Monday, January 20, 2014

Amateur Equipment Inventory

The ARRL Contest Update for January 15, 2014, included a suggestion from the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter that we, as hams, need to make an inventory of our equipment.  The article is reprinted below with permission of ARRL.  This is a useful idea not only for our spouse or whoever is charged with the duty of taking care of what we leave behind but can be beneficial for ourselves.  It can remind you what you actually paid for an item or how long you've really owned it when you go to sell it.

We are all getting older, that's a given. And, for the most part, we have a considerable inventory of ham radio related products. But, how many of us actually have this inventory written down? I started doing this many years ago in a Microsoft Word document but I got too detailed on what I was trying to keep track of, and with my limited knowledge of Microsoft Word, I had no way to sort it.

Even if you don't use Microsoft Excel to record this data, it can still be very beneficial just to record the simplest record on paper or even in Microsoft Word. Making this a New Year's resolution to simply "work" on this project over the year is a good start. You don't have to complete it by next Friday, just START on it TODAY!

I've seen some hams pass away where the person who has to go through their "stuff" has no idea that a rotor control box on the operating table necessarily has a rotor connected to it out on the tower, that empty boxes for "filters" indicate those "filters" are actually "inside" a radio, which charger belongs to which radio, and so on.  Even when another ham tries to unravel this mess, that charger issue can be a huge problem.  To solve the charger issue, I have started putting a label on the cable of a charger indicating what equipment it belongs to.  To solve the first issue, a simple list of equipment with notes showing the basic info is a great start.  I also need to do a little work on where I keep my manuals, accessory cables, connectors, fuses, etc.   A note in the description (or a column in Excel) could tell WHERE those items are located.  The "Notes" can also contain information about "issues" with that particular piece of equipment or any separate options or accessories that are installed or are located in a box or a drawer somewhere.  HECK, that's a great idea even for while I'm still HERE.  Sometimes it takes me days to find where I put those parts just a mere 10 years ago! 

Now go start this BASIC and SIMPLE inventory list TODAY! You can work on it as time is available but at least START it TODAY! I did!  See above a Screen Shot of my beginning effort.

One Other Idea:

While I'm at it, you should also begin looking at Life and Death Planning (if you haven't already done so.)  There is no guarantee for ANY of us as to how much time we have left so don't think that just because you are relatively young and healthy that this does not affect you.  Below is a link to a good place to start.  There is some very good information here as well as Checklists you can download and print to get yourself started.  Plus, the website has an easy to remember name!

========== Excerpt of ARRL Contest Update follows  ==========

Taking Inventory

The New Year is always a time of resolutions and resolve...and maybe a bucket list or two. The January issue of the Mt Airy VHF Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter contained a gem of a resolution by John W3HMS - taking inventory of your shack equipment. As John explains in this issue's Conversation piece, reprinted with the permission of the Pack Rats, it's not hard and you'll be glad you did. 73, Ward NØAX

Your Easy New Year's Resolution: A Simple Ham Shack Inventory
by John W3HMS

There are many reasons to have an inventory and so very many reasons NOT to do it. One point to consider is that this is not the "good old days" when a friend sells THE radio of an SK but rather a time when a ham station has A LOT of gear in it and it may be very messy!!!!

The Contest Update wishes to thank the Pack Rats for their many contributions to this newsletter and to VHF+ contesting over their long and storied history.
Because my inventory is built in Excel it can and has been refined over time. Buying new gear is can add to it almost 100% from memory at the time when the gear is received. Sales or disposal is equally easy as "Sold VOM to W1XYZ for $25 on 1 Nov 13".

The key is to keep it simple remembering that you will miss some items but they can be added as/when you desire. Price is the purchase price (a fact at the time the item is bought), and NOT a current valuation. The latter is easy to obtain...set aside 15 hours per day for constant Ebay inquiries...yea, right, HI!!

The easy entry and sorting features of Excel and its widespread availability means you can enter items randomly then sequence like items together and sort as you desire later on. You can easily create additional rows and columns plus select the columns to print or email. Here is what I record: Description, Purchase Date, Purchase Price and Notes. One column per category, one row per item.

As you can see, I DO keep it simple. I could put in serial numbers if I want to research more than 200 items but that takes time and it could kill the project. I could try and find the current selling price and encounter the same issues. I try and put the item keyword first so like items sort together, e.g. transceiver, transmitter, SWR meter, antenna matcher, etc. For items like tools, I put in one lot valued at a low may have big ticket power tools and desire to enter key items individually.

For homebrew gear or unknown gear, I use $1.00. You could start your entry process by entering the most expensive gear first as this follows a good business principle of putting effort on the most important gear. Don't forget your antennas and all outside towers, equipment, and gear in the car, boat, Rolls-Royce, etc .

On small parts of unknown value, just citing one lot at $1.00 will help ensure that this category is not missed at the time of your trip to "the big QTH in the sky". If you have big expensive spares, then individual inventory entry seems most desirable. You could set a dollar value for what to enter, but I feel that any piece of equipment I might want to sell is worth entry.

So what do you have when you are finished or close to it? Well, you have an accurate record to discuss with your insurance agent if you feel you may want additional QTH insurance.

It seems to me it is just a good practice to record your radio assets. If you feel the inventory process is tough for you, imagine how tough it would be for your widow and/or friends who have not the same knowledge as you do of the equipment by function and value? 

I think you may well be surprised at the dollar value you have tied up in your equipment. You also have a file that can easily be stored on your PC, safeguarded in a vault, and sent via email.

When needed, the inventory can be used to insert asking prices for estate sales and simplify so much the effort to be provided by friends and your XYL. So, if you are sure you will live forever, please put off starting your equipment inventory, HI!! If you are mortal, may I wish you good luck in starting with the big stuff and working down the value scale.

73, John W3HMS

========== "Reprinted with the permission of the ARRL. © Copyright ARRL." ==========