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Dayton reflections

I almost didn’t go to Dayton this year. I really didn’t need anything and, with my daughter’s wedding coming up, money was tight. Bill Steffey encouraged me to bring some stuff to sell and, as I have never done that before, it seemed intriguing. So, I partnered with Bill’s club from Washington, PA at their booth, 4010, in the outdoor flea market. This is the very back row outside the north door. (I mention that fact for those of you who need something outside to get oriented! I overheard this all too common comment from a gentleman from England. He poked his head out of one of the doors where I was entering and mumbled to himself, “Wow, I am really turned around.” He had to look outside to figure out where he was inside! Dayton inside is very confusing if you are not used to the rambling collection of buildings and passageways. Outside, Dayton is relatively organized in lanes.)

Before leaving town, I collected a carload of gear to sell. Some NSRC Club stuff, lots of my own – and not all ham gear. I brought some higher end audiovisual equipment. I was trying to clean out some of my storage locker. Over the years, I have seen many people who worked as vendors, drop their gear on a table and leave their booth. I was determined to stay at my booth and represent my gear till most of it was sold.

I set up my table at 7:30 a.m.…the flea market opens early at 8 a.m. Immediately there were people wandering the open-air market.

The traffic at 8 a.m. was very busy. I had lots of inquiries and great conversations. At first, I had put prices on the equipment, Based on what I seen similar items sell for on the Internet. The stickers were meant to serve as a memory guide, and I thought they would facilitate selling, but I was wrong. I quickly learned that they prevented conversation, so I took the stickies off. Over the years, I watched Ron Harroff work the aisles at other ham fests and he does it right. When someone shows any interest in an item, he would engage them in conversation and tell them about the history of the item or reviews from ham reviews. So, I borrowed heavily from Ron’s technique and was in business. People soon arrived, making offers and counter offers, money started to flow in and the gear moved. I loved hearing the stories from the buyers about the plans they had for the gear. One guy is building a new VHF repeater and needed some duplexers for his Club in Texas. Another young man came to Dayton only to buy a cassette tape deck. When he saw the one I brought, he knew he had his found his item. He pulled his parents over to show them. Well, they had all sorts of tough questions: “Where was it used? How was it used? What condition are the heads?” Frankly, they asked more questions than I was prepared to answer. Eventually, I sold audio deck sold to them…and I was thrilled to see it fall into hands of someone who knew what he was getting and would provide it a nice home. By the end of Friday, I had sold 80% of the gear I brought. My plan was to sell for 2 hours on Saturday morning and then hit the flea market and inside halls myself.

One of the thrills was to see how the market sets the price. There was a lady across from me who recently lost her husband and was selling his gear off. She had everything marked (like I had done earlier) but priced way too high. At first, she was unwilling to move off her listed price…so the mics sat there. After a couple of hours, I made an offer on one of the mics for Greg Karlove, who was looking for one. We got it for about half of what she was asking.

Bill Steffey had a pile of some older desk mics and a guy came over and said all he wanted were the mic elements. He could care less about the mic housing. Bill popped open the mouthpiece cover and this guy pulled out some side cutters and took just the part he wanted. Turns out these mics are perfect for his avocation. He builds mics for harmonica players. Apparently, there is a niche market for these things.

There is something for everyone at Dayton!

It was amazing to sit inside a booth and watch the traffic float by. I had one older rig that I was going to sell. This radio was a huge crowd magnet. People would come up and look at it in wonder – it brought back memories of times when it was their first rig. There were a few price inquiries, but most just looked. I learned that for just attracting people to your table, having a vintage radio on your table can be a great crowd beacon. I never sold that rig, which is fine. After hearing all of the stories, I wanted to play with the radio more myself.

10 a.m. Saturday. I finally get my chance to walk around the flea market and “do Dayton” I didn’t go far before I discovered my own first radio…the Hallicrafters SX100. I had been looking for this rig for year. Totally an emotional thing. Years ago, my wife convinced me to throw my first beloved receiver away because it was sitting in the attic (I have since learned to just move these items to a different storage place where the wife can’t see the thing, but at the time, I wanted be a compliant husband and so tossed it out. Big mistake. I missed it. It was like I had lost part of my youth. Well at Dayton, I had seen them listed a wide variety of prices and conditions, but generally in the $300 range. There I was standing in front the rig and the guy had $150 sticker on the thing. I offered him $125 and he took it! I have my rig back.

When I got home I fired that rig up and immediately was transported back in time. I remember the smell of those tubs warming up. I connected an antenna and soon was pulling stations off the air. It sounded as good as I remember it, although I have to refresh my memory about how the dual dials are calibrated. The next problem was finding a home for it on my shack shelf. But I feel complete…got my first short wave listening station back.

So, Dayton was terrific. Great way to catch up with friends from around the country, fun to see new and old suppliers. The QRP event seminar was good, although a little bittersweet since the headline attraction Dr. George Dobbs, G3RJV, the Vicar from England who spent his life as a QRP advocate, announced that this would be his last Dayton. Dobbs has a very dry sense of humor and loves building radios from surplus parts. He has inspired a generation of QRP folks, demonstrating how we can bring the hobby back home to our own workbenches. And, Elecraft, whose roots are designing and building QRP kits, also was there to introduce their next generation radio. That’s Dayton. A mix of the old and the new. Bargains, deals and fun. I am really glad I went.