John Collins is making sure one person's junk is another's gizmo.
Out-dated science equipment from the depths of Sonoma State University's science and technology building is now on the sales block at eBay, the online public auction house. The SSU physics grad has until January 2005 to transform the scientific boneyard of Darwin Hall into dollars for the University.
Collins created an eBay web site called Gizmophile and daily posts new items for sale. He spends his nights shipping out the sales of the previous day.
He estimates he has over 20,000 pounds of equipment and "new old" supplies that could be sold to willing buyers if he can find them. Spectrometers, switches, oscilloscopes, microscopes, radio tubes and early models of computers are only a few of the kinds of equipment once used to show students the principles of light,
gravity, electricity, molecular structure, motherboards and motors.
Charles Darwin Hall was built in 1967 when studies in the hard sciences of the then School of Natural Sciences had far different needs. Thanks to passage of Proposition 47 in 2002, the University has $29 million to renovate the four-story building and prepare it for 21st century science. But the building must be completely emptied before work can begin. Its doors will re-open in 2007.
The 111,821 sq. ft. building is home to six of the nine departments and programs of the newly-named School of Science and Technology, which includes biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics, and physics and astronomy.
As Collins has found out from his recent eBay sales, there is no shortage of connoisseurs of radio tubes, lab glass, old computers and microscopes, testing and measuring equipment and switches.
One researcher in Spain spent more than $700 to ship a $25 part for his laboratory. Some buyers prospect for serious collectors, such as those who look for antique computers.
Collins stores the most recent items for sale in a staging area on the third floor of Darwin Hall. But the real treasure trove is in other rooms of the basement where a gizmophile like Collins starts to tremble .
"You just keep finding these little jewels everyplace you turn. It is hard to stop looking," says Collins who has his own online auction site called Heavenly Tubes, a clearinghouse for "new old" radio tubes.
"Do you have an uncle who wore thick rimmed glasses and had one of the pen pads in his shirt pockets that leaked ink. Well, this is the kind stuff he would love."
Collins can be reached at (707) 664-3975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above: John Collins turns the slavage of old scientific equipment from Darwin Hall into eBay gold. (Photo by Jean Wasp)