Molded Silver Micas

I love building. The biggest reward in creating a circuit is watching it work when you fire it up. One of my first projects, when I was first licensed in 1975, was to build a 3 band trapped diploe. I used molded mica transmitting silver mica capacitors and B&W coil stock. Once the traps were constructed, and checked with a grid dip meter, they were ready for installation into the wire antenna. Through the years, ceramic doorknobs became more common place than the old micas, I suppose due to availability and not form, fit and function. The mica was and always will be a superior capacitor for use in and outdoor antenna trap. That 20-40-80 meter dipole worked faithfully for many years.

Molded silver micas are made with a hermetically sealed envelope, impervious to weather of all sorts where and the doorknobs are made from porous ceramic. They don’t hold up to the Midwest elements like snow, ice, water, freezing and thawing. Eventually they pop apart. The mica is great for small traps made for a 200 watt or less transmitter and will last a long time. Micas are made both with solder terminals and screw terminals. I prefer the screw type. They have 6-32 solid brass tapped screw holes and can be soldered if you insist and a tight mechanical connection is made. The solder joint is also subject to weather over time. Micas are also available in literally hundreds of values allowing latitude in design and the ability to change values sliding the resonant frequency of the trap a little if need be. It is not uncommon to parallel molded micas as well. Micas are 30%-60% less than the current cost of ceramic doorknobs. RF current handling is greater for the silver mica.

Too many new hams take the easy route of a random wire and an antenna tuner. Live a little. Build traps. If you can’t find coil stock, wind your own inductor on 3” thin wall PVC. Used 10 gauge enameled wire and then urethane the winding in place once its wound. We also have ceramic insulators you can run through the middle to take the strain off of the trap. There lots of construction stories on how to build traps. Try the Radio Amateur’s Handbook for example.

I made these traps early in my ham career. Conveniently, the same year Jim and I started Surplus Sales. So, for the next 40+ years of buying parts for the surplus business, I always kept an eye out for silver micas. Handy little buggers. They have also been a great seller through the years. We have not raised prices on these for decades. And to make matters even more tantalizing for the reader contemplating building an old fashioned trapped dipole, I acquired another 500 pounds or so of molded silver mica caps to add to stock. Not much chance we will run out anytime soon! Check out our web page for micas and keep an eye on it as it expands very soon!  Fistell Electronic’s inventory has only had the surface scratched but we just found a pallet of micas during our move to the new building.


Massive Polystyrene Capacitor Inventory Acquired

Surplus Sales just purchased about 500 new value/voltages of vintage Polystyrene Capacitors to be used in tuned circuits and audio filters  where a very low dissipation factor is required.

Our existing inventory was always popular but the
new additions fill in all the holes making us a one-stop-shop for any new styrene project. Total inventory is over 2 million polystyrene caps!



42 Years In The Surplus Biz

1975. The Watergate verdict. Minimum wage $2.10/hr. Wheel of Fortune premiered on NBC. And… I started this grand experiment upon graduation from Burke High School. Tens of thousands of sales have been completed over the years and, I am happy to report, it is as exciting today as it was at the beginning.

After 42 years in this business, I have learned a great deal about the Surplus Electronics/Etc., market. Here’s the “Grinnell Mini-MBA lesson” (free online version):

1. Establish a fair sale price for each item.

Mark the price too low and sell out overnight. Mark it too high and buyers are few. The goal is to find the price that will clear out the inventory in a reasonable amount of time, allow the business to recover the initial investment, and keep the lights on.

“Strategic advice for the Surplus Electronics shopper: Buy early, and in enough quantity to see your project through.”

Typically, we buy an item and sell as much as we can up front to defray the acquisition costs.  Depending on demand, we may stride through the majority of the inventory, and then at the very end, raise the price for the last few pieces. Then the law of Supply and Demand kicks in: those last few pieces may literally be the only ones available, anywhere. Strategic advice for the Surplus Electronics shopper: Buy early, and in enough quantity to see your project through.

2. By definition, and in general, Surplus inventory is not replenish-able.

We buy by the lot (usually by the multiple truckload!) and sell by the piece. I have purchased 19 entire businesses in 42 years, and have filled close to 120,000 square feet of warehouse space. The challenge is to be aware of any new opportunities for surplus inventory purchase, while being careful not to duplicate current line items. Product continuity and price points are essential to our business.

3. Each line item, or individual web listing, must carry its own weight.

“An item must earn its place on the website by achieving a minimum gross profit in its lifetime”

At last count, we have about 200,000 Line items. Every item must earn its place on the website by achieving a minimum gross profit in its lifetime. When the value or total quantity is too low, it usually doesn’t earn enough profit to pay for its place in our system. (See my grab bag discussion below). For this reason, some esoteric parts may be priced higher than other similar parts on our website, or elsewhere. In those cases, we likely started out with very low inventory and the item is earning it’s place on the shelf.

Grab Bags are an excellent opportunity to snag perfectly good, NOS (New Old Stock) parts. All of the low count parts that can’t make our website end up in various miscellaneous bins that are used to make our Grab Bag assortments. The value in each assortment is enormous and can’t be beat for adding depth to any builder’s spare parts supply. We are currently developing the Grab Bag section of the site so keep a close watch.


Most often asked question (for the last 35 years):

“How long will Surplus Sales keep the lights on?”

My answer always contains fragments of my 5-year plan. Now layered into the plan is the eminent shift of use in our North Downtown Omaha location.

New Building

Someday soon, our current 130-year-old historic warehouse will make fine apartment homes and cozy havens for start-up businesses. Maybe a restaurant or two. The massive, ancient, Douglas fir columns and beams, maple flooring and original brickwork, give this building a timeless charm that embodies the essence of Downtown Omaha.

As luck would have it, I stumbled on to our next big thing…. a great new warehouse. It is 6 million cubic feet, compared to 1.5 million on our Ashton Building. We are currently transforming the new building into my ideal dream warehouse. If a warehouse can be sexy, this is it.

Alas, historic Ashton is now for- sale-by-owner (yours truly). P.J. Morgan Real Estate – 1218 Nicholas St, Warehouse, Omaha, NE

The fact that well over 50% of our current inventory has not even made it to the website yet presents Conundrum 33 of my 5 year plan. Will I live long enough. My father always planned to live to see 100. I lost him at 53 years old.

Me at almost 60

While we never know what the good Lord has in mind for us, I know I will be close to my true bliss in this new set up. If I take a little more time along the way to thread a worm onto my hook, or play a game of pinball, just let the phone ring. Someone will always be here to take your order or answer your questions. To learn more about Surplus Sales and to see our warehouse, take a look at this video we created just for you! 



Forty one years of searching for good quality parts has been a blast. A treasure hunt. I have had moderate luck finding vintage components and enjoy selling them worldwide. Occasionally, we can no longer locate certain mechanical parts that our customers desire. So we contract to have them made. Fighting the urge to stock what everyone else does. Import that. Knock-off this. Well,  recently we were put in the corner by a manufacturer we have used for decades. One product they made for us for many years has slowly degraded with poor workmanship and inferior components. The last batch was rejected for multiple reasons and I needed to decide whether to continue with our trademark Turns Counter we have sold for 25 years, or retire it. What happened next was a complete upgrade and rebuild. My dad always said “If it’s worth doing – it’s worth doing right!” We took on the full production of our magnificent counter and now have something we are proud of.

Turns Counter

SHW-TCV Turns Counter – Mechanical


“Since every piece of equipment that uses a turns counter has no capacity for skipped turns, we solved the problem.”

We started over at ground level. The main problem other knock-off counters have is the shaft moves laterally when the knob is cranked. This action in turn causes slop in the gear placement which in turn interrupts the counting. Since every piece of equipment that uses a turns counter has no capacity for skipped turns, we solved the problem.

Turns Counter - Front

Turns Counter – Front

In our counter, the shaft is locked in place both in forward and aft lateral moments. Another feature of the rejected counter are extremely cheap plastic gears. They are held in place with friction and are inferior at best. We have solved the problem with stainless steel miter gears made exclusively for our counter.  Our new SHW-TCV Turns Counter is now flying off the shelves and can be found on commercially produced equipment in the medical world as well in amateur radio projects.