Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've Got a Golden Nugget

My birthday is coming up the end of the month, usually my boyfriend and I go way overboard getting each other 100's of LP's and call it good.  However this year I decided what I really wanted was to treat myself to a classic vintage stereo so as to enjoy our collection even further.  Nothing quite sounds like a receiver from the the 60's or 70's, and certainly nothing looks quite like a receiver from that era.  Right now we have a Panasonic SA-AK600 that I got 6 or 7 years ago at Target, it works great, it looks nothing like the butt ugly monstrously hideous creations that they are trying to sell people nowadays.  Like I said it works fine, but records sound kind of hollow and not as amazing as I know they could sound, its a great sound system for watching DVD's though.

But the more albums we collect the more I longed for something truly bitchin' to play them on and then low and behold the streets on NYC seemed to have heard my call and presented me with a gorgeous Technics SA-5070 literally sitting on the curb 2 doors down from my own.
I plugged it in and the lights turned on but it sat idle for a couple years until one day i got up the gumption to unhook my turntable and my speakers to test it out.  Sadly no sound was to come out

(although I think I may give it another try later this week just to be sure I tested all possibilities).  Its a good looking receiver in decent shape but I suppose there is a reason it ended up on the curb.
So another couple years go by and here we are in the summer of 2011 and i have been itching for a good stereo.  The hunt began on blogs, and on ebay, just to get an idea of what i wanted.  I then turned to my friends at Ranch Records for advice on what to look for, which brands are the best, etc.  One name I kept coming across was Marantz.  I am a guy who tends to go by the look of something (hence my tendency for picking up LP's with effed up album art) and I loved the look of the Marantz receiver's I was seeing on ebay. Trouble is I am a digger at heart, and though ebay is a good resource for picking up necessary items you just can't find I really wanted to hunt this down in person.  So I decided to give myself the best birthday present on earth, a vintage stereo system!  After talking to my buddy David at Ranch I had a good idea of what I was looking for and how much I should be paying approx (prices vary from east to west).  I had several brands in mind, a 300 dollar budget, and a thrifting trip planned with the gorgeous and amazing Vintage Spinster (check out her blog its wonderful) to the flea markets and thrift stores of northern New Jersey.  HUZZAH!!!!!!
Jeanne Wu and the Vintage Spinster herself!!!
I was well aware of the inherent danger in setting out to a flea market with the sole purpose of finding a specific item.  If you are a thrifting person you know what I mean, setting out saying I am looking for a 1970's Marantz receiver today is the kiss of death, you will never find one.  I was open to several brands of vintage Receiver, Pioneer, Mcintosh, Technics, Denon, but what I really wanted was a Marantz.  So we set our alarms for 7am, applied our 70 spf and headed out to The Golden Nugget Flea Market in New Jersey.  We had it on good authority that this was a junky, fun, cheap flea market...the best kind.
Other than a brief pit stop at McDonalds for morning time bowel issues we made it almost exactly on time (not 2hrs 56mins as it says above without traffic it was much less).  It was a amazingly hot day and the flea part of the flea market was for the most part out in the wide open heat of it all.
Vintage Spinster wisely brought her gorgeous Vera print umbrella while the rest of us baked in the 90 plus heat.  It was cute, junky fun stuff just liked we'd hoped.
There were less vendors than I thought there would be, but there was TONS of space and tables for more.  So i imagine a lot of people were on summer vacations, or just didn't want to brave the heat, but fill that place to capacity with sellers and it would be insane.
One of the main reasons I was so excited for The Golden Nugget was the inside shops had two well reviewed record shops I was excited to check out, The Record Rack and R & R Records.  Unfortunately for everyone there was a power outage (probably the main reason so many vendors didn't show) in the whole area so the building wasn't open.  So we trucked through the market picking up some odds and ends, correction, some fabulous odds and ends.
Like these AMAZBALLS kitschy frosted cocktail glasses.  We are really into plantationware (as we like to call it) so these were a 5 dollar gift from the heavens.
We also collect random Indian (feathers not dots) cocktail glasses, this was 10 bucks but got it for 5 with the other 2 plantation glasess.
here is the other side
But the real coup was snagging these amazing, stunning mid-century lamps, 40 bucks for the pair lets just say they found a good home.
We named them Sandi and Salli after Sandy and Salli from the Lawrence Welk show.
At this point we were all wrapping it up at the Golden Nugget and after dropping off our stuff at the car decided to have a pee and a snowcone.  This is when Dan and I noticed The Records Rack located next to one of the exits inside the main building.  So we tried the door and low and behold it was open, the dealers were hiding inside and the guy at The Record Rack was more than happy to let us poke around even with no electricty we could see fine cause there was a window.  And there at the back of the store I saw it.  I did the gay gasp as I approached and realized that sitting in front of me was a vintage Maranzt receiver!
I still never dare to get my hopes up as things tend to be more expensive when they are even slightly close to NYC but the gentleman told me $65.  I was shocked thinking it would surely be a hundred plus dollars (as I had hopped on my Iphone and priced this model on ebay at 195.00 bucks plus shipping) so $65 seemed totally reasonable.  The big problem was the power.  No electricity to test the receiver out which was worrisome as there was no way for us to come back and return it if it didn't work.  He swore it worked well so I offered 50 bucks, he said sold, and almost the exact model I'd been eying online was mine.  And the best part of all was Dan pulled his wallet out and bought it for me for my birthday (he is so sweet).  I won't lie I was looking for one in a wood case but as a person who watches a crazy amount of House Hunters on HGTV I understand that sometimes you have to compromise to get what you want.  There was no way I was going to get a better price, and provided it worked we had just scored hard.
Ladies and Gentlemen The Marantz 2216B
I love it,  I love the blue lights, I love the chrome, I love the sideways wheel, I love the crazy power this receiver has, and I love that this fell into my lap.  With Lamps and receiver in hand we headed out to Trenton (famous last words) where had quite an adventure looking for a place to eat.  Turns out there is no food in the entire city, and 95 percent of the town is a frightening looking ghetto that resembles a war torn African village.  We finally ended up at the Fame Diner.
FAME! We're gonna eat forever!
Food in Stomach's we headed to an old stomping ground of mine, Bordentown, home of my dear friend Jessica Sentak, and home of our next Goodwill.  I wish I had known how close we were so could have hit my favorite Jersey Diner Mastoris, where the cheese sticks are the size of my arm, and the bar is cover in 10 point taxidermy (don't miss this place if you are in North Jersey there is nothing like it).  But enough about giant cheese sticks back to thrifting.  So with the receiver checked off my list I was looking for speakers and a turntable.  And the Bordentown Goodwill provided a set of 70's Technics speakers.  They were $5.99 for the pair and when I got to the register I found out they were half off.  I couldn't test them out but I am a gambling man, especially when the gamble is only 3 bucks.
What thrift luck I was having, granted i still didn't know if anything worked, but so far i had only spent $3 dollars of my own money on my vintage stereo for which I had budgeted $300 bucks.  The day was drawing to a close but we had one final stop in New Brunswick at Salvation Army (or was it a Goodwill, it's hard to keep track).  This is where I found the final piece in my puzzle.  Obviously we headed straight for the LP's and sitting on the shelf right above the dollar records was a vintage Philips turntable.  I simply couldn't believe my effing luck.  It was missing the cartridge and the grounding wire needs to be replaced, but otherwise its was in perfect condition.  Priced at $9.99 it was definitely coming home with me.
We headed back to the city, hot and tired from a long day of bargain hunting.  Vintage Spinster headed back to Connecticut and tired as I was I needed to hook the beast up and make sure it all worked.  I plugged in the receiver and the beautiful blue Marantz display came to life.  I then had to unhook one of my existing speakers so i could borrow the wire for testing purposes.  This was the moment of truth.  I slid the need over onto the vinyl and dropped it down.  To my relief sound was coming out!  Huzzah!  Unfortunately it sounded like shit.  but at that point we had both been up since 7am and there was no way I had the energy to fiddle around with it.  Sunday morning we put our new system in place in the library (yes we have a library) and I had to go to work when all I really wanted to do was play with my new toy.
I was happy enough that sound even came out that I was content.  But i also wanted to figure out what was wrong and get it fixed.  I finally had a moment to myself on Monday.  Got the speakers in place and put on another record.  The sound was still really distorted and awful, I played with the knobs which didn't seem to do much other than change the bass and treble.  A little disappointed I decided to give the aux jack a try and see how my Ipod would sound?  I wasn't sure if it was the speakers or the receiver??  I hit play and the sound was amazing!  Perfection!!  So I unplugged my current working turntable from the phono jack and plugged it into the aux jack set the needle to the vinyl and the sound was clear and strong, the distortion was gone.  Which meant that I had a working vintage stereo system and all for the low price of $63 dollars.
So whats the moral of this story??  Trenton is the scariest place on earth, but Jersey is a great place for thrifty people.  Be on the lookout for Dan and I's new blog Sloppy Seconds, coming soon.  It will detail all of the fabulous crap we have accumulated over the past couple years.  And if you aren't reading it please make sure you check out Vintage Spinster.

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