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Advice for Buying and Selling Used Equipment October 8, 2013

Posted by aquillam in MichiganAstro.
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One of the most common questions I get is some variation of “I inherited some equipment. How do I sell it?”  Another common question I get is where to buy a telescope. For those willing to buy used, these two questions have the same answer.


First, check with your local astronomy club. You can find a local club by a Google search, and by looking at the club directories from Sky and TelescopeAstronomy magazine, and the Night Sky Network.


Some clubs have message boards and equipment exchanges, where members can post equipment for sale or exchange.  You may be able to find a member willing to post information for you, or you may have to join the club. Some clubs sponsor a gathering, like a show and sale, where people with equipment to sell can rent a table. These are often annual events, so you may have to wait quite a while for one of these. Also, the size of the event matters, and it’s not always possible to know how big the event will be before it occurs. Clubs are especially useful for buyers, since the equipment comes with the expertise of the club members, and you’ll probably get the chance to try it before you buy it. If you’re not actually interested in astronomy and just want to get rid of equipment, and the club requires membership to use the exchange or rent a table, it’s probably not the best choice.


If the clubs don’t work, check out the online astronomy markets. Users of these sites are interested in astronomy and go to these sites looking for astronomy equipment. Astromart  and Cloudy Night Classifieds are both large classified services with a long history and large user base. They are good places to research how much you should ask or expect to spend on a telescope, even if you don’t actually use their services.  Sellers are normally required to pay a fee to post the ad. Buyers should check out the seller’s history.


Other online marketplaces, such as EBay or Craig’s list, have an even larger user base. However, it can be harder to get your ad to stand out, to find your customers, or to find the equipment that you are looking for. One usually successful strategy is to cross list items, say by selling them on EBay and posting an ad on Astromart directing people to EBay.

If you aren’t that worried about getting the best price for your equipment, or if you don’t mind expending a lot of time looking, a pawn shop or antique shop are good alternatives. Buyers can generally get a really good deal, but you really need to know what you’re looking at and what it should cost. Sellers should also do their research to make sure they know what their equipment is worth, but don’t expect to get the full value – the shop wants to make a profit too. The benefit is, it’s quick and easy.

Finally, if you just need to get rid of something and are ok with taking a tax write-off instead of cash, consider donating your ‘scope to a University, Community College, High School, community group, or club. Just make sure the organization you donate it to is qualified under state or federal law to give you the tax deduction, and it is best to come to an agreement about the value before handing over the equipment. You may want to pay for an appraisal. Antique stores that specialize in scientific equipment are your best bet for finding a good appraiser.




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