Between the photos posted & the description listed you can usually tell the condition pretty accurately.
Other than that you can ask the seller questions.
With Manfrotto tripods the most that you might have to do is to tighten some screws for the leg clamps, or, brush off some dust with a toothbrush.
Occasionally a sticky leg might need a little WD-40 wiped across it.
If you get one with a crank for the center post you might also want to brush off the teeth of the center post, with a toothbrush, & give it a light coat of WD-40 as well.
These are all very minor age related touch-ups.
I think that the majority? of tripod owners never consider any kind of regular maintenance or clean-up.
Mine get really dusty from just sitting around the house all year long.
Recently I bought a well used Manfrotto 144B tripod for 25€ and a well used also Manfrotto 808RC4 3 axis head for 30€. I got these from a long time friend who is clearing some older gear and shopping for new photo equipment for his studio.
I believe the tripod was also sold by Bogen, under model number 3011. The B in 144B stands for the black version. The head was produced after Bogen turned into Manfrotto DIstribution and it has the same designation in the US. The head is currently in Manfrottos catalogue and its RRP price in the US is 180$. If I remember correctly, the 144B was replaced somewhere in late 90s or early 10s by the 055 model. The 144B is one of those old Manfrotto designs wich only has one angle position for leg spread and because of that it is considered obsolete by todays standards. Nonetheless, it loads up to 6Kg (13,22lb), stands 1,71m (5,61ft) tall to its head mounting flange and weighs a very reasonable 2,5Kg (5,5lb).
Tripod was very dirty, had stickers from the photographic studio were it was used, had a couple of legs very loose from the central triple, the mounting flange where the head is screwed was loose about 3mm (1/8") and tilted somewhat inside the column tube, some of the screws were rusty and there was grub everywhere.
I took a morning to disassemble it, cleaned everything, removed rust and grub with bicycle chain cleaner, allow it to dry and the next day I reassembled everything, greasing where needed with Dow Corning Molykote BR2 lithium based grease. Apart from the signs of wear, some scratches and one small dent in one of the legs, the tripod actually looks like new. I just had to change two rusted nuts and one screw. Everything else remained original.
First tests were very good, legs are moving tightly and maintain spread position quite well and do not wooble. The central triple is tight also, as are all screws, and the column does not shake anymore, neither the mounting flange rocks.
This is the build quality we used to see in the 70s and 80s and this quality is rare nowadays. Tripod is around 30 years old, with hundreds or thousands of hours of use and it will last some more, after this refurbishement.
To get this level of tripod today I would have to buy something like the 055, wich sells for around 250€ (tripod legs only) in a photographic shop close by me.
The 8Kg (17,63lb) rated 808RC4 head was a bit worse, the horizontal panning movement had its rotation a bit stiff and needed attention, the quick release automatic locking mechanism spring was broken and the RC4 quick releasing plate was missing.
I disassembled the bottom part of the pan movement, cleaned, greased and reassembled. Found a suitable spring in a spare box of a machinist friend and rebuilt the automatic locking mechanism for the QR plate. In between, I ordered a replacement quick release plate (Manfrotto 410PL) at the professional photographic shop, wich took 2 days to arrive.
Head is working fine now, does all movements with lots of fluidity and appart from some paint chipped corners, looks quite good.
Total cost was only 81€, (not accounting for my own labour and the few cents I spent in grease and the replaced screw and nuts), versus some 400€ for a new similar set.
I had a lot of fun, managed to see one more example of Manfrottos old days excellent craftsmanship in detail, found a cheap temporary solution for a tripod option while I decide what kind of support better suits my observation needs and helped the environment, avoiding one more recycling process and one less new tripod to be fabricated and sold, saving water and resources.
Althought a 3 axis head is not the ideal head to be used with observation gear and a friction video one is better, the 808RC4 has (swichtable) balancing springs on the vertical and horizontal tilts and actually is quite nice to use with my Aculon 10x50s.
To finish, I consider optics should be bought new or close to new (for the obvious reasons, namelly more modern coatings, interior cleaniness, optical allignment, etc) but regarding mounts, given they are mechanical items, one may find quite cheap solutions out there, wich with some care and technical expertise, may come as pretty nice and affordable solutions, even if they need some new parts, wich in the case of Manfrotto, are widely available.
Edited by StarDustBin, 03 November 2018 - 06:28 PM.