Amateur Radio, even with $5-10K Transceivers, is Still a Cheap Hobby!

The rash of new models of transceivers shown at Dayton have caused some price complaints in the ham community, including statements that just don’t pass the smell test.

Prices tend upwards on several factors:

  • Demand
  • Features
  • Perceived Value
  • New Product Class
  • Status
  • Exchange Rates

Uniquely all of these factors seem to be in play in the current new offerings. Several are “Trophy Radios” offering an exclusiveness and prestige that an ordinary radio cannot match. Some have exchange rate problems, especially if they are built in the Euro Block. At least one was purely a new product class, bringing to consumer levels technology otherwise limited to much higher priced government/commercial products.

It isn’t just amateur radio gear that costs a few bucks. I took a quick look at what some popular hobbies have for costs.

$10K and Up to Shoot Full Automatic

In shooting the deluxe prestige end includes owning & firing legal full automatic firearms – street names “Class-3” – and holding them as usable investments. The days of getting into this part of the shooting hobby for under $1000 ($1K) are long gone and here are a couple quick prices from the net.

Anything Title-II (Class-3) Legal Full Auto runs $5K to sky’s the limit:

$5-$10K to Play at the Low End of a Big Band Saxophone Section

I happen to play saxophone with several local groups. Very kindly the local university lends me a decent performance bari to use. I do have my own saxophones, but using theirs free me from worries about insuring my horn for performances. I hold down the baritone sax chair (the lowest usual part of the section) and happen to also own my own “bass sax” which is of course more expensive to acquire. To these prices a play would need to add the cost of a decent mouthpiece ($200-$500), reeds and accessories – going low doesn’t come cheap.

Baritone Saxophone Street Prices:

You can Figure on $15K and Up for Good Grade Touring Motorcycle:

If you want to pursue the the path rode in Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a used BMW Touring Bikes seem to run $15K upwards:

You’re well north of $20K if you want a new one.

What about doing that bit of Winter Snowmobiling? Figure $10K:

Snowmobiles are similarly priced, with a decent machine running more than $7K anywhere up to $15K:

Ok, What about less costly Hobbies?

Well, t he XYL likes to sew, and shockingly they aren’t cheap with street prices of $3K to $5K for a decent machine:

Though I’m not current, flying has always been an interest. Currently a basic license training budget is $5-10K:

How about a basic trip to Dayton? Let’s run down the typical budget:

  • 60 gallons of gas – $240
  • Tolls – $30
  • six meals out (for two) at $25/ea – $150
  • light at the cash bars, but being social – $80
  • two evening banquets (for two) – $160
  • two Hamvention passes and bus passes -$58
  • three nights hotel with all taxes – $450

Or roughly $1300 for a father & son to attend BEFORE we bought anything. We’re not admitting to what the cost is afterwards!

The Point is?

Every hobby cost something – many cost way more than you would first think. Amateur Radio is relatively inexpensive once you have the gear, and it is possible to put together a nice station for modest sums of money.

The current worries of $5-$10-$20K transceiver costs recognizes a healthy part of amateur radio. The average joe is still saving up to buy a $1-$3K radio (I put aside money every week and sold my excess gear to fund my Flex-5000A and will be doing the same for a Flex-6X00 series radio). The high price rigs being introduced are not replacing the lower cost products, but a product range extension. The Yaesu FTdx3000 introduction doesn’t mean the FT-897 is being dropped, the Flex-6X00 series is an add-to-range not a replacement product.

If there were no demand, there would be no development and product offerings of the $5-$10-$20K product price range models. While you may wince at dropping $7K for new Flex-6700 (I am too) a lot of our fellow hams have the readies and inclination to plonk $2K each down in deposit for the right to ante up another $5K in a few months for a radio that is only a prototype. Hundreds of our fellow hams feel this is a great opportunity, and a few hundred more have pitched in for the $1K deposit with $3K future payment on the Flex-6500.

The demand is also being fueled by new (and newly upgraded) hams who are not dreaming about radios built before they were born. Sorry fellow hams, but those boat anchors are not the apple of the young ham’s eye. Stylish donors for Steampunked transplants maybe, but few are standing in line to lay in a FT-101 or even less for an expensive Collins setup. The decline in boat anchor prices is the tip of the iceberg in the vintage gear price drop that is around the corner as the grim reaper thins the “vintage ham” population, which reduces the vintage gear demand.

These new hams have $3K gaming computers and $5K audiophile setups – or maybe a full blown home theatre setup – as their electronics performance benchmark. They ride $1-3K carbon fibre bikes where I grew up with a $150 Schwinn, hike with $300 camelback things where I had a cool Army surplus belt canteen, have $300 iPods $600 iPads and $400 iPhones where I had the shortware portable my dad got with green stamps, watch TV on 40-50inch 3D TVs where we had a very deluxe for the time 20in Magnavox color set that took 3 minutes to warm up and weighed 200+ pounds in its console.

These hams have $30-80K cars with handsfree, GPSs, and more gizmos than Inspector Gadget. They are less likely to settle on a IC-718 than they are on a IC-7200/7410/7700/7800 despite the price tag.

If ham radio were in the doldrums there would be no market for these price classes.

An unhealthy ham world would have no premium rigs. So we should be very glad to see them.

Now if I can save $30/week how long is it until I can buy one of these new rigs…….???..



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One thought on “Amateur Radio, even with $5-10K Transceivers, is Still a Cheap Hobby!

  1. Martin AA6E says:

    Good perspectives on value.

    The Hilberling looks like the king of the roost right now — at $17K a pop, they say. That’s a lot less than a Corvette or Porsche or a nice sailboat. I enjoyed spinning its knob at Dayton, but in my heart I know that the Hilberling won’t do normal ham radio much better than many rigs costing 1/10 as much. Most of us would do much better to put the extra $15K into antennas. But the Hilberling is a work of art, and you get big-time bragging rights.

    73 Martin AA6E

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