Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's a Used CRT TV Worth in 2011?

The reign of the cathode ray tube is over. It was the original mechanical masterpiece of the television era and was the technology behind each and every TV and computer monitor we used up until a ten years ago when flat-panel technology began to become affordable. Now that you can get a 42” LCD TV for $400, no one bothers to buy CRT anymore.

Diagram by Søren Peo Pedersen
So what exactly is CRT? Well, you know those televisions and computer monitors with the ridiculously long backs that drop down at an angle? They hold a massive electron gun. I know that sounds really cool, but it can kill you if you mess with it. The gun fires a beam of electrons at the back of a phosphorous screen, selectively exciting tiny points on that screen at an unfathomably quick rate to form images. The result of this is a watchable, but low resolution image.

Not only do they have sub-par picture quality compared to the flat panels we all love, they’re ridiculously bulky, often being longer than they are wide. And if you need to move one, good luck, because those things—even the smaller computer monitors—are stupidly heavy.

You might own one. Lots of people still have these things. A couple years ago when mine broke, I went to go buy a new TV, but all the flat-panels were still close to $1000, so I settled for yet another CRT at the entirely reasonable price of $180. Then, for my birthday this year, my brother finally bought me a nice LCD TV, so it was time to sell the giant boob tube.

TV for sale; dog not included
So, what’s a CRT worth in 2011? This was something I was excited to find out. I knew it wouldn’t be a lot. I figured I’d get $20 for it, but I’d settle for $10. I anxiously posted an ad on Craigslist and waited for someone to bite.

Now I’ve sold tons of things on Craigslist, some of it entirely useless: Pyrex cookware, a kitchen knife, old mysterious power amps, a broken subwoofer (fully disclosed damage), eight-year-old computer motherboards, and a drum machine from 1986 among other things, and most of those items were in the $30-50 range, so I expected this TV to be picked up by somebody. Nope. The ad expired without a single inquiry, not even from a scammer who would want to know if “my frend can pick up it.”

So I reposted the ad. Maybe it was a rough time of year, and no one was looking for a TV. It’s in perfect working condition! It’s all black! It’s only $20! Nothing. Meanwhile, it sat collecting dust in my second bedroom.

Finally, I decided it was time for the thing to go. I had been collecting a pile of useless stuff to donate to Goodwill for quite a while, including some broken computer parts that I didn’t want to take to the dump and pay to dispose of. I know this makes me sound like a bad person, but I figure I’ll just take all my crap to Goodwill, and if it works, they’ll sell it, and if it doesn’t they’ll take it to the dump for me. Hooray! Plus, I’ve donated at least $1000 worth of stuff that I was too lazy to sell, so I’ve earned my money, I think.

I put the TV in my car, and as I was carrying it, I remembered thinking, “This is the last time I’ll ever have to move one of these things.” It was a particularly liberating thought, considering that it weighed close to 100 pounds. I also took a bag of clothes, a bag of shoes, a CRT monitor I’d been trying to sell on Craigslist for six months, a broken flat-panel monitor, and two old computer cases which I had crammed full of broken disc drives, video cards, and power supplies, and drove all of it to the donation center. When I pulled in, a young guy came out and looked in the car.

“Are those CPUs?” He asked. Technically, yes, there were CPUs in the computer cases, so I confirmed it. “Okay, I’ma have you leave those in the car and take them over to that dumpster.” Fine with me. That’s easier than driving them to the county dump. He took the TV inside. I waved goodbye.

For some reason, as he was taking the computer monitor inside, I pulled one of the computer cases out of the car. “No, no, leave that in the car! I need you to take it to the dumpster over there,” he said, pointing behind the dry cleaners across the parking lot. I put it back. He took the clothes inside, and I pulled the flat panel monitor out from under the passenger seat.

“Oh man, another monitor?” he said. “Hell yeah, I’ma get that too. I’m gettin' off in about five minutes,” he said to me. “Take that to the dumpster, too.” It had become very clear to me that he was scamming Goodwill. By acting as the gateway to donations, he could pick which items he’d take home with him to sell for personal profit. It didn’t matter to me at all.

“Okay, so you see that dumpster over there? Just put all that stuff on the ground behind it. Thanks a lot, man.” I obliged him by driving all three items over there and leaving them where they belonged: In a pile of garbage. I would have felt bad about aiding him in defrauding a non-profit organization, but everything he asked me to hold onto was completely broken, while everything that went inside was working perfectly fine. He actually helped both myself and Goodwill by taking the burden of electronics disposal off of both of us. I wonder how pissed off he was when he found out that all that stuff was trash. Well, that’s karma!

However, his actions say a lot about the worth of a CRT television. His keen eye for materials worth fencing determined that the totally intact television was worthless, while all that broken crap translated into money. It turns out that a CRT television isn’t even worth someone taking for free.

I’ll check out Goodwill in a few days and see if it’s out on display. Only then will we see what someone else thinks the thing is worth.


  1. AnonymousJuly 16, 2011

    [16-07-2011][19:16]Can you give me the link to seel my broken CRT television?

  2. I'm not sure that I can do that, because "It turns out that a CRT television isn’t even worth someone taking for free." Just do what I did and take it to a donation center. You can probably overestimate the worth for a tax deduction.

  3. Flat panels being better than crts? Lol. I wonder how some people can go through life being this ignorant. Lowest response time (thus, least motion blur), best color accuracy, best true black (0 lumens), best viewing angles (180), no specific native resolution = crt.

    Flat panels are here to cater to those "i want it thinner!!!1!" kind of people, not those who want the best picture quality. You probably had a lousy crt, and assume it's just a bad technology. Do more research.

  4. Working with both CRT televisions and computer monitors for years, I am well aware that CRTs with decent picture quality exist. However, almost no one owns them.

    Did you see the TV in that picture? It obviously sucks. And yes, it's true, no one wants to take one from you — even for free — even if it actually is a kick ass television, because everyone thinks they're trash. That was the point of the article, lol.

  5. Need i quote you?

    "The result of this is a watchable, but low resolution image.

    Not only do they have sub-par picture quality compared to the flat panels we all love"

    This doesn't translate to "Most people don't think they're worth anything, even though it's the technology with the most potential for excellent picture quality". So, either you used all the wrong words or you're correcting yourself now. I know i'm being an asshole, but this is 90% of the articles i see floating around the internet: people saying crts suck and praising freaking (even) tn panels just because it's the thing to do, now. It gets annoying after a while.

  6. The title of the article is "What's a Used CRT Worth in 2011?" and the result is that it "isn't even worth someone taking for free," as related in my anecdote about the donation center scammer who wouldn't touch it. When I make a blanket statement like "the flat panels we all love," I certainly don't actually mean that every single person loves them, just as I wouldn't if I said something like "Everybody loves ice cream." This is more of a critique of society as a whole, and their view of CRTs, and how much they perceive them to be worth.

    Of course, there are going to be people who prefer CRTs for their refresh rates and whatnot, just as there are people who prefer carburetors to fuel injection, analog to digital synthesizers, magazines to iPads. There are benefits on both sides of each argument.

    It seems that your biggest objection is to my dismissal of CRT technology as "low-quality." Well, I could spend five grand on a Philips 36" 1080i CRT, or I could spend 10% of that on a Philips 46" LCD that displays at 240Hz, and have a TV that looks modern, doesn't weigh 90 pounds, and lets me reclaim two more feet of my living room. So yes, high-quality CRTs exist, just like albino fruit bats.

    Hey, aren't you going to at least give me credit for saying "flat panels" and not "flat screens"?

  7. Well, i was using crt as a more encompassing term (like, it's not all about tvs). You can spend 5 grand on a 1080i tv, but, right now, you could also spend 100 (or only a few more) on a slightly used trinitron fw900 (that, apparently, noone wants), which is the pinnacle of display technology, and will beat any other display (even though it's 16:10).

  8. Haha I picked up my crt about 2 years ago. It is by far the best display I have ever used. Its only a 34 inch 1080i but I tell you my colors are dead on and blacks are black. Nothing is ever washed out gray or anything. I have a lg 47lh90 and that is a really good picture but it doesnt touch on my tv. It is just perfect. Who needs 240hz when you have one of these :P

  9. If a person has an old CRT that they're happy with and still works, I can't see the point of getting a new flat panel until the old set gives out. I have a 27" CRT, low res, and it looks both brighter and the colors truer than most cheap flat panels in that size range. Note I said "cheap," which is all I'll be able to afford if I need to replace it (when it goes out, I will of course get a flat panel LCD/LED). The only benefit of "high resolution" in the cheap range is you can see all the blemishes and lines in peoples' faces better. I don't find the pictures the less expensive, smaller high res TV's to be of very high-quality, particularly in terms of color-rendering.

  10. Actually if you want to recycle them you have to pay. They cost roughly $1 per inch to recycle, and most centers charge you that. They contain LED in the tube is why.

  11. I have a CRT Computer Monitor by SAMSUNG that is really high quality and nice. wouldn't give it for nothing.

    Not I dont know about TV sets but I think a CRT monitor displays a sharper image to be honest.

  12. AnonymousMay 24, 2012

    sony 34" trinitron super fine pitch xbr960 "nuff said" i bought one used last year for $200 and the picture is incredible.

  13. We had a crt tv that gave out after 10 or 11 years of use. At the moment we couldn't afford a new flat screen and a friend gave us their CRT TV for free since they had recently got themselves a flat screen. In hindsight, they were probably glad to be rid of it.

    We used the TV for a few months but finally got the funds to buy ourselves a flat screen. Now our CRT TV is used as a stand for my blu ray player.

    I recently bought a cheap 3DTV from Vizio and ended up giving my mom the other flat screen since she had been using CRT TV still and the thing was a mess. She instantly fell in love with flat screen.

    Its hard to go back to CRT once you realize the superiority of HDTV.

  14. I prefer standard definition analogue CRT televisions to modern high definition digital flat screen televisions. People upgrade because standard definition is 'uncool' now - even though when sitting at a proper viewing distance, the difference between SD & HD is barely noticable. Owning a massive flatscreen is the newest status symbol, and based around pure stupidity.

    I have done many comparisons between CRTs and flatcreens (LCD & Plasma - LED is more-or-less a sub-product of LCD as it uses LEDs as backlighting instead of CFLs), and still find CRTs to have far superior picture quality. Only now is OLED technology starting to catch up.

    The argument of CRTs being heavy and taking up space is also incredibly stupid - the weight doesn't matter. It's not like you have to get up every morning and carry a 100lb CRT down the stairs, and back up in the afternoon. If you do have to frequently move your television, set it up on a nice trolley or movable stand.

    Space is only a minor inconvienience. Most people use their new flatscreen on the same stand or table that their CRT was on. It's not like you can find much use for that extra space... Maybe sit the remote controllers and television guide in front of the teleision? You can do both of these on top of your CRT!

    CRT's are also relatively easy to repair - and are repairable on a component level. The only parts that may be an issue is the CRT, flyback transformer or any other 'unobtanium' parts. Flatscreens are disposable - designed for the dumpster and money savings. They are, at best, repairable to a modular level. The only components you can really replace are a handful of capacitors in the power supply.

    All in all, CRT's are stiil technologically superior to flatscreens, which is why I have upgraded from a flatcreen to a CRT, and the reason my family and friends are.

  15. And, you get bad runs and bad quality with all forms of display technology. Back in the 1990's, there were bad runs of CRT's used in Sony Trinitrons, just as there were excellant runs that have lasted for 20+ years (such as my 21" 1994 Sony Trinitron, which still beats flatscreens in terms of image quality when properly adjusted). There were poor quality CRT televisins made, just as most flatscreens are now (poor quality junk).

    You get bad flatscreens, which last for a year or two before developing a nice little fault. Some are rendered dumpster candidates after a couple of years. I wonder if any of these flatscreens will last as long as CRTs though, such as my 1970's PYE television, which has outlasted many generations of flatscreens.

  16. Best Buy will take your old CRT tv or monitor (as well as most other kinds of electronics) and recycle them, reclaiming the valuable metals for reuse rather than dumping them in a landfill.

    I have a lovely 19" CRT Trinitron Sony computer monitor, works perfectly and still it its original box. I suspect no one wants it (including me), so the logical thing is to recycle it. Breaks my heart a bit though; back in its day that was a highly desirable piece of equipment. Now I can't even give it away.

  17. Where I live there are only 5 HD channels. The other 99% are still standard definition. I picked up a used Sony Trinitron Wega 29" CRT and the picture quality is amazing. I convert Blu-ray rips to SD by rescaling them to 720x480 and using a high bit-rate so I can watch them on my Sony using my DVD player.

    Standard definition on a HDTV looks crappy because the HDTV has to enlarge the picture and you lose quality that way. If it was in 4:3 ratio then it will stretch it and that looks ugly or it puts black bars on the left and right which ends up looking small on a widescreen TV.

    I'm sure HDTVs look great if you live in a country where most of the broadcasts are in high definition.

    Sharp, Samsung and LG still make CRT TVs here (14", 21" and 29") and at a low price. The 29" will go for $200.

    When my Sony dies I'll either pick up one of those if they still make them or get another used Sony.

    I don't want to fork out $500 for an LED-backlit LCD TV made with a TN panel that changes contrast depending on which angle you view it and is easily broken or pushed over by kids.


  18. So, in 2013, the 29" Sony Trinitron Wega I bought last month was worth $100.

    They sell quickly around here. An ad will go online for a day and it's sold.

    Then again, the Wega was top of the line, although I've heard that Mitsubishi made pretty nice CRTs.

  19. Mobile trolley stand is perfect for both LCD and plasma televisions.

    AVF1800-80-1P is designed with a large and rigid aluminium contour base construction to provide good balance and good support necessary weight to ensure stability

    You can adjust the hight up to a maximum of 1.8 Metres, and the mounting bracket can be rotated for landscape or portrait viewing.


  20. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. used cars in el cajon