Make Money Collecting Vintage Computers and Gadgets
Reading Time: 9 minsCollecting vintage computers and technology is now one of the fastest-growing niches for collectible enthusiasts. Many older models are now considered collectable and are worth a considerable amount of money. And, as technology evolves and new models replace existing ones, more and more items become retro and later vintage.
Collectors are fascinated by older tech and will pay a hefty price for rare times. This includes gadgets and tech that weren’t commercially successful back in the day, as their notoriety has almost made them special.
If you think you have a battered old Amstrad or Betamax in the attic, consider getting it out, dusting it off and seeing what is may be worth today by following our handy guide.
You may be wondering why anyone would want an old piece of tech, but collectors have their reasons. It’s important you understand the rationale behind collecting, before you start flogging your goods.
When it comes to collecting vintage computers and gadgets, history is important. Technology represents a roadmap of human innovation and progress and it’s this that collectors celebrate. These vintage pieces of tech have been an important part of our lives.
The Apple-1 was one of the first desktop computers produced by Apple. Naturally, it has become a piece of history. Not only do collectors fancy one, but museums are interested too. If you can get your hands on a computer that is of historical significance, then you’ve got a piece of history in your hands that’s bound to make you money.
Many people who grew up using the old computers and consoles are now looking back on their childhood through rose-tinted lenses. They could be after their first games console or the vintage computer they launched their business on. Whatever the nostalgia trip, we reckon they’d be willing to send big bucks.
Erik Klein, owner of vintage-computer.com who has amassed a large collection of vintage machines, says “Vintage computers are driven almost entirely by nostalgia. There isn’t a whole lot of practical use for an Atari 800 these days but there are people who remember how amazing that machine (and others) were when new and they want to feel and enjoy that again. The impact of Star Raiders or M.U.L.E on today’s working adults cannot be underestimated.”
Some people simply enjoy collecting vintage computers and pieces of retro tech. These collectors will happily pay a tidy sum to add to their collection.
One interesting trend beginning to catch on is collectors using retro game consoles as ornaments. These are items that they grew up with and spent time with alongside their loved ones. To some, it could be argued that these machines are considered companions in their own right. This view is readily accepted when it comes to cars, so it makes sense to apply to other machines that also hold emotional value.
Those collecting vintage computers and other gadgets are after rare and interesting finds. They may want to re-sale the item on or brag about their purchase.
While you probably don’t have an Apple-1 tucked away in your attic, there are other vintage computers and consoles that collectors will want. Before you try and make a wad of cash of your unwanted gadgets, you need to know what collectors are looking for.
How rare is it?
Any items that are mass-produced are unlikely to be rare. This is because they’re common and easy to find. However, there are exceptions to this rule like the Dreamcast. Computer models from the 1970s and the 1980s are quite rare as they weren’t produced in massive quantities. It’s likely that many of the models have probably been deposed of too, so they’re even more valuable.
Check the serial number
The earlier an item is made in the production process, the more likely it’s worth a pretty penny. Original models tend to be rarer and possess fewer ‘tweaks’ compared to their more mass-produced successors. For example, the original iPhone, although mass-produced, wasn’t produced on the same scale as the newer models are. It will forever go down in history as the model that started the iPhone revolution, and because of this it’s likely to become more valuable in time than any successor models – regardless of how many bells and whistles they have!
Check the condition
The condition of vintage items will affect its price tag. This is particularly clear with early video games that can easily make hundreds of pounds in original packaging. However, games without their packaging are often worthless. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your item will be worthless without the box, its price is just likely to dip.
For example: Siemens CL4 SIMpad
The Siemens CL4 SIMPAD was an internet tablet that didn’t sell all because it ran on Windows CE, an operating system that didn’t take off. However, today it’s possible to replace Windows CE with an alternative operating system called Linux. This has given the tablet a new lease of life and a nice price tag, if you’ve got one buried away at home. We’ve seen some go for £250.
For example: a boxed Sega Saturn
A Sega Saturn was the console before the Dreamcast. Here at Moneymagpie, we saw a boxed Sega Saturn go for £722 on eBay. Other less well preserved Sega Saturn consoles can still fetch a couple of hundred. So if you’ve got one tucked away in a cupboard, it may be time to dust off the cobwebs and sell it for some cash.
Remember! Even failed vintage computers and other gadgets from the 80s and 90s can fetch a high price. Try to establish whether the computers are rare. Other owners may have chucked theirs away and upped the value for you!
The awareness of the value that vintage computers fetch has grown over the years. Buyers and sellers are very well researched. As such, it’s getting even harder to find vintage computers for a good price. However, this does mean that you’ll make a pretty penny, if you have a vintage gadget.
Now is the time to go rooting through the loft for technological gems, especially if you know that some older tech is stored away up there. If you think this could be you, try locating the gadget and see if it works. Then, you’ll need to research its value.
Erik Klein, the vintage computer expert, says: “Finding vintage items is, in my opinion, a big part of the adventure. There are lots of possible sources, each with their own advantages and pitfalls.”
If you want to try and make some cash off vintage items, then these are places that you need to start looking:
Car boot sales
It’s possible that you’ll discover a good piece of equipment at a car boot sale. However, you’ll need to be determined. Just because you’re hunting for something in particular, doesn’t mind you’ll find that item. That’s not to say car boot sales aren’t worth checking out, you’ll just need to be realistic with your search.
Auctions are more likely to produce a good lead. Try and look out for auctions that are auctioning off assets from a liquidated business that used computers. It’s likely you’ll be bidding against some specialist and enthusiasts, so make sure you know how high you want to bid. Otherwise, you might not be getting such a good bargain.
You could try an eBay search. The trouble is you’re likely to struggle finding it a good price. Even if the seller doesn’t recognise the value of their item, there will be a lot of collectors who do. That being said, it’s always worth a try!
A Hamfest is when people who are interested in amateur radio get together for a convention. You’ll find flea markets at these events, so you may be in with a chance of buying a piece of vintage tech. If you want to find out what events are taking place near you visit the Radio Society of Great Britain.
You may stumble across a good deal on Freecycle. You won’t be the only one looking for vintage tech on these sites, so make sure your strike fast to get what you want.
Eric Klein from Vintage Computing says: ” My site hosts message boards and a marketplace that are good sources for machines, parts and advice. There are others out there as well. Just be aware of the culture of these places. Collector oriented sites are going to be a little wary of picker types looking for a quick buck. Fortunately, though, most people are a little bit of both. They collect some and sell some to fund that next purchase…”
advertise in your local paper
If you’re looking for old computers, put an ad in your local paper. Make sure you specify what you mean by old, otherwise you might get a lot of old tat. You never know what people might otherwise just throw away!
There’s potentially huge money to be made from the right vintage computer.
The price tag will depend upon the item that you’re selling. You’ll need to factor in the condition of the computer and the appetite of the market. You could make hundreds or even thousands of pounds, there’s no one set price.
Erik Klein says “At the ridiculously high end, there are original Apple-1 machines being sold today that are approaching a million dollars. These machines were selling in the $15,000-$25,000 range just 7 or 8 years ago and originally sold for under $700 in 1976.
“As the prices on those have gone up (supply is a very limited 50 or so machines worldwide) the slightly newer and more common machines from Apple have ridden their coattails.
“Some stuff will likely never appreciate significantly. The Commodore 64 still holds the world record for most sold computer of all time, but even relatively common machines like the aforementioned Atari 800 are increasing in value as quality examples become harder to find.”
As a very British example, if you can get your hands on a Clive Sinclair’s ZX80 (their first home computer) with packaging you could get £400 for it.
To get an idea of how much you can make, it’s best to checkout how much other users are selling theirs for on websites such as eBay.
We already know that the Apple-1 is fetching a small fortune at auctions. So you may be wondering, if your old Apple gadgets are worth selling online.
The Retro Tech Report has revealed that retro Apple products are worth 174% more than their original asking price. If you have any of the following tucked away in a draw, you could be in with a chance of making some money:
- The original iPod: It’s currently fetching £189 on reselling sites. It’s original RRP was £69, so that’s a profit of £120
- The original iPhone: It’s currently fetching £595 on websites like eBay. It’s original RRP was £381, so you’d be making over £200 profit if you’ve got one knocking about
- The iPod shuffle: Back in 2005, it cost £69. Now, it’s averaging £140 on eBay if it’s new and sealed.
- The Apple Macintosh originally retailed at £1840. It’s now selling for £940 on reselling sites. Even though it’s depreciated in value, you can still make yourself hundreds from an old computer!
Unfortunately, android gadgets aren’t increasing in value like Apple products, so not all your gadgets will be worth a pot of gold.
If you want to find out the price of other pieces of retro tech, then read this handy guide by Money.co.uk.
Things to remember when you’re selling…
When you’re selling your vintage tech, you need to be completely honest about the item. Make sure you list everything that’s included with the item for the maximum chance of selling. Include a photo to reassure the buyer.
It’s important that you don’t shy away from the flaws. You need to be upfront with the buyer so they don’t request a refund or accuse you of false advertising. If the item has value, it’ll sell to the right person regardless of flaws.
When it comes to selling, it’s worth speaking to the guys at vintage-computer.com. You’ll be able to get a quick estimate from computer enthusiasts on how much it might be worth and they’ll give you an idea on the best places to sell.
You may be thinking that collecting vintage computers isn’t for you, but wondering if you should start saving all your devices that you have now. Before you buy that gaming pc on finance, you’ll need to think your purchase through carefully. Nowadays technology is mass-produced, so it’s very unlikely that the devices will ever be rare enough to make any real money.
That being said, if you can get the first version of a device or a limited edition version, there’s a good chance that if you keep the box and everything that came with it that it may be worth something in the future!
So while it may not be easy finding devices today that will be worth something in the future, it’s something to always bear in mind when thinking about buying a technology product.
If you’re looking for other ways to make money from your unwanted gadgets, then give these ideas a go:
Are you a collector? What money have you made from your items? Tell us in the comments below.