Updated: Jun 28
The most frequent questions after the Stargazing Labs and Landscape Astrophotography Labs are how much cost a telescope and where to buy it. I usually recommend having a look at this article (What Telescope is Best for a Beginner). Still, when the second-hand market appears in that conversation, I don’t feel very confident giving just 2 minutes’ advice. There are a lot of things that should be considered.
I bought and sold several telescopes and multiple components over the last 25 years. Some people are keen to buy only new equipment, but at some point, the budget will become tight, especially when you want to dive deeper into astrophotography.
If visual astronomy is already quite expensive for you, astrophotography will blow your budget just with a few components. For example, a quad-band narrow filter may cost as much as a 12” Dobsonian telescope.
The budget limitation is usually the main reason to buy, sell, and swap your equipment in the second-hand market.
This article will highlight a few important topics you need to be aware of before you go to the second-hand market, looking for quite expensive and delicate scientific equipment.
Like in any other second-hand market, the buyer wants a bargain, and the seller wants to get the maximum return of the previous investment. Having said that, both parties should be realistic with their expectations.
The reality is that telescopes get devalued over time, just like a car or a computer. If it is a very old telescope, it might be considered more valuable as a collectible item rather than as serious scientific equipment.
In my case, I own a very rare Mizar Newton 150mm f/5 telescope created by Hino Opt. in Japan around 35 years ago. The value of this telescope is several times more expensive than the price I paid for it around 22 years ago.
The brand of the equipment is quite important. There are a lot of companies in the telescopes market. Some of them have built strong community trust and reputation. Some companies are re-branding the telescopes, but the optics are just as good as the main brand. That is the case of GSO, for example.
How much is it worth?
The first thing to consider either, as a buyer or as a seller, is to know how much each component worth. The following sections highlight what you should consider assessing a proper valuation.
What is the expected lifespan?
The lifespan of astronomical equipment depends (mostly) on the hands of the previous owners. Having said that, some components and optics are prone to develop some issues over time, usually due to mechanical degradation.
While some simple optics can last for a very long time, computerized mounts are usually a source of issues.
The lifetime of computerized telescope mounts is relatively short because of mechanical degradation and because technology, in general, gets outdated quite fast.
An equatorial telescope mount bought ten years ago should be considered obsolete. Repairing it can be quite challenging b