Tips on buying a Vintage Computer

Consider these tips before handing your money over...Introduction

So you're in the market for a computer from the early 1990s, 1980s or even 1970s?

You might want to nostalgically re-live the days of your youth. Or perhaps you want to collect what you consider to be a classic model which pioneered the devices we take for granted today. Maybe you just want to play around with some cheap and easy-to-modify hardware.

Whatever the reason, there are a few things to consider when handing over cold cash for this old iron. Here are some of them...

What's it worth?

Good question. And a hard one. The "going rate" can vary enormously but it's usually a function of fame and rarity. Famous, well known computers, like the Commodore 64, are relatively cheap because they are common. Rare, obscure computers may also go for a song because no-one knows anything about them, replacement parts and software will be hard to get, and only the hard-core collectors would want them. If it's famous AND rare though (like the Apple I) then the sky can be the limit!

If you're not in a hurry, monitor the auction sites for a few months to get a feel of what various makes and models are going for. Expect to pay more for computers bundled with software, manuals and accessories.

Set a price for yourself that YOU will be happy with and buy or bid accordingly. In the end, its value is what it's worth to YOU. Nostalgia is hard to pin a price to.

Further factors

Ok, let's say an available model takes your fancy. Here are some things to weigh up. These may affect the price you're willing to pay or even change your mind about wanting the item in question at all!

Finally, nothing beats a good bit of research. Use the Web. Often you can discover common problems or design flaws associated with particular models. You can check with the buyer if these problems exist.

Checking out the computer

If you are outlaying a reasonable amount of money for a vintage computer and can check it first before closing the deal then it's a job worth doing. Along with an external once over, check the following...

Buying a vintage computer through the Internet

More likely that not, people will buy their first vintage computer over the Internet, from e-Bay or (here in New Zealand) Trade Me. Buyer beware! You can't check the computers and the sales are usually "as is" so there is no return. Often they will need to be shipped. Still, Internet auctions are the major outlet for these old machines.


Figure 1. A typical Internet auction listing

Here are some suggestions for this mode of purchase...

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Good luck with any purchase and hope you will enjoy these old machines as much as I do!


Original article 8th February, 2010. Updated 28th July, 2015

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