[AMRadio] The Cost of Tubes

D. Chester k4kyv at charter.net
Sat Aug 25 12:55:56 EDT 2007

With the bands totally unusable last evening due to QRN, I spent some time 
looking through a Depression-era 1933 issue of R-9 magazine, and happened 
across a tube ad.  One item they had listed that caught my eye was a 204-A 
triode for $97.50, complete with a 6-month guarantee.

One of those tubes would have been roughly the equivalent of a HF-300 or 
250TH, with about the same power output capability as a single 810 or 8000.

Using an online inflation caluclator I entered that price to see what it 
would be in 2007 dollarettes.

It displayed an astounding price of $1541.25!

Some of the stuff in those old magazines that makes us drool may appear in a 
different light when you calculate what the real cost was after figuring in 
the devaluation of the dollar over the years.

A plate modulated KW with a pair of those tubes in the final, modulated by 
another pair, would have cost the equivalent of over $6000 in 2007 
dollarettes, just for a new set of tubes.

We have been spoilt by more than two generations of paying a tiny fraction 
of the actual cost for tubes and parts due to cheap WW2 surplus, someone 
else's throw-away and new-is-always-better mentality, and the low hamfest 
prices for this kind of stuff following the amateur radio "conversion" to 
SSB in the early 60's.

The audiophools and e-pay haven't really caused overvaluation of the stuff. 
Prices have just readjusted back closer to normal, as the post-WW2 era 
continues to slip into the soon-to-be distant past.

Still, I wouldn't pay $150 "as-is" for a  65 years-old 211/VT4-C that I 
could have picked up at a hamfest for 35¢ as  recently as the late 70's or 
early 80's.

Don k4kyv 

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