Making Our New Surplus Sales Video – Pro vs. Amateur

Producing a video about your business requires multiple major decisions be made first. Chief among them is who to hire and what is the end goal. In the fourteen-month process we started from a GoPro strapped to my Giant Schnauzer’s head, bounced to an interview style fixed camera storyteller and made our way to a professional full service production company. Our choice was the latter and we hired Torchwerks to create our masterpiece.

Dozens of hours of footage of ad-lib interviews, b-roll footage and a dynamite narrative were woven into a seven-minute play-by-play video that describes what we do to a T. Seriously though, the crew nailed it! We agreed early on that nothing would be scripted. When you give total control to a good producer, they can tell a story that makes sense to them, notwithstanding the fact they know little about our particular business. They ask and answer fundamental questions about the business in such a way that I found myself glued to this 7:33 film while watching it for the first time. And second. And third. I didn’t want it to stop. They told me the normal attention span for such an informational video is 2-3 minutes. We took the risk with this extended version primarily to provide answers. I have no doubt that the subject matter was covered in a much more dramatic, less technical style than what we could have accomplished with Sirius Black and the GoPro. If left up to us nerds, we would have bored the audience into a deep sleep with part numbers, dates and useless information.

Mr. Ben Drickey, owner of Torchwerks, struck home with a note when I asked him if our movie had too much content. He reminded me what the Emperor of Austria told Amadeus Mozart when criticizing an opera he had composed. He said, “You have too many notes”. Mozart famously replied, “There are just as many notes as I require – no more, no less”. Indeed, I agree, our Surplus Sales presentation is as balanced as The Abduction from the Seraglio.

A big thank-you goes to Josh and Jennifer for their perspectives. I was not present during their individual interviews and was humbled by the stories they told. This year I have now survived 40 years in this wonderful surplus business and hope to last a few more. Each and every day is an adventure.


Made In The USA – Here To Stay Or Passé

Maybe it has more to do with the fact I know the quality of a US-made part is historically high. An import is more of an unknown. It’s not a coincidence that most of our millions of vacuum tubes are NOS (New Old Stock) , largely US with a handful of European makes. The ONLY parts we import, in over 200,000 line items, are a line of coaxial relays, a solid state relay, adhesive tapes and a few rf connectors. That’s it! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… or maybe just the peddler. If the seller has US made products, chances are, his price is higher than for an import. If he only has imports, he will tell you they are just as good as any US made part. In particular, the subject today is vacuum tubes.

Most tubes dealers have had the opportunity to buy off shore valves, including Surplus Sales. Many manufacturers to choose from, Chinese, Russian, all of which will sell you their product branded any way you want it. Your brand, their brand or something new. Whether you have a US-made NOS or a new import, what separates a “must have tube” from one better off in the trash can comprises variations in raw materials, tolerances and workmanship. We dropped the imports and have had to do without a complete lineup as many numbers slip away to oblivion in the NOS world.

5U4GB’s have been hard to find for years. For Surplus Sales it is one of the highest demand high power rectifiers we have ever had. Most dealers today run prices from $30-$50 for what precious NOS stock they have left. I am happy to announce we have secured a portion of the last remaining government stock of Philips JAN 5U4GB vacuum tubes, manufactured from 1985 to 1987. This is arguably the finest 5U4 available today. US made for our military’s radio equipment, likely of Rockwell Collins manufacture. Due to the large quantity of this premium 5U4GB now available we can offer a price from decades ago. Starting at $24 with deep discounts to $15 each when buying in quantity.  Stock up now. Once our inventory reaches a preset level, the deep discounts will cease.

In addition to the great news on our Philips JAN 5U4GB, we have cut prices on all remaining new and removed 5U4’s to reflect a proper relational sale price compared to the Philips. This is a golden opportunity to stock up. Once these are gone, there will be no more!





Compass Technical Services – We spent a year there one month!


Compass Technical's armory stuffed collection - before the Grinnell tornado hit

Compass Technical’s armory stuffed collection – before the Grinnell tornado hit

September 11, 2001 was a date no American will ever forget. I personally embarked on a treasure hunt just a month after the disaster and the destination was Paterson, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from NYC and the smoldering Twin Towers. It was a shocking environment relative to my home turf, Omaha, Nebraska. I made a deal to buy Compass Technical Services, a surplus business and small manufacturer of military equipment. The volume of a National Guard Armory, wall to wall, 2.5 floors. Loading started late October and we departed when my packing team mutinied on Thanksgiving Day. We had packed 29 semi-trucks over the month. One a day. Each maxed out to about 40,000 pounds. So the story goes.



Communication Speed in my 57 years


When I was a teen I landed my first amateur radio ticket. WD0FDE. My FCC license to transmit on specific frequencies. The modes I used were phone / talking, CW / Morse code and teletype. Typical transmit speed was about 66 words per minute on the teletype and 10 wpm on the code key. In the 80’s I dabbled in packet radio which operated around 1200 bits per second. Then along came the Internet and ham communications took the back seat to a whole new world. I haven’t had a decent station set up since about 1981. Now I have 10 acres, component 1. Next I need personal time. Different story.

Trying to keep it simple and not confuse bits and bytes, my dial up modem for the Mac was 56k. That gave way to DSL at around 300k. As long as our service provider didn’t bottleneck in high traffic times, this speed was adequate for many years. New software, websites with more images and streaming video kept pushing me to acquire faster Internet speed. Today, in our Mastercraft Building, a building in Omaha that has about 90 suites for rent to entrepreneurs and creatives of all stripes, we have a program in place whereby a local service provider guarantees 1 gig bandwidth up and down speed to each a every tenant in the building for the price of dsl. Why I mention this here is because it’s a topic on everyone’s mind. Almost everyone interfaces with a computer, or wifi, every day. The speed of that connection can be the difference of an instant transfer where the connection was invisible, as in the 1G service, or a foot tapping bottle necked connection that takes forever.

The raw amount of data transferred in a typical minute of online surfing, when compared to my 66 WPM teletype, is staggering. The cost to my data transfer in 1975 was free, less the cost of my station. Today, in relative terms, what you get for your money, 1G (per second!) of bandwidth is almost free. It is nearly impossible to fill up a 1G fiber. Imagine being able to upload or download with no restriction in performance. Unfortunately, the rest of the Internet is not able to handle this speed, yet, so the bottleneck is there, it’s simply down the road.