How to Get Rid of Ham Radio Equipment in an Estate or Pre-Estate State
While there are Boy Scouts who earn ham radio licenses, the average ham radio operator is around sixty years old. Whether the family needs to sell ham radio equipment in an estate sale or a ham operator finds themselves needing to hold a pre-estate sale so they can downsize and move to a retirement home, the classic solution of offering the gear to his buddies is increasingly unlikely to work. Many hams have fewer friends in their clubs, and even fewer who need it or want it. Where, then, can you sell ham radio equipment when downsizing or after the ham becomes a silent key?
Local Radio Club
The first option for selling or donating ham radio gear is contacting the local ham radio club members if they want it. They may be able to try to sell it for you at the next swap meet or convention. Some ham radio clubs hold “silent key sales”, where the club holds a sale for the ham that has gone silent (passed on) at no charge. If you donate the equipment to the club, you receive a tax write-off. If you donate the equipment to the group, they can still hold the silent key sale and use the money to fund the group. Or they can donate the equipment to new hams so they can get more young people engaged in the hobby.
If you want to clear out the ham radio gear in a pre-estate sale, call the ham radio club and ask who wants what or when the next ham radio sale is.
You can make donations while alive or from an estate. The problem is finding a home for everything. Unlike older appliances, most ham radio gear isn’t going to be accepted by Goodwill or the Salvation Army. You can contact Excess Access and see if they can find a home for the gear. All else fails, Excess Access can sell the gear to an electronics recycler to fund their other donation / exchange programs.
Computer manufacturers like Dell, HP and Apple have e-cycling policies. These programs are geared toward computers, but it could apply to other electronics. Dell’s donation program even finds homes for good quality equipment with relevant charities like Dad's old micron oscilloscope from the electronics lab.
Estate sales are unlikely to be successful ways to get rid of ham radio equipment unless promoted as an “amateur gear” estate sale. Clearly identifying the sale as offering ham radio gear will bring out those who buy the estate sale items, fix that knob that Dad never did while knowing which half-finished or poorly repaired gear has to go, before selling it at a convention. These people also have the knowledge to determine which collectible gear will sell for several hundred dollars on an online auction site and which should be dropped off with an electronics recycler.
Yes, these sales can bring out the sharks who will pay $100 for a pile worth $400 - but they are also going to take the time to catalog everything, determine the value of individual items, donate and sell what has no market value and you get money to use toward the estate's obligations today.
What about when you're still alive? Can you still have an estate sale to sell ham radio gear? While some estate sale companies offer assistance with pre-estate sales, such as downsizing one’s home before moving, few will help you if you have a lot of ham radio equipment.
Recycling is an option whether you are downsizing or deceased.
A ham’s QSLs, awards and logs will have little value if their friends don’t want them. The old copies of CQ magazine, too, are unlikely to sell online or at the half price book store. One valid use for this material is putting it in a paper recycling bin, especially those that recycle the paper and donate part of the proceeds to charity.
Electronics recyclers, those who will take any type of electronics waste from old computers to very old flip phones, will usually take ham radio equipment. Many e-cyclers will take extension cords, power cords and other cables as well. Research the electronics recycler before you drop off the gear, because some of them will not accept copiers, ham radio equipment, cameras with film or anything else that may require hazardous waste handling procedures. Digital electronics will be more likely to be accepted by these electronics recyclers than anything with vacuum tubes.
Note: Due to US federal government regulations, nearly all electronics recyclers will refuse cathode ray (old fashioned) TVs and CRT monitors.