Technical Articles

Tips on How to Make Your Next Hamfest a Prime Day for Buying or Selling

After parking and waiting in line, you finally make it inside the gates. You drop off your ticket for the prize drawings, and you’re ready to bargain.

No two hamfests are alike—each has its own unique character with a variety of radios, electronics, computers, tools, and other miscellaneous items that would appeal to hams. I once remember bringing a wire dog crate to sell, labeling it as a Faraday cage. It got a lot of chuckles, but eventually a buyer bought it—for his dog.

Radio swap sites such as and also let you sell radios and ham items online. But there’s nothing like actually seeing and trying merchandise. Many hamfests have electricity available, allowing vendors to demonstrate equipment so you can see it work.

Be Prepared

Wear comfortable clothes and dress for the weather. Take along a sturdy cloth tote bag, backpack, or another type of carrier that can tolerate a little grime or dust. Most important, don’t forget some cash. Commercial vendors will take credit/debit cards, but it’s unlikely sellers in the flea market will.

If you’re new to ham radio, invite an experienced ham who knows the ins and outs of hamfests. Their advice can be invaluable when you’re ready to buy your first radio or need to pick the right antenna.

Best Buys

Hamfests are a good place to buy amateur radio essentials such as coax connectors, feedline, antenna supplies, grounding rods, and wire. With the high price of shipping these days, it pays to grab some of the things you often use. There are often several sellers of the same merchandise, so you’ll also be able to compare prices.

Hamfests are also good places to buy accessories for your radio, often for a fraction of the manufacturer’s price if they’re sold separately. Commercial vendors often have good deals on compatible spare battery packs, microphones, and rubber duck antennas.

The more seasoned ham might find accessories and spare parts for an older radio that is no longer available from the manufacturer. Experienced collectors may discover a rare find or two, such as a classic piece of gear or a valuable antique radio.

Tips for Hamfest Newcomers

  • Most prices are negotiable, especially after noon, but good deals go quickly.
  • Most vendors aren’t interested in trades, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • If a seller refuses to demonstrate a supposedly functional piece of gear or won’t open a piece of equipment for inspection, move on.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what something is. Most of the time, the ham behind the table enjoys telling you about his or her items. Even if you don’t buy anything, the discussion may attract another buyer.
  • Become familiar with the smell of burned or damaged electronics, especially transformers and sealed components. Direct replacements may be difficult to obtain.
  • If you know exactly what you’re looking for, check auction and radio swap sites such as and before and even while attending the hamfest. You can get an idea of the going price and average condition so you’re less likely to overpay.
  • Make sure you get the seller’s name, address, and phone number—just in case. Although you don’t expect to have major problems with a piece of gear you’ve thoroughly inspected and tested, it never hurts to be prepared.


Once you’ve attended several hamfests, you’ll be familiar with what sells, what doesn’t, and some basic marketing skills. If you’ve accumulated some ham gear you no longer use, it’s a good time to put yourself on the other side of the table.

Remember that you will probably need to bring your own table and chairs for outdoor sales. An EZ-Up or a tarp will keep you in the shade or out of the rain. A clear plastic painting drop cloth is a quick way to cover your merchandise and keep it dry when needed. Crates and boxes can be used for loose items.

Be sure to bring lots of change. You’ll notice many buyers only seem to have $20 bills, especially in the early hours. And don’t forget your stuff. You’ll look silly sitting at an empty table.

Sales Tips

Selling ham gear for a good price usually involves more than simply driving a hard bargain. Here’s how to turn an average hamfest into a great sales experience.

  • Arrive early. Many of your best sales will be to other sellers who use the opportunity to examine everyone’s stuff before the masses get there. You can benefit as well.
  • Appearance matters. That means you, your table, and your gear. Think of your hamfest table as a neat and organized storefront run by a knowledgeable person.
  • Find a good spot. Where your table is located can sometimes make a difference. Don’t get stuck in some out-of-the-way corner or hallway with limited visibility and traffic.
  • Having ac or dc power available at your table can often help you make sales. Being able to demonstrate gear on the spot can be a big plus. Radios and other gadgets operating at your table attract more people.
  • Offer realistic pricing. Affordable merchandise will mean more sales—and less to take home.
  • Nearly every price should be at least somewhat negotiable. By being flexible you’ll be more successful.
  • Buyers don’t want to get ripped off. Be honest about the condition of your gear. As a guarantee, you might offer to take back the item if it doesn’t work as described within an agreed upon time.

A Part of Ham Culture

Hamfests are both a great place to pick up interesting pieces of ham equipment as well as sell items you no longer need or use. I believe they’ll continue to exist alongside online sales because most hams enjoy in-person social connections at these events. Hams want to see stuff, touch the merchandise, ask questions, and haggle over the price. These aspects don’t always translate easily to an online platform.

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