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"I swear it is mint"
or "What is this really worth?"

One of our customers recently bought a receiver through the Internet. It was a Marantz 2220, a small receiver of the mid 70's. It was characterized a being in perfect condition so this fellow paid $100 for it. When it came, sure enough it was very pretty. It was physically very attractive and had a nice wood case. It didn't really work though. The panel lamps were burned out and the controls were noisy and it was very difficult to tune in the radio. He brought it to us for evaluation and we found that it was electronically sound, but that it had received no service work in a long time so naturally it performed well below its potential. It in fact needed full normal restoration work, the cost of which is about $150, if done properly. The real value of a Marantz 2220, nicely turned out and working well is about $200. This means that a pretty one, prior to restoration, has a real value of $50 at the most, and since it is a hassle to carry it out to get it restored, the real value of this piece was about $30 or $40. In other words, he got stung, and paid quite a bit more than the real value of the piece.

I have seen this same story repeated over and over again. I cannot tell you how many times someone has brought in an absolute dog and has characterized it as being mint, or some other superlative. I have lost all patience with the idea that a machine in the 20 plus year range can possibly be mint or any other adjective implying some measure of perfection, unless a highly skilled technician has recently gone through the machine to give it the requisite TLC. The fact is that any machine with more that 6 or 7 years under its belt MUST have a certain amount of service before it may be considered to be in premium condition. Machines that have been properly serviced may be taken seriously. Machines in raw condition belong in garage sales and their value is 20% of what it would be were it in premium condition.

Since you still require convincing, let me try another approach. Suppose that you love vintage automobiles. You have just discovered the most beautiful '67 Buick Riviera. The body is great, the interior is perfect, it shines like a new penny, and it has very low actual miles. You have all of the service records and you note that it still has the original belts, hoses, hydraulics, and shocks. It works mind you, but these have not been changed in 36 years. If your daddy taught you any sort of prudence, I do not think you will be too keen on driving your new Riviera to El Paso in the summertime before you have replaced those belts, hoses, etc. If you decide otherwise, I am sure as hell not going to go with you.

My point in all of this is to give you a sense of the methods a professional uses to evaluate the value of a used piece of equipment. You will agree that any article worth talking about has a dollar value that can be professionally appraised. This value is ultimately dictated by the price the item will fetch consistently on the open market. The price of used cars will vary greatly according to the condition of the vehicle. With stereos, it is more subtle, but obviously a machine which performs to spec and does so reliably is worth a great deal more than one which is marginal, regardless of physical appearance. Used stereos are value-added goods. When they sit at the garage sale, they have one value, and after they have had full restoration, they are worth quite a bit more. So what is it really worth?

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