Re: A high-priced Tektronix RM504


Quite a bit of my space program stuff was acquired at the various NASA
sales or from surplus/scrap dealers who bought lots at these auctions. Back
in the day DoD surplus handled some of the surplus from NASA sites; Kelly
Air Force Base was one - they would get NASA Houston (Johnson Space Center)
stuff that was left after going through the museum list (museums were
offered stuff first) and then the education list (universities, mostly).
The remaining items were then offered through GSA sales or went to the DoD
surplus program. I got my first Tek scope through DoD surplus - a 535A
followed by a 545A. The last was a 547. These were all US military surplus.
My fellow space collector friends and I spent a lot of time going through
the weekly DoD Surplus Sales catalogs. If you won something (sealed bid
sales) you were responsible for picking it up. There were companies -
"packer/shippers" - who for a fee would pick up your items and arrange for
shipment. The Tek scopes were at bases close enough for me to drive to,
though it was a bit of an adventure getting a 535A into the back seat of a
Toyota Corolla.

I don't know when, but likely at least because of the negative press about
people buying the NASA surplus (as well as DoD surplus - like the guy who
supposedly bought enough parts to build an AH-64 or something) and then
making a lot of money from it, NASA began selling to local surplus or scrap
dealers but with scrap warranties attached. I know a surplus dealer in
Florida who gets all manner of NASA surplus but won't sell it because his
contract with NASA says he has to scrap it. A lot of the Shuttle stuff went
to dealers/scrappers like this. A few things come out without the scrap
warranty and he has sold those (I picked up a Spacelab digital video
recorder this way) but everything else has gone to scrap metal. Sad. This
happened to some of the Apollo stuff if it came up on a GSA sale and a
scrapper won it. My buddies and I found that the entire contents of one of
the Manned Spacecraft Center control rooms (at Houston) when it showed up
in a DoD surplus catalog at Kelly AFB. It was tons of stuff. All the
consoles and the electronics for them. We thought long and hard about
buying it all, but then we would have had to truck it and store it. It went
to scrap. Relatively recently, a Kickstarter campaign raised enough funds
to restore one of those rooms.

A few dealers in the LA area realized that the prop people from the movie
studios were coming around and buying stuff for props. Some began to lease
items for movies. After that, buying vintage stuff from them became
impossible or expensive. They would tell you how much they charged some
Hollywood prop person to rent a rack full of electronics - far more than
the stuff was usually worth. Some of it had been rewired so the lights all
lit up - those often had whatever electronics had been in the chassis

If you want to see a movie with a lot of vintage electronics in it, look
for "Io" (as in Jupiter's moon) on Netflix. Sort of OK science fiction, but
one of the main characters (there are only two - it's a dystopian future,
after all) works in an observatory where a lab is shown fairly frequently.
Whoever got those props did a pretty good job. The old displays are CRTs
and there are several scopes. At least two HP ones in a rack. I also
spotted an HP 115BR clock in the rack. I could swear there was a scene that
showed a Tek scope on a cart, but too briefly to identify it. For some
reason, it was not shown again. The main character who lives/works in this
observatory and lab says she scavenged the stuff. You may have fun pausing
it and figuring out what is in those scenes (those of you who like these

Some VERY interesting stuff shows up as props in various StarTrek later
shows (Voyager, Next Gen). I recently spotted an MD-1 astrotracker in a
Voyager episode. This thing was part of the B-52 "automatic astrocompass".
I had the whole system (24 electronics boxes at once - thanks to DoD
surplus; I bought it for $300). Also in several episodes of Next Gen, the
inertial element from the Peacemaker missile IMU is used as a prop. It must
be a mockup as the real thing weighs about 50 pounds and the characters
handle it very easily. Also, a real one would be classified and would not
have gotten out as surplus (though you never know).

The NASA and some contractor tags (I have some items with NAA, Rockwell,
Honeywell, Northrop, Autonetics, Rocketdyne, Astrodata, Hamilton Standard,
General Dynamics - you name it) are at least interesting historically if
not because of the value.

On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 10:45 PM - <> wrote:

I live quite near KSC (Kennedy Space Center) and NASA stuff is COMMON
around here. KSC used to have monthly auctions where they auctioned off a
warehouse full of everything that you can imagine. Next door, Patrick AFB
used to have a used equipment store that was open one day a week and was
cleaned out and refilled every week. The local surplus stores and the
local ham fests are FULL of NASA marked items and the NASA sticker doesn't
add anything to the value. The paper weight on my desk is a like new HP
536A Frequency Meter that has both NASA and North American Aviation
stickers on it. North American was the prime contractor for the Apollo
spacecraft. I can't say if this meter came from that program but it's built
date is from that era.

One of my favorites is an HP-35 that I bought at PAFB for $1 back in the
1990s and that has USAF Eastern Test Range stickers on it.

On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 1:23 PM stevenhorii <> wrote:

Yes - proving the authenticity of “NASA” property tags can be a challenge
given the wide availability of printers that can print on foil tags.
However, compared to tags printed using conventional printing techniques,
microscopic examination can show the pixilated edges of letters from
digital printers.

Also, a NASA property tag does not usually increase the value by much to
collectors unless that tag is on a flight item or a piece of equipment
can be documented by NASA records or photographs showing the equipment in
use. You can find “owned by NASA” stuff all over eBay - from security
cameras to test equipment. Some value for non-flight hardware is high if
was something specifically made for NASA and has the contract number on
to prove it.

Steve Horii

On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 12:51 Roy Thistle <>

On Tue, Jul 13, 2021 at 09:19 PM, stevenhorii wrote:

and generally provide
reasonable estimates of selling prices.
Then this RM504 is an exception to the rule.
By the way... how does one verify the authenticity of the "Blue and
sticker" on the front?

Roy Thistle

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