On January 17, I drove down to Seattle, to catch a flight to San Antonio, Tx.
But wait a minute Curt, I read the first part of the article, and I could have sworn you said the equipment was in Mississippi, and now it says Texas? Did I read incorrectly?
No, you read correctly. Before flying down to Texas to secure the equipment, I did change the location of the equipment on purpose. Like a good poker player, nothing is revealed until the deal is done.
The flight itself was uneventful, as was the car rental. We spent the first night in San Antonio as we arrived late in the day, with a 90 minute drive to Fredericksburg in the morning. Fredericksburg is a town of 11,000 people, about 90 minutes North of San Antonio, near the Gulf of Mexico. There are deep German roots in the town, and as my German girlfriend observed after having a meal in the downtown district: ‘This town is more German than Germany is!”
As a side note, I’ve cleared electronics through customs both into the US and into Canada for well over 30 years. I checked with customs ahead of time, as I was taking a bank draft in excess of $10,000 with me, meaning I had to declare it at the time of crossing. In speaking with customs, since the bank draft had a name on it, they weren’t too concerned, as it was going to a specific person. As they explained, if the draft had been made out to ‘cash’, or if I’d taken the full amount of cash across the border, there would have been bigger concerns.
Also, since I am a Canadian citizen, I cannot work in the US, and while I can ‘inspect’ equipment, I can’t pack it or repair it. Plugging it in is fine, pulling out a screwdriver to work on it is forbidden (the same applies in Canada to non-Canadian citizens). I therefore hired two helping hands via the owner to pack up the equipment under my direction.
We made it to site around 9 AM, and met up with the owner, the owner’s son, and Gordon from Innovative Audio, who had arrived a day early. Gordon and I have known each other for years, and owns www.vintageaudio.ca, Canada’s largest vintage audio store, located in Surrey BC. He has a large repair shop, and sells the most incredible selection of vintage audio equipment that he finds all over North America, in finds like this. We have a gentleman’s agreement, that I take all things reel to reel, and he takes everything else. .While occasionally there’s a bit of overlap, this arrangement has worked really well for us, and has found us both equipment, sales, and repairs that we each otherwise would not have had.
Gordon informed me that he didn’t think there was 26 pallets full of items, that it was more likely closer to 15, which was fine by me, as the shipping bill would be less. As I started to inspect the equipment, located in the seller’s house and garage (about 1600 square feet of warehouse space), I figured my estimate of 26 pallets was about right, and if anything, it could be more
.As expected, the inventory matched the spreadsheet that I received back in November, and the condition reflected what I saw in the pictures, primarily better than average for everything. With the two hired hands, work began.
As we started inventorying the equipment, I had to take note of the makes, model numbers, serial numbers and country of origin for the customs paperwork, in order to clear customs. As expected, there was significantly more equipment that wasn’t on the inventory list, that was either missed, or too small of an item to inventory for a basic spread sheet. In addition, the owner had a lot of the original boxes and paperwork for much of the non RTR equipment, as well as some of the tape decks and parts thereof.
We chatted to the owner and the son about how the acquisition came to be, and it turned out that the owner had wanted a really nice couple of stereo systems for his house, and he was also an engineer, so he was interested in working on some of the units. He purchased most of the equipment over a number of years from ebay, but also many years ago, when the reel to reel tape decks and vintage audio was going for cheap pricing, as the analog resurgence that started about 10 years ago hadn’t happened yet.
Amongst the extras were boxes and boxes of spare parts, including new old stock heads (with some baggies of Nortronics heads that I couldn’t identify), new Studer heads, and lots of small boxes of spare parts that I didn’t have time to look into. In addition, there were several more tape decks, Crown and Studer, as well as a whole bunch of vintage higher end stereo and semi pro/pro audio pieces, in three 6’ racks, all nicely assembled with good quality interconnects. We quickly realized that we had to start a second spreadsheet to account for all of these additional items, and Gordon and the owner came to an agreeable price on. Ditto for me and the additional reel to reel equipment.
Furiously typing (and continual saving of the document, in case the laptop crashed (it didn’t!)), it took the better part of 4 days to pack up all of the equipment. I powered up very few items due to the time crunch, but of the 3 Studers I powered up, all had noticeable problems. No big deal, this is what I was expecting, with equipment that hadn’t been powered up in decades.
One of the interesting finds was one of the boxes that was missed in the original inventory list. That was a Crown 700 reel to reel deck. In the nicely packaged box was the original eBay sales receipt from Chuck Ziska, of $261. For those not in the know, Chuck Ziska is the world’s premier Crown reel to reel tech, as Chuck has worked on reel to reels for over 50 years, and has specialized in Crown units for decades. Obviously, the deck had been in the box for quite some time, as a Chuck Ziska deck is now worth substantially more than $261. However, since the deck has been unboxed for 15+ years, it will need to be gone through again from scratch.
As everything was being boxed and packaged up, my fear was that we were going to run short of pallets that the trucking company was going to supply. Our logistics company hired a local trucking company to use a 5 ton truck to run from the property down to the airport hangar, where the final prepping of the pallets was going to be done. While I’d allowed a couple of days margin for potential screwups and problems, I paced around like a nervous soon to be father. The 5 ton showed up on time, and thanks to a few runs down to the hangar ahead of time with the owner’s pickup, we were able to transport everything in one trip.
Then the packing began in earnest at the hangar, playing real life Tetris, fitting boxes and tape decks onto pallets. With a lot of the smaller audio equipment being in factory original boxes, we were able to stack a couple of pallets 6’ tall, complete with shrink wrap and cushioning. The larger console tape decks were loaded one per pallet, with smaller boxes fit underneath them. When all was said and done, we were at 26 pallets exactly, the maximum amount that can fit into a 53’ semi trailer. We also had to rent a pallet jack from a local rental company to move the pallets around. We returned the pallet jack the next day, assuming that the semi trailer would show up with one. A minor panic attack occurred when I booked a pallet jack from United Rentals.. from Fredericksburg, West Virginia, not Texas. A quick call remedied that, and it turned out there was a pallet jack rental place within a mile of the airport, and we went and picked it up.
At noon, on Weds Sept 25, the 53’ truck showed up.. it didn’t show up with a pallet jack. A quick run back to the rental company took care of that, and all of the pallets were loaded onto the semi truck. True to the word of my logistics guy, the semi was full, right to the tailgate.
Our flight returned on Friday the 27th. As I was waiting at the airport for the flight, my logistics guy called, telling me that the truck was already back in Vancouver, and the pallets could be delivered any time.
The seller, his wife, and son made a tremendous steak dinner for the six of us upon the completion of the packing and loading.
As of this writing, Jan 29, 2023 I am catching up on emails and final repairs before the motherlode shows up. Part 3 will detail the unloading of the equipment, with more detailed pictures as I unpack boxes
Special thanks to the following people and companies that made this all happen:
David and David, father and son, who were most accommodating, and assisted with logistics and the ardent task of packing the massive amount of equipment and to Beverly, who made a fantastic celebratory meal at the end of a tough 4 days.
www.liberatelogistics.com for coordinating the tricky shipment and the logistics around it
www.vintageaudio.ca, and to Gordon, for taking 6 large pallets (the foundation of my house thanks you)
and the two outstanding meals outside of the steak dinner:
COME BACK SOON FOR PART 4 of CURT’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE!!!