What to consider with used Sota Sapphire??

A local pawn shop has an old Sota Sapphire: Sumiko MMT arm (I think), detachable headshell, oak frame w/ black plinth, the headshell has been replaced with a Stanton, cartridge is a Stanton as well. Has hinges for a dustcover, but no cover. Had been $375, but recently marked down to $275.
I already HAVE a good table, so I'm not really in the market for another; still, I got my thinking cap on just for the hypothetical "purchase" of the table.

The manual for the SOTA is available on Vinyl Engine and points out the somewhat elaborate box that SOTA uses for shipping: the table is locked down to plywood, so shipping stress is minimized. I've read that the bearing of the Sapphire is somewhat fragile and the manual suggests locking the transit screws even for a crosstown move.
In the pawn shop, the suspension is quite loose and springy, so I wonder if someone schlepped the table to the store with it bouncing up and down in the back of someone's SUV??? And wonder what chances of damage were if transported this way??
The new SOTA sells a shipping package for $65, but if the damage is already done, a person would have to consider sending it back to SOTA for a tune-up (and of course further expense). A replacement headshell is $40 from Needle Doc, new dustcover is $185, the bearing could be replaced if damaged (~$200?).
A suspension table is supposed to be springy so I don't know what you can tell from just that, but it sure doesn't sound like this table has been treated with kindness. I would factor in the probabilities of major problems into the real purchase cost. You might even have probles with the arm as well (nice arm if its not damaged). Buying a used TT that might have to be shipped in less than the original carton w/proper packing (original) is not something I would ever undertake. The probability of shipping damages are infinite and probably not insurable. I feel much the same about buying from a pawn shop unless you are just buying spare parts. Much safer to look for a better deal elsewhere.
What I was thinking of in terms of the springy suspension was whether or not if had been transported to the store properly (i.e. with the transit screws tight) and THEN intentionally loosened back up. I don't think the pawn shop employees have enough expertise to have done this.

If I had been visiting someone's home where the table was in use and for sale, the springy suspension wouldn't necessarily concern me (esp. if the owner showed me the original shipping box and KNEW what a transit screw is).
Hey Doodledog, I had a Star Sapphire III with vacuum pump and moved into a house no more than a mile away from the old one. I thought, what the heck, its just a mile, and put the Sota on my lap driving and tried to hold the suspension from bouncing. Well, it didn't work and I destroyed the suspension. SOTA was out of business back in 1998, so I sold it on audiogon for $400 dollars. Some tweak guy really got a deal. Be careful if you buy it. I would have someone else drive and hold it in your lap with both hands and you might do better than I. It is a great table with an SME V.
I've read some similar tales on other forums. The new SOTA company offers the official shipping box for $65 (which seems pretty steep for a box) but it might well be worth it if it keeps the table intact. I doubt that I'll buy the table, but I thought it might be good to get this thread in the archives for someone down the road in a similar situation.

With pawn shops, I always wonder whether merchandise has been stolen----that might well explain the missing dustcover.
There are many upgrades for the Sota, depending on age.
I'm going to guess you'll pay 2 or 3 times your initial investment, to make this current.
You should give the serial # to Sota, & ask them the exact vintage, before you buy this piece.
Yup, I'm an ex SOTA owner.......
The box is expensive, but without it the suspension will be destroyed. The springs for the suspension support it from the top, not from underneath as is typical. The box has a plywood base that is cut out for the feet and drilled for the bolts which allow the table to be transported safely.

You don't say what table you already have so it's hard to recommend whether or not to buy this, but if there's no box I'd guess the suspension is trashed.

I am a current Sota owner, and I love their products. Call Sota (or visit http://www.sotaturntables.com) and talk to Donna. See if she thinks it's worth the money or effort.
I have a Nottingham Spacedeck with a Origin Lived Rega arm that I'm happy with. I had considered buying the SOTA just as an experiment and selling whichever table I preferred least, but I'm a bit scared off by the thought of having to invest more $$ into the SOTA.

since I have a table already, I'm less likely to buy the SOTA as is; if I were starting from scratch, the SOTA might well be worthwhile even if it needed $300-600 in upgrades.
Doodledog- not a good deal in and of itself. If you are not a sota man, I would pass. SOTA does buy used tables. They also offer refurbushing and trades. Two problems. You are right about the springs. They will have to be replaced. This was always a major problem with the early sota tables. Second transporting the table without tieing down the springs can cause the sapphire bearing to crack. If it's cracked, it should be obvious.

Bottom line- if you want a sota it could be good for a trade or refurbishing. If not leave it alone.

The arm is also go good.
Thanks everyone,
while I was only half-considering the table, the comments were very helpful. Perhaps someone down the line will benefit from this thread when he finds it in the archives.