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Finding Old Computers! (from my experiences)

CompuNurd

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Almost every novice or new collector will ask where to get old computers. The first answer they usually get is to look on eBay. Sure, eBay can be a good place to find the more common systems, but when you want to buy in quantity without the competition that is eBay, where do you look? Many people will say that thrift shops or garage sales are good places to start, but I have yet to find anything older than 1995. Goodwill has only turned up an iMac that looked like it was thrown off a building into a busy street, and a boxed, yet questionable, TI home computer. My community run thrift store hasn't a single computer, and my local independent thrift store is full of big talkers, saying they get systems all the time, yet somehow have nothing when I call back three weeks later. One day I was going to a distant thrift store, when I came upon a sign that read, "We repair and recycle computers". I thought they may have an old Mac Plus or Apple II, nothing out of the ordinary. When I go inside and talk to the guy about purchasing vintage systems, he shows me an entire warehouse full of the stuff! It's like an automotive salvage yard, but with computers! There is everything from an Apple IIc and Commodore 64, all the way up to the G4 and G5 iMacs. There are plenty of compact Macs, and since they do repair, there are a lot of newer systems that they salvage parts from. The warehouse is a bit bigger than a hotel suite, but there is quite a bit of stuff shoved in corners and on shelves, so I had to climb over old stuff to get to old stuff. Many of these places check eBay, and the owner wasn't too happy when he found out someone sold me some stuff for as cheap as I got it. I've found these computer repair/recycling places are great for finding old computers, and I have found another computer repair place in my area that frequently liquidates a large amount of items, old and new. A lot of websites dedicated to older systems (like this one) usually have a classifieds section where people sell their stuff, as well as in the comments section on the info page of said systems. Don't be afraid to call universities, companies, thrift stores, or computer repair/recycling facilities in your area searching for old computers! If your city has a city-wide electronics recycling event, contact who you can to see if they are willing to sell any old systems they get. Make brief flyers saying you are interested in old systems and hand them out to thrift stores, flea markets, community garage sales, computer repair/recycling facilities, and public bulletin boards. If you can, post an ad in the classifieds section of your newspaper saying you are interested in old computers. If a thrift store doesn't take old computers, they may give your contact to someone that is trying to get rid of them.

One more thing: some people think that just because their stuff is old, it is worth a lot of money. The owner of one repair/recycling facility I visited is the same way. His quote of the day: "We ain't gonna price these systems by if they turn on or not, we look on eBay and we know what they are worth. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but we are not simply giving them away. I've seen some go for $50, and some for $10k."

*facepalm* $10k? Not for ANY classic Mac, maybe the original 128K unopened...maybe. If they don't turn on, I can tell you right now they are not worth $10k, if he was lucky he might get $25. What he thinks is worth $10k, are a few newer generation classic Macs (Plus, Classic, SE, ETC.) that are covered in dust, have their fair share of scratches and chips, and most have major issues (no display, bad caps, sounds of stuff falling off inside when you pick them up, ETC.)

If you have any tips about finding old computers you want to share, feel free to reply and keep the thread going!

Photo below is a handful of classic Macs I pulled down for testing (only 1 was fully functional, so I purchased it along with some IBM PC XTs).


photo 2.jpg
 
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PeterNC

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Check Craigslist as well. You can sometimes buy entire collections or whole sets. There is more stuff out there than anyone could ever buy / store. Vintage computers are still very common once you start paying attention.
 

Al Kossow

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we look on eBay and we know what they are worth. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but we are not simply giving them away.

Get to know his family.
One day he'll croak and they'll throw it all away.
Let HIM pay the storage costs until then.
 

Chuck(G)

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Well, to be fair, there are systems that mean special things to people and that can drive the price up.

I'd love to find a Durango Poppy, but I'm not sure how much in excess of a couple hundred I'd pay for one.

After so many years of looking for one, I doubt that I'll be exposed to that danger.
 

Unknown_K

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Old is a relative term for computers. Prices have gone up because the vintage equipment has either been hoarded and recycled. Much of what is hoarded is non functional.

Somebody just getting into the hobby should stick to ebay and look at what the item he wants has sold for recently and budget accordingly. Large amounts of free machines just gets people into hoarding and not collecting.

My experience has been that getting in touch with the local scrappers and computer referbishers works out well. Scrappers are happy to pass along vintage equipment for more then scrap (plus they don't have to touch it) while refurb guys are always getting old junk in trades or just left there and they want it gone. Craigslist will turn up old collectors who want their unsellable junk gone (might have to move for work etc) but there are also people looking for 5x ebay prices because they know what their junk is worth (lol).

Ebay is great for specific items you just never see in your neck of the woods, and these forums are good for trades.
 

CompuNurd

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Well, to be fair, there are systems that mean special things to people and that can drive the price up.

I completely understand. One place I frequent has a Heathkit H89 on the top shelf when you walk in. The owner will not sell it for any price because it was the computer he worked on in the 1980s. The case is entirely different when it comes to the people hoarding dusty Macs that don't work right, brought in by complete strangers. These people are also obtaining the items for free or next to nothing, so any price I give them would be profit. I realize that people want to get the most out of their stuff, but they, to my knowledge, have been sitting for years. If someone gave me something for free that then stayed in my closet for several years, then someone randomly comes to my door wanting to pay me any amount for the item, I would most likely accept the offer. If it has been collecting dust for that long, never moved or used, I will probably never miss it!
 

Al Kossow

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These people are also obtaining the items for free or next to nothing, so any price I give them would be profit.

You're thinking logically.
To a dealer, if he sees it sell on eBay for X, it is worth at least X if not more.
I've seen REAL warehouses full of this stuff, and the guy will pay thousands of dollars to
store it until he gets the price he wants.
Until the day comes along when he can't make the rent, then it goes to gold recycling
rather than make 10 cents on the dollar to sell it as-is.
 

CompuNurd

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To a dealer, if he sees it sell on eBay for X, it is worth at least X if not more.

Exactly, however some people are happy to accept a little under eBay prices for cash on the spot, others are happy to get rid of it for cheap, say if the company is closing or relocating. Good negotiation skills are key. I got a green iMac DV in the original box with all accessories and manuals for $10 at a garage sale. The price was originally $60 but they were about to drive away and didn't want to haul it to the new house.
 

GottaLottaStuff

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I went to our local Habitat ReStore (Habitat For Humanity, if you haven't seen one) and they had a rack of PC stuff. Nothing vintage, but I picked up a Gateway PII 233 and a PIII 850 in a big server case for $5 each. I'll have to look there more often.
 

smp

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To a dealer, if he sees it sell on eBay for X, it is worth at least X if not more.

Most dealers don't bother to take the time to see what things actually sell for on eBay.
They glance through the vintage listings and see what folks there want to sell tings for.

smp
 

JDallas

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Have Warehouse, Won't Haggle

Have Warehouse, Won't Haggle

...I've seen REAL warehouses full of this stuff, and the guy will pay thousands of dollars to
store it until he gets the price he wants...
A business associate in Dallas did that on the side. He bought up discontinued stock of Multi-Bus boards and stored them in a section of his warehouse. A lot of elevator controls used to run on Multi-Bus because the safety validation process was expensive, MB was the default choice for many years. He sold those boards at top dollar until he retired and he would never be bargained down.

Its likely that the reason they're willing to pay so much to store them is that the warehouse is a fixed cost they're paying for anyway. Vintage stuff sold for top dollar is just a bonus for them to reduce their overhead.

...Get to know his family. One day he'll croak and they'll throw it all away...
That's the smart way. Its all about timing.
 
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JDallas

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Have Warehouse, Won't Haggle

Have Warehouse, Won't Haggle

...If someone gave me something for free that then stayed in my closet for several years, then someone randomly comes to my door wanting to pay me any amount for the item, I would most likely accept the offer....
That would be both rational and good business.

But scrappers don't look at it as an arbitrage transaction, linking something to a buyer and not keeping their own money tied up in it. As they usually have very little if any money tied into the acquisition, to them, its TREASURE.

This somewhat irrational thinking allows them to wait and wait for a dream-transaction worth lots of money.

When the dream time runs out, they want the reminder gone quickly because no one likes a failure reminder hanging around.
 

JDallas

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A Dollar By Any Other Name...

A Dollar By Any Other Name...

...Prices have gone up because the vintage equipment has either been hoarded and recycled.
Until you factor the time-value of money. I'll post a quick tabulation below for reference.

For each year listed, it gives the equivalent buying power of a dollar in that year, compared to 2012 dollars.

So if you have an old price for computer equipment, multiply that price times the value for its year to find the equivalent price in 2012 (recent value).
| . . . . . . . . . .| 1980 = $2.79 | 1990 = $1.75 | 2000 = $1.33 | 2010 = $1.05 |
| . . . . . . . . . .| 1981 = $2.53 | 1991 = $1.68 | 2001 = $1.30 | 2011 = $1.02 |
| . . . . . . . . . .| 1982 = $2.38 | 1992 = $1.63 | 2002 = $1.27 | 2012 = $1.00 |
| . . . . . . . . . .| 1983 = $2.30 | 1993 = $1.59 | 2003 = $1.25 |
| . . . . . . . . . .| 1984 = $2.21 | 1994 = $1.55 | 2004 = $1.21 |
| 1975 = $4.26 | 1985 = $2.13 | 1995 = $1.50 | 2005 = $1.17 |
| 1976 = $4.03 | 1986 = $2.09 | 1996 = $1.46 | 2006 = $1.14 |
| 1977 = $3.79 | 1987 = $2.02 | 1997 = $1.43 | 2007 = $1.11 |
| 1978 = $3.52 | 1988 = $1.94 | 1998 = $1.41 | 2008 = $1.06 |
| 1979 = $3.15 | 1989 = $1.85 | 1999 = $1.38 | 2009 = $1.07 |
 
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Al Kossow

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Its likely that the reason they're willing to pay so much to store them is that the warehouse is a fixed cost they're paying for anyway.

The place I was thinking of was a broker of HP computer parts that made a LOT of money selling to the government. Everything was great until
they stopped buying. He scrapped it all rather than seeing it bought up by a competitor (who also when under around the same time). There was
a glut of HP minicomputer parts 5-10 years ago as all of these guys went under. The same has happened over a longer period of time to DEC
parts brokers. One of the guys on ebay trying to sell parts at 10x the going price is an old DEC parts broker (keyways) attempting to sell off parts he can't
sell in the spares market as collector bait.
 

kb2syd

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If you have any tips about finding old computers you want to share, feel free to reply and keep the thread going!
First, put where you're located in your profile so we all know. Then, wait around. Here is a great place to find stuff. For example, if you're willing to come to New Jersey I'll fill your car up with XT and AT clone parts for $50. If you're so inclined, I also have several older Suns (enterprise server 250 and a netra 10). I can't sell this stuff to anyone. I can barely give it away.

I'd like to make back what I paid for it, but it isn't going to happen.

My advice is to listen, read, and watch all the mail groups and be ready to drive a little.
 

Stone

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I've got a very small car -- a Saturn SC, and I'm in NJ. Will you fill mine up for ~$25 or so? Lemme know so I can get ready to head north. We might be in NJ, a very small State, but you're still about 110 miles from me. :)
 

woodchips

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UK
My feeling is that times have changed in the last 10 or so years.

Back then no one wanted commercial computers, buy old computers at auctions and sales for not much. This was extremely lucrative because about the same time the commodity price boom was under way, and selling for gold recycling at $1800/oz was good. This has now all gone, everyone is wise to it which is why the dealers with piles of stock won't sell, they still think PCBs are worth £20-40/kg, or more.

Home computers are different, they have no gold value and are just sold on an emotional value.
 
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