How Much is Old Tech Worth?

September 05, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

The value of old electronics is reaching record heights, and there are good reasons why. It seems our future is embedded in our past.

Remember that story a while back about a bunch of Atari videogames unearthed from a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, inspiring a Microsoft documentary? One of them sold for $1,537, and so far the city has netted over $108,000 on the games' sale on eBay. (Unfamiiar with the story? Watch The Gaming Historian's synopsis below.)

Why? What in the world would make a bunch of eBay buyers throw thousands of dollars at an Atari game, especially E.T., which is widely considered the worst video game of all time? 

But that's not all: there's the lady who accidentally dropped off a few boxes of e-waste containing an Apple I computer that sold for $200,000.

Owning an Apple I would have paid for my student loans.

That's to say nothing of the delightfully horrendous Nintendo fitness game that sold for over $100,000 back in February. And if the Nintendo Playstation prototype ever went up for sale, you can bet it would cause a few collectors to go into cardiac arrest. 

The reason for all this excitement is that it's the millenials' heritage. For adults in their 20's and 30's, obsolete technology has all the warm fuzziness of a Teddy Ruxpin. They weren't raised on traditional toys: Ataris and Nintendos kept them busy after school, not GI Joes and Barbies. The technology of their youth was simple and straightforward: bad guys were bad guys, graphics were clunky, and the wonder for technology hadn't yet been replaced with apathy.

But besides nostalgia, the Apple I and other rare obsolete technology provides a clear trajectory from where we were to where we are now. It's fascinating, for instance, to think of things like HitClips being fledgling iPods. It's even more remarkable to consider the Apple I being the foundation for the world's most recognized and most respected company. They're mementos from a simpler time that led to the current explosion in IoT and wearables.

As for video games, they're the millennial version of baseball cards. Instead of Babe Ruths, millennials deal in terrible Atari and NES games. Or spectacularly abysmal Castlevania games.

The 1985 Super Marios Bros game cartridge that's worth more than my car.

The internet is awash in rare and obsolete video games, consoles, computers, and other wacky technology that is often worth thousands--if not hundreds of thousands--of dollars. It's become the foundation of our story as builders and designers and, more importantly, as dreamers. 

So yes, paying thousands of dollars for a video game that was bad enough to get it thrown in a landfill may seem like a stretch, but it's not the hardware that's worth the money: it's the memories. 

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    DogOfWar September 07, 2015

    I’m rich! I must have at minimum over a dozen different tech items from that era, plus dozens of those nostalgic video game carts and even working game systems!

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  • schmitt trigger July 10, 2016

    It happens the same with cars.
    Even vehicles of the so-called “malaise era”, (model year 1973 thru 1983), which were truly cow turds, fetch very high prices at auctions.

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  • J
    Jake S January 21, 2018

    Wonder what my stash is worth? I have 286 to 686, TRS80, Microbee, Hitachi Peach, 3x Ataris, a collection of Macs, odles of software including Win98 boxes unopened, lots of monitors of all sizes, a HUGE harddrive and another box with 2 more HUGE harddrives. Boxes and boxes of cards of all sorts. Did have 2x kitset challenger computers but gve them to someone. And lots more! It was one of those, gunna open a computer museum, ideas. Never got into gaming stuff though.

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