Where is a good place to look for reel to reel audio tapes?
June 3, 2010 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Where is a good place to look for reel to reel audio tapes? Especially ones with non-music recordings on them.

I recently came into possession of a reel to reel tape deck and a small selection of audio tape. Among the tapes was some spoken word poetry, and some short recordings that sound like they were done in someone's home. I'm really interested in these, and I'm curious where the best places to look for more would be.

Looking on Ebay I found a couple posts that look promising, though with shipping that'll get pricey quick. I also have a friend who manages a college radio station, so I'm going to ask her if they have an archive I can wade through. I've also checked the local flea market and I came up completely dry.

I'm in Vancouver, if that helps. Any ideas?
posted by tuck_nroll to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Look for estate sales and "friends of the library" type book sales.
posted by knile at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2010

Best answer: Often these reels don't even make it to the estate sales. They get tossed as junk.

• Craigslist wanted ad.

• I'd contact all of the estate sale companies in your area. Let them know what you're looking for. Many of them have "want lists". Get on the want list.

• Finding something like this at a flea market can be hit or miss. The best tactic is to have an inexpensive business card printed up. (keep it clear and specific... as to what you are looking for). Hand it out to the vendors who deal in older items. Do the same thing at any antique shows and shops in your area.

• Many of the old time ham radio operators recorded their conversations. Contact one of the ham radio operator clubs. (yes, they still exist).

The more you share your passion for collecting with other people... The more things will fall your way.

On a side note, a few years back I found a box of cassette tapes. They were recordings if two sisters sending "letters" to each other. Instead of writing, they would record on a craptastic cassette recorder and mail the tapes to each other. There are about 50 of em. Big fun.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:14 AM on June 4, 2010

If you were asking about video on old media, I would recommend that you visit one of those shops that advertise "we will transfer your old movies to DVD". I went to one of them (with my old movies) and they had piles of old projectors and tape reels lying around. Maybe they have audio reels too, or maybe there is an analogous type of service? Perhaps stores that sell vinyl records would have leads for reel-to-reel tapes?

You might also check the library or archives of old schools.

FWIW, my dad is a Ham and I never heard of taping conversations. But if you were to contact him (or any of the other really old guys that still do ham radio) they would love to talk to you about it for hours on end.
posted by CathyG at 7:21 AM on June 4, 2010

eBay has tons of old 7" reels of used tape for sale all the time. Often in large lots. I've bought crates of old reels of tape, 20 or 30 reels at a time, often for an average of $20 a bunch, and have found many fascinating and wonderful old tapes from the 50s and 60s among them. One of the reels I found was from 1955; a man who apparently worked in a garage in a small town in Indiana recorded a couple of hours of himself joking around with his fellow workers at the garage and discussing their lives and families, singing popular tunes and playing the piano at home with wife, and listening to the radio and playing with their kids in the family living room. The ambience is astonishing and it's an incredible audio time capsule of small-town American life in the 1950s (at one point, "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" even comes on the radio).
posted by Nicholas West at 7:27 AM on June 4, 2010

Response by poster: A lot of good ideas here, I'll get in contact with some estate sale companies, whatever local media transfer companies I can find, and keep an eye on craigslist and ebay. Thanks everyone.
posted by tuck_nroll at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2010

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