Vintage Electronics

selling vintage electroncis

How to Sell Vintage Electronics and Components on eBay


Vintage electronics are a great source of Almost Free Money that you can find at garage sales, thrift stores, or even junk piles!

You can make good money from both working and broken electronics by selling the on eBay, parting them out and selling components, or selling parts as scrap metal or e-scrap.


Maximize Profits in Vintage Electronics


vintage tube radio components

Tubes from vintage electronics can be sold on Etsy and eBay


There are several things that you will want to research BEFORE you take apart any vintage electronic item.

Research Completed Items on eBay, and determine which components are worth selling. Again, you should know ahead of time which assemblies are better sold whole, and which assemblies should be broken down into even smaller components, or individual parts.Check out this excellent free site, which describes in detail how to disassemble many different large vintage electronics and appliances for scrap value.



Once you have an idea of which parts you will be removing for sale, take your item to a location where you can make a mess, but not lose any small parts. A large table top or counter top works well.  Gather you tools. The tools you will use most often are: both types of screwdrivers, needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, an adjustable wrench, a hammer (Oh, yeah! Breaking’ stuff is fun!), a magnet, several large vinyl trash bag, and safety glasses.

You can greatly expedite the process with a cordless drill or power screwdriver with both driver bits. A power rotary tool (Dremel) with a supply of cut-off disks and a drill bit is well worth the investment, if you do not have one. I use mine constantly.

You may also need a set of sockets, and you will occasionally find exotic screw heads like star bits and Allen wrench heads, but if you have a rotary tool, you can cut off the screws, or make them into standard screwdriver heads by slicing them with the cut-off disk. You will also use the rotary tool often for cutting off rusted or stripped screws and bolts. It also cuts through thick copper cord insulation like butter, saving you tons of time!

Please heed a word of caution. Before you start breaking stuff, make sure you know what you are doing. Remember, in the 1950s and 60s, nobody even knew what a ‘health code violation’ was. Old electronics and appliances can contain some nasty stuff. There is mercury inside some old glass switches and components, for instance. You should not open anything that is sealed in glass, or welded shut, unless you know for sure what is inside.

Disassembling Vintage Electronics: Procedures


OK, now that we got that out of the way, let’s break some stuff.  Start on the outside and CAREFULLY remove any decorative items, advertising badges, knobs, feet, etc., that you can sell.

Remember, the plastic is going to be old and brittle on vintage items. If you snap the emblem in half, it is worthless. Believe me, I have broken some, even though I was being very careful. Even the glass in the display covers is more brittle in many older components.

After the outer pieces are removed, check eBay Completed Listings to see if the outer shell of your item can be sold. Often, the shells and cases of audio components, and even rotary telephones can be sold.

I usually start by using the cordless drill and unscrewing all of the screws that I can see on the outside of the device. Remove the outer shell, or the access panel to get at the interior of the item. If the shell is going to be sold, put it in your ‘Sell’ pile. If it is not going to be sold and it is plastic, throw it in your trash bag. If it is metal, hit it with a magnet. If it is ferrous, throw it in your ‘Steel’ pile. Sometimes the shell will be aluminum and should be saved in its own pile with other aluminum.

I save all of my screws, bolts and other connectors, as well. I put them all in a large coffee can. When it’s full, I intend to sell the lot on eBay in the vintage electronics category for about $20.

I also sometimes use various screws when I need them for household repairs, or sometimes screws are sold with components, and I need to replace a couple that I lost. Occasionally, you will find screws and bolts made of solid brass or aluminum. Save these in their respective scrap pile.

Now that you are into the interior of the item, find the components that you are looking to sell and remove them. Put them in your Sell pile. Save the screws and attachments that affix the items that you are going to sell if possible and sell them with the component. If you lose a screw, do not worry about it. The screws are just insurance, in case the buyer needs them. They are not required.

Try to avoid clipping wires connected to components that you plan to sell. Carefully pull wires that have jacks or plugs from their ports using needle-nose pliers. Remember, your buyer is going to be hooking the component into his system, and is not going to want to splice wires, if it is avoidable.

If there are multiple components available to buy on eBay, and some of the listings have the entire wires, with the plugs, and yours have clipped ends, your item will not get many bids, or will not sell if it is a fixed price auction.

Once all of your sellable components have been removed, the fun starts. Take one last look, and see if there might be anything else that you could sell that you did not find on eBay before. When you are satisfied that everything that could be sold has been removed, you are ready to start scrapping.


How to Sell Vintage Electronics and Components


vintage electronics eBay

You should realize that there are also whole components that can be sold as scrap, on eBay, via an E-Scrap website, or at your local scrap yard. Internet sites such as offer fixed prices for vintage electronics items such as computer hard drives, circuit boards, cellular telephones, and computer power supply boxes. You should check these sites so that you know what you will be saving, and the prices that are offered. Several of these sites are listed in the appendices of this document, with hyperlinks to their websites.

Now that you know what you are looking for, get out your USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes. Label the boxes with the materials that you intend to place in them. In addition, you will need extra-large boxes or totes for ferrous steel, and medium and low class circuit boards. You will have a lot of these materials.


I normally collect a fair amount of vintage electronics and appliance parts before I have a dis-assembly session, so that I can get a lot of scrap to sell at one time.

When I start scrapping, I always have the following Large Flat Rate boxes ready for material collection: Bare Copper, Insulated Copper, Bare Brass (It is OK to have copper attached to brass, and most scrap yards allow chrome covering over brass, as well), old aluminum, shiny aluminum (often aluminum heat sinks), and a smaller box for silver and gold contacts and components I intend to break down for precious metal content.

If there are computer hard drives in the pile, they usually require their own special boxes for material that will be sold separately, or sent to Boardsort.

I usually keep another box of copper / aluminum heat sinks, and later take the Dremel to the copper wire. If you use the cut-off disk on the Dremel, you can slice the copper all the way down to the spool, and then peel off the copper.

Place the copper in your shiny copper box, and save the heat sink bases. They are often stainless steel, and can be sold separately at scrap yards for decent money. You will find a lot of large heat sinks in old electronics and appliances. I found a heat sink several days ago in a 1950s industrial washing machine that had almost ten pounds of copper spooled inside it. The stainless base weighed 18 pounds.

I also save all of my plug ends from electrical cords in a box, and later peel the prongs off with pliers or cut open the plug end with the rotary tool, and then remove the metal. Older plugs have brass prongs, and most newer plugs are made of shiny aluminum. You are required to cut the plug ends off of copper electrical cords before you can sell them at the scrap dealer, so you will be cutting off the plug ends, anyway.

Boardsort also offers a fixed rate for wire and cord connectors that contain gold. Many of the  computer connectors that resemble bristles at the ends or have many tiny holes, contain small amounts of gold and silver. Ribbon ends also frequently contain precious metals. You may decide to save these connectors in a box, and sell them on eBay, as well.

Most scrap dealers also buy vintage electronics components containing copper as ‘Copper Breakage’ or ‘Electric Motors’. Save components containing copper in a box. Many of these components can also be easily broken open with a hammer or cut open with a Dremel, and then you can remove the copper and brass pieces that are inside to maximize your profits.

Make sure that you are keeping an eye out for precious metal contacts while you are scrapping. Vintage electronics and appliances can have relatively large contacts that are often pure silver, and sometimes gold. Look on the ends of brass and copper fingers where wires are connected, inside all electric motors, and inside any components that spin at high speeds or generate a lot of heat.  Contacts inside vintage electronics can range in size from the width of a pencil lead all the way up to the diameter of a large watch battery.

Many gold contacts will be bright and shiny gold-colored buttons. They are easy to spot, as gold does not tarnish. Silver contacts can be more difficult to find, as they are often dulled and tarnished with age, and can blend in with the base material.

If you are unsure if the contacts are silver or gold, lightly scrape them with a screwdriver, or hit them with the Dremel disk. The will be bright and shiny under the exterior coating of grime. If you’re still not sure, test with your gold tester, or throw them in your ‘Gold and Silver’ box and refine it with the rest of your material in the box later.

When you find good contacts, clip the button of silver or gold off, and then keep the base material for brass or copper scrap. Don’t waste the whole brass or copper finger by refining it in your gold and silver material.

When you fill up the Flat Rate boxes, photograph the materials inside, weigh the box (take a photo of the box with the scale read-out), label the box with the weight, and then list the material on EBay, or save it to take to the scrap dealer.

The last step is the most important. Make sure that you clean up your mess after you are done bashing vintage electronics!  If you do your business inside, your significant other will not be happy with the end result of your destruction. If they are not happy, then you will not be happy either, right?

To Assemble or Disassemble? That is the Question!


One of the more difficult decisions in maximizing profits on large pieces of vintage electronics or machinery is figuring out whether to sell the entire item on eBay, or to take the item apart and sell the interior components.There are several things that will affect your decision.

The first is the overall size of the item. It is common to find large appliances, console stereos, exercise equipment and other similar-sized items with a ‘FREE’ sign on them along the roadways in any small town. Should you pick them up? Heck yes, you should.The question then becomes, how do I sell this bulky piece of junk? Obviously, nobody is going to pay the shipping fees for shipping these items weighing several hundred pounds, unless the item is extremely valuable.

It is possible that you could sell the item on eBay, with a free local pickup option for the shipping method. The winning bidder then has to make arrangements with you to pick up the item after the auction is completed.  You can also list the vintage electronics item on Craig’s List or in the local classified section of your newspaper.Selling the vintage electronics item whole is often the fastest and least time-intensive method of selling large items. There is almost zero preparation time, and you can often unload items in one week or less. You should sell items whole if you determine that the item is collectible in the condition you find it in (no restoration costs to you), and if you think somebody near you would want to buy it. This is often the case with audio equipment, jukeboxes, large advertising items, and arcade games.These types of vintage electronics items that have many collectors, and they will buy whole items whether they work, or not. There are some issues to consider when selling whole items, such as the ones that we have discussed.

The most important issue is that in order for you to sell the item, you have to know whether it works, or not. If you advertise that the item works, it had better be completely functional. This is especially true if you sell your item on eBay, as you do not want to receive negative feedback from your buyers, or nobody will want to bid on your auctions.

You may decide to advertise the item in ‘As-Is’ condition, which means that buyer or bidder is buying your item as they see it in the ad or auction page.  ‘As-Is’ condition means that you are unsure of the operating condition of the machinery and components, or that you know that the machine does not work.

Imagine how you would feel if you bought a cool collectible vintage jukebox, and then it broke down after you played less than ten songs on it. You’d want your money back, right? I honestly have sold very few large whole items, due to the problems.  Nobody wants to pay shipping costs on these types of items, and gas prices prevent people from driving long distances to pick them up.  It’s also routinely more profitable to disassemble large vintage electronics and sell the components on eBay.

  • I can remember multiple occasions, where I attempted to sell vintage electronics items that weighed between ten and seventy pounds on eBay and received no bids at under $10, due to the shipping costs. After I received no bids, I disassembled the electronics and sold the components for 5 to 10 times that amount within several weeks. One good example of this was a vintage 1960’s console stereo / record player that we found at a garage sale for $5. We hauled it home and put in our basement. It worked great! It had a sharp looking wooden cabinet, and contained a radio, a record turntable, and even an 8- track player with some old working Elvis, Aerosmith and Johnny Cash tapes.
  • I don’t remember the manufacturer, but it was a mid-range brand name that I was familiar with. In other words, it was not a top-of-the-line collectible brand. Everything worked great on the console, and I used it a lot when we first got it, and then less and less frequently over time. Eventually, we decided that the console took up a lot of room and we wanted to go another route with décor in the basement, so we tried to sell the stereo.
  • We listed the whole console on eBay for $20, with a free local pickup shipping method. It did not receive a bid for three re-lists at $20. My wife wanted to put the console out for free at the roadside, but I said no. Even though this was at the beginning of our selling careers, I knew enough to take apart the console and try to sell the interior parts. It has been about seven years since we sold the console, but from my recollection, it took about four hours to completely take it apart. It took a couple of hours to research which parts to sell on eBay, and another couple of hours to list the items. After about two weeks, I had sold the 8-track tapes for $20, the 8-track player for about $25, some parts off of the turntable for $15, two sets of large interior speakers for $35, the cloth wiring for $10, the tuner assembly for $15, and then scrapped the rest for another $20-30 in scrap copper and other metals.
  • If I knew then what I know now, I would have made another $20-30 in selling name plates, the turntable stylus, the cloth speaker coverings, and other items, and also an extra $10+ in scrap gold and silver contacts. You get the point. Recently, I helped my mother remove a 10-year old treadmill exercise machine from her house. I took it apart in less than an hour, and sold the motor for $25, the digital display for $15, the rollers for $10, the track for $5, and it had about $25 worth of scrap metal in it afterwards. I found an old dead Pioneer tuner stereo at a garage sale for free about three years ago, and sold the oak case for $50, the metal screw-on feet for almost $20, and the name plate for another $10. I sold assorted components for another $20, and there was about $10 worth of scrap metal inside, mostly copper, aluminum and brass.
  • These are not just isolated incidents, I find these great vintage electronics all of the time. If you think about it, the selling of components makes much more sense on many levels. The shipping cost for these smaller components is usually going to be under $10. People can afford to pay for shipping for parts, rather than paying significantly higher shipping costs for whole units. There are many, many collectors of these types of vintage electronics. If you can think of a popular type of vintage electronics, somebody probably collects them.
  • Collectors enjoy tinkering with interior components, upgrading parts, and customizing their units. Plus, these vintage electronics often break down, and parts fail. In other words, people that like these old machines need parts often, and these are the type of people who enjoy being on a computer and buying things online. Vintage electronics components are also very difficult to find at physical stores, even in metropolitan areas. Do remember seeing stores that sell vintage audio or computer components? Me either. It’s much easier to go to eBay and find what you are looking for there, than to locate a physical store that sells vintage replacement parts.



Article Name
Selling Vintage Electronics on eBay
Learn selling vintage electronics on eBay. How to identify high value electronics and sell online or as components to collectors. Excellent business opportunity
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