In a world of consume, many products lose their value rapidly after being brought to the market. A 10 year old car is only worth a fraction of its original price. However, many speakers are not subject to such a fall of value. If treated apropriately, a speaker can work with the same performance for many decades and will only have little wear that can be replaced (such as rotten foams).
But how much should you pay for an old set of speakers? Like today, speakers in the 50ies to 80ies had been produced for very different audiences to very different prices. Many speakers had been sold in high quantities to low prices, such as a variety of Fisher speakers during the 1980ies. Those speakers have nearly no value anymore and cannot convince in quality or performance. Others, such as the Dynaco A-25 became highly successful, because of an outstanding price-performance ratio. On the other end of the targeted customers, companies such as Acoustic Research or JBL produced speakers of highest quality that arguably outperform any modern speaker system, such as the AR-LST.
But to come back to the actual question, which was how much you should pay for old speakers: Unfortunately, it really depends, but it is definitely worth doing some reasearch, if you consider buying some vintage speakers. Also, the amount of reviews and price estimates on this website is growing steadily and chances are that you will find some helpful information.
You found some vintage loudspeakers? Clean them!
Loudspeakers can last many decades, but poor care can damage them and wrong storage can do harm over time as well. We frequently receive images of old, dusty speakers that some lucky owner found in his or her garage after decades of storage.
If you are one of these lucky new owners, just learning to know your piece of loudspeaker-history: Don´t let your speakers deteriorate, but also don´t scratch them with the wrong tools!
Instead: Clean them carefully. Get a set of soft brushes and other cleaning utensils. If the wooden speaker cabinets look dull or out of color (e.g. due to sunlight), give the wood some new life:
1. wipe off the dust . 2. take a very fine sandpaper (1000 Grit and finer) and to sand down the wood. 3. Use an oil finish, ideally “natural” to maintain the original wood color, such as Tried and True danish Oil. In most cases, you will revive your old equipment with little effort. If, however, your loudspeakers got damaged, consider a repair set (and read on..).
Are broken speakers of any value?
Many many speakers are sold for cheap, because the owner thinks that old, rotten, maybe not-working speakers can´t be used anymore, or that it would cost a fortune to repair them. However, many repairs can be done without high costs and just a little effort. If you consider buying a broken pair of speakers you should therefore consider seriously whether you are able to repair damages.
Damages you can easily repair without special skills are rotten foam surrounds, broken dustcaps and dry veneer with light wear. Repair sets for foams are cheap and a good oil danish can let old veneer shine like new. Have a look here to find a suitable repair set. Finding the right speaker repair set is not difficult at all, you just have to know the size of your woofer and can then choose the set that fits best: Below you see a variety of repair sets, some (such as the Cerwin Vega foams) have even the same color as the originals. Click for more information:
Other damages are more difficult to handle. Water damages can sometimes only be repaired by replacing a complete cabinet wall. If water soaks and dries in a plywood cabinet, the wood swells and can hardly be brought back to the old shape again. A damaged speaker cabinet, i.e. by a deep crack or swollen plywood, does therefore reduce the price of the speaker more significantly than a rotten speaker itself.
We recommend to look out for speakers with cabinets in good condition, but rotten foam surrounds. Big bargains can be made this way at garage sales, craigslist and thrift stores.
If you are looking for guidelines and help regarding the restoration of a pair of speakers, have a look into our speaker restoration project:
Speaker Restoration: The Ohm C2
Speaker Restoration Part 1: Veneer
Speaker Restoration Part 2: Sealing and Coating