grand and a about 1/3 of them where used. Step one is looking up the sold value of the tubes to determine whether or not it’s worth your time.

"It is expensive to store & grade & catalog & value all your tubes to eventually sell."

- Not if one does it themselves and puts in the time.

Also, most tubes were made for TVs, not audio.

Maybe, maybe not, but some of the most sought after tubes are military & medical grade, which I'm guessing we not used for TVs.  

@ Dill - my apologies as no disrespect was intended.  I got from your experience  that you were running an on-line business of selling tubes.  This was not what I was getting from the OP and certainly not what I saw myself doing at that point in my life.  I sought out advice from a number of people in the industry, I spoke with a lot of people.  It's work, the sweat equity type, no escaping it.  Whether it's something you want to take on or not, that is where my comments were heading.  Hats off to what you were able to accomplish.


"NOS" means never used except in your tester. Most come with original boxes, some JAN tubes do not. This term is overused and one of the tube dealers mentioned above sells "NOS in white boxes" which means test as new in white boxes. Not the same thing. NOS is like being pregnant you either is or you aint. Can be hard to tell sometimes.

Test results are no indication as to the use or lack of with a tube. With new factory tube test results varying up to 20% or greater with these old stock offerings it is not rare to see a lightly used tube test higher than a new tube. Further, there are a number of additional things one can do to asses the condition of a used tube. I think that life (cathode strength) tests are invaluable in this regard.

Selling old stock tubes has been my sole source of income for over 20 years and I just recently opened a 2 channel dealership. I would be happy to make an offer on these tubes, but as others have pointed out there are many variables at play and I wont give you a higher price unless I can test before making my offer. 


As detailed above, NOS is a often incorrectly used term.  The only tubes I ever bought that were labelled NOS that I thought were possibly the real deal were Telefunken ECC803 tubes.  The boxes they came in were the brightly colored boxes typical for these Telefunken tubes.  When I carefully tried to open the box, the end flaps practically crumbled.  They were very old and fragile at that point.  It appeared that the tubes in those boxes had been in there for a very long time, which greatly added to the credibility of the claim of NOS status.