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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Klaus Heyne's Mic Lab Stickies => Topic started by: Klaus Heyne on June 13, 2005, 03:07:28 PM

Title: Vintage Mics- How to Authenticate And Buy Them
Post by: Klaus Heyne on June 13, 2005, 03:07:28 PM
a poster, quoted fron GearSlutz

 Is it reasonable to expect the seller to cooperate with the buyer in arranging a full inspection of the mic by a 3rd party before committing to purchase ?

Paying full market value for a vintage microphone without the opportunity to inspect it beforehand strikes me as a gamble.

In a parallel situation, from a different field, it's easy to see why: Would a vintage Ferrari being offered on e-bay sell at full market value without the high bidder being allowed to check under the hood?

If the seller refuses such inspection, I should ask myself: Am I that needy to let greed rule over common sense?

To incorporate my added risk, one should adjust the price one is willing to pay for a mic that cannot be inspected. Example:

U47 - no inspection allowed? Fine, I subtract $1000.- for a bad tube and $800.- for a bad capsule from my bid price.


With so many people plunking down thousands on vintage mics sight unseen, it would seem challenging to find a seller willing to go to the trouble and expense.  

An honorable and ethical seller will understand and have sympathy with the reasonable request for inspection:
Why would a seller want the stink of a bad deal hung around his neck forever (now that we live in an age where the Internet never forgets)?

Regarding trouble and expense: The buyer needs to assure the seller that he will volunteer for most trouble and all expenses that are incurred:

-Advance payment with negotiable funds, and in full (i.e. cashier's check or direct bank transfer only.)
An aside:
I advise against Pay-Pal: It's going to be Visa, not Pay-Pal you will have to fight with if the deal goes sour. A customer recently had to go to court to prove his mic fraud case to Visa, which underwrote Pay-Pal's insurance.

-Covering of all shipping, preferably by using the buyer's Fed Ex or UPS account number, for the ease of it.

-Agreeing to a speedy completion of the process (by five days maximum, the information needed to decide on the deal should be in)

The above steps undertaken by the buyer are going to show the seller that the buyer is professional and responsible.

When I get involved as a third party authenticator, I try to promise both parties a 48hr. maximum time after which I typically have enough relevant information ready to allow for a competent decision by the buyer.

Regarding Escrow:
I understand that in addition to third party authentication, escrow services are available in cases where buyers or sellers do not trust each other enough to transfer money or merchandise directly.
I am sure Fletcher, whose company, Mercenary Audio, offers these services, or others can give more details on how it works and what it costs.
Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: rphilbeck on June 14, 2005, 07:29:50 AM
    What would a typical inspection report look like?  What types of information should one expect to see on it?  

Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Klaus Heyne on June 14, 2005, 04:34:44 PM
At minimum, a pre-purchase inspection should contain:

- identification and authentication (that is, type, serial number, state of originality, etc.) of all significant components, like mic, capsule head, power supply, tube (mportant with serial numbered tubes)

- cosmetic assessment ("showroom"... "pitted housing tube with driver's license engraving" ... "badge missing".. "frayed cable ends"... "aftermarket head grille"...)

- operating condition (..."passes signal but high background hiss...")

- measured operating voltages (on tube mics)

- capsule evaluation, including level of diaphragm tension, and level of contamination

Beyond that, authentication may include an assessment of where the system ranks vis a vis other similar systems ("...despite slight cosmetic blemishes, the system overall ranks comparably high in state of originality and performance...")

It also may include the approximate dollar-amount it would take to make the system fully operational or superior in performance to similar, stock systems.

Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Mark Lemaire on June 14, 2005, 05:02:22 PM
With all the highly detailed, huge photos of capsules that folks have been posting on this board, what, in your estimation, is the use of them as a way to check the health of a capsule?
Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Klaus Heyne on June 15, 2005, 12:33:43 AM
Internet pictures (especially well-focused close ups) are fairly useful for identification-
a proud new owner of a mint M49 e-mailed me a close up of his capsule, only to find out that it was an aftermarket reskin job!

However, JPGs are not useful in analyzing the proper functioning of a capsule or tube or processor.
Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Yogi on June 21, 2005, 01:27:36 PM
Would you buy from a European seller? Let's say it's an extremely rare microphone (or any other gear). Would an inspection period of say 10 days and a full refund offered by the seller be enough?
Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Klaus Heyne on June 21, 2005, 10:49:01 PM
Often, the saddest stories of mic purchases gone bad  involve international transactions.
So, unless the European seller you have in mind is internationally known and respected, that means, he has a reputation to lose if you are not happy, I would not buy an expensive mic without full recourse to my money.

Title: Re: Vintage Mics- Why and How to Authenticate
Post by: Klaus Heyne on August 17, 2007, 04:14:25 PM
Another take, this time in response to the question: "How do I find an ethical vintage mic dealer/broker/seller?"

Before I can give you an answer to your question, please consider these points:

* Vintage microphones of the caliber you mention have become highly sought after items- not only by owners of the ever increasing number of home and personal studios who wish to  warm up their Pro-Tools rigs, but increasingly by peripheral 'investors' who do not intend to use any of these mics as tools of their trade.

The average annualized return on select vintage mics has outperformed the stock market in the last couple of years to such an extent that I now regularly get calls from offshore investors, asking me where they can find 'investment grade' mics.

* The amount of available mics of high repute has gone down drastically in recent years, for several reasons:

a healthy world economy (at least in our business) and, consequently, below average number of bankruptcies of studios has dried up the market. Most of the few choice mics that do become available for sale will typically not be offered publicly but will change hands under the radar- among friends and colleagues.

The shift in the status of vintage mics from working tool to high priced investment, and the accompanying attraction of lay people into this market, have in turn started to attract unscrupulous and greedy sellers who will offer clobbered-together mics of questionable authenticity. Prime venue for their sales: eBay.

Because of recent advances made by specialty manufacturers of  'look-alike' vintage mic parts, it has become close to impossible for a lay person, and quite a challenge for any authenticator, to sniff out what is real and what is fake in a vintage mic.

This all leads me to my answer to your question:

Because of the difficulties that have arisen in the market for vintage mics, your average (ethical) equipment dealer or broker simply does not have the time or skills to investigate every little part on a mic coming through his shop for authenticity.

These days, there is but one sure method for a lay person like you to end up with a genuine, fully disclosed vintage mic: pre-purchase authentication by an independent third party, and unconditional guarantee by the seller to take the mic back if the buyer is not satisfied with the mic?s state of originality.

P.S.: Occasionally we have fun playing a game of "Spot The Lies" on this forum- examining JPGs from eBay sellers, trying to figure out what parts had been replaced without being properly disclosed in the sale.
I invite you and others to join in, and submit pictures. Always very educational!