This past weekend I went to my sixth hamfest in the past 4 months. It was a small one in Reidsville, NC, about an hour and a half north of where I live. Aside from the price of admission ($5), I spent less than $20, and that included a nice piece of carpeting that will keep my feet warm and isolated from the shack's concrete floor.
But that started me thinking, how would I rank some of my best and worst ham radio purchases through the years? I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with.
1. Kenwood TS-140S. Not that it is a bad radio, but I traded a mint Kenwood TS-900 and matching power supply for it years ago. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
2. Hustler 4BTV vertical. Again, not a horrible piece of equipment. But I should have saved my money and bought the antenna that I really wanted (and ended up purchasing 2 months later - see below).
3. Radio Shack SWR/Power meter. Do I really need to qualify this? I might as well use a light bulb.
4. Kenwood TS-520. I drooled over this rig growing up. As a broke teenager I couldn't afford one. Probably not a bad deal for the $175 bucks that I paid. But I need it like I need an audit from the IRS. Gathering dust. I should probably donate it.
5. MFJ antenna feed-thru panel. I paid $80 for this?! The connectors fell off and the wood looks like it was painted by my daughter...when she was 3.
1. ZeroFive vertical. Fantastic antenna, incomparable support. If you have to use a vertical, take a serious look at this antenna.
2. Elecraft K2. Paid a very fair price for a well-kept model that has the 100-watt amp, 160 meters, SSB, noise blankers, and the battery and antenna tuner for whenever I want to be strictly QRP. Terrific radio.
3. (tie) 2 iambic keyers from K8RA/K1EL USB Winkeyer. The paddles are extremely well-crafted and I couldn't be more pleased. A joy to use and a bargain for the price. The Winkeyer will be a welcome addition to contesting.
4. Yaesu FT-1000MP. Paid a good, fair price. The fellow I bought it from had taken excellent care of it. Great rig with all the bells and whistles. Serves as my main rig.
5. Heathkit SB-400 transmitter. May seem odd to have this ranked as a 'best purchase'. But when you were 13 and your former transmitter used crystal-control instead of a VFO, it seemed like the greatest radio in the world!
1. (good) Yaesu FT-857D. Intended to buy a demo FT-450 for $500, but changed plans when the fellow in front of me snapped it up. The 857 isn't bad at all.
2. (bad) HyGain 14AVQ. I should have noticed that they're made in the same place as #5 in my worst purchases list. Horrible quality control, missing parts, broken trap. Never again.
So what about you? What's some of your best and worst finds?