Swap Meets

For many hams, setting up their first station is an exciting and fulfilling experience. But for many, perusing the next issue of the American Radio Relay League’s monthly publication QST, or perhaps a conversation with other hams will  create a desire for more advanced or different gear. But what do we do with our gear which will be replaced by new? Or as a newly minted ham asking, ”how can I set up a station at reasonable cost?”

Thus the creation of the swap meet to buy or sell used and new gear. Also Amateur Radio enthusiasts, like most groups or organizations, enjoy socializing with like minded people, fulfilling “wish lists”, learning about the latest technical aspects of  this hobby and viewing the latest from manufacturers and distributors. So it is not surprising that over the years “meets” have been created to fulfill these needs.

There are three basic types: Hamfests, Swap Meets, and Virtual Swap Meets.

Unfortunately, at this writing Covid-19 restrictions have led to the cancellation of many, if not most, meets leaving the field open to only virtual or word of mouth sales.


Usually annual events which are held at the same time each year in a convenient location. Hobbyists like getting together to discuss the various sub interests of the hobby and Hams are no exception. Hamfests, usually a multi-day event,  combine a schedule of presentations and workshops on various topics of interest, achievement awards, new equipment manufacturers’ displays (often with special “hamfest” pricing) and a Swap meet in an adjoining area. Admission is often charged to defray the cost of presentations and also if you wish to set up a booth. If an amateur radio operator is interested in the latest “scoop” then attendance at a regional Hamfest is a must as a lecture, touring the latest hardware/software displays and picking up a spare used/new Swap item can all be accomplished in a single day. Most Hamfests are regional or even national in appeal. To find out when and where Hamfests are upcoming try https//www.arrl.org/hamfests/search

Swap meets

Many hams will relate that their first gear purchases were “used.” .And given the  current prices for “state of the art” radio gear,  many  will find used gear their only option. So to fulfill this need owners with used gear to sell have created scheduled flea markets which are often hosted by regional or local radio clubs.

But new items are also sold at these markets and viewing them from afar resembles an open air catalogue. When good weather reappears and Covid restrictions disappear, hams should again use the arrl.org, and local/regional club websites,eg. www.Mohawkarc.org,  www.arrl.org and www.cmara.org.

 A recent search of the American Radio Relay League by typing in “swap meets” resulted in listing only a cancellation of one which normally would have occurred the first week of March, 2021. normally this is a good site to find when and where current swap meets will occur.  However virtual swap meets are now being planned to replace in-person events.

The following links may prove to be of  use  :https://www.swapmadness.com/

https://ema.arrl.org/ and https://swap.qth.com/

Virtual Swap meets

Nature dislikes a vacuum and the cancellations of the traditional Swap Meets and Hamfests due to the pandemic has created an opportunity for virtual sales. 

Just like our normal shopping experiences during the pandemic, buying or selling used radio gear is now popular on many Internet platforms such as www.eBay.com, www.craigslist,.org, www.eHam.net and www.qrz.com (requires membership to access)

An upcoming virtual meet such as https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/ demonstrates the broad appeal for such events and should give the reader a new window on what may become a more common format.

Finally as a reminder: as with all commerce, the principle Caveat emptor applies