10 Vintage Computers That Could Be Worth a Fortune
You probably think of your old computer as useless—but wait before you throw it out!
Cash for computers?
If you’ve been doing some thorough cleaning of your living space during quarantine, perhaps you’ve unearthed some old gadgets. Your first thought was probably just to junk them. After all, old technology is pretty obsolete, right? But even old computers—in fact, especially old computers—can actually be worth a whole bunch of money. And who couldn’t use that right now? Sellmymobile.com has compiled a list of the top ten most valuable vintage computers, plus some tips on how to sell your old tech. And check out these other retro tech gadgets that could be worth lots of money.
NeXT, founded in 1985 by Steve Jobs, rolled out this computer in 1990. The second computer to come out of NeXT, the NeXTcube boasted a 25-megahertz 68040 processor and even had an optional floppy disk drive. NeXT’s computers weren’t super wide sellers, and Apple purchased the company in 1996. But nowadays, a NeXTcube will fetch you $1,336.
#9: Apple III
This old gadget came out all the way back in 1980. It was a follow-up to Apple’s “Apple II” series, which had debuted in 1977 and was enjoying a successful run. The Apple III, though, was pretty much dead on arrival; its first 14,000 models had major technical difficulties and were pulled for a redesign. The computer was re-released toward the end of 1981 but failed to sell well. Yet you know what they say about one man’s trash. Today an Apple III is worth $1,559, according to Sellmymobile.com. Check out these things Apple employees won’t tell you.
#8: IMSAI 8080
These just keep going further back in time! This early “microcomputer” came from IMS Associates, Inc. (which would later rebrand to IMSAI Manufacturing Corporation), in 1975. Inspired by other early computers and processors like the MITS Altair 8800 and the Intel 8080, the IMSAI had between 17,000 and 20,000 units produced. Unfortunately, the IMSAI Manufacturing Corporation would go bankrupt in 1979 and would sell its trademark to Fischer-Freitas Co. If you still have one of these lying around, you can get about $1,782 for it. That’s a 197 percent return on investment from its original price of $599.
#7: Apple II
The Apple III’s much-more-successful 1970s predecessor will fetch you a cool $1,971.
#6: Amiga 4000
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these lying around, it could secure you $2,200! Perhaps predictably, this ’90s computer was the follow-up to the Amigas 1000, 2000, and 3000. They all came out of Commodore International, a computer manufacturer that enjoyed a heyday throughout the 1980s but went bankrupt in 1994. The A4000/040, released in 1992, and 1993’s A4000/030 improved upon their predecessors with the Amiga Advanced Graphics Architecture chipset, which allowed for up to 8-bit graphics. These are the most popular items pawned across the United States.
#5: Apple LISA
This 1983 Apple desktop computer was named for Steve Jobs’ daughter (though the company also claimed that the letters could stand for “Locally Integrated Software Architecture”). Its claim to fame was its “graphical user interface” that, for the first time, was targeted toward individual users. Unfortunately, though, the LISA had a few things going against it: Its software library didn’t have enough capacity, the Macintosh was released only a year later and vastly outsold it—and it had a high price tag at almost ten thousand dollars. While you can’t get that much for it today, it could still fetch a cool $2,450. By the way, do you know what the “i” in iPhone stands for?
#4: Altair 8800
The mighty Altair is widely considered to have inspired the boom of microcomputers in the 1970s; it certainly inspired the IMSAI 8080. It appeared on the cover of Popular Electronics in 1975 and sold for $621 fully assembled and $439 as a “kit.” Its creator was MITS, or Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, which was bought by Pertec Computer in 1977. Its prominence in the history of personal computers earns it the Number 4 spot with a price tag today of $8,125.
Now we’re really getting into the big bucks! With a 2020 price tag of $13,000 even, the SCELBI is a rare vintage find. Like the Altair and the IMSAI, it was also derived from the Intel 8008 processor. Scientific-Electronics-Biology Computer Consulting, abbreviated to SCELBI, debuted it in 1974. Like the Altair, you could get it fully assembled or as a pre-assembly kit. It had a short run, as it was phased out later that same year in favor of the more high-tech 8B model, but it had certainly made its mark on the tech world. Its current return on investment is 2,500 percent since its price back in the day was $500.
A doozy of a valuable vintage computer, the 1971 Kenbak-1 can fetch a whopping $41,946 today. This computer was produced by Kenbak Corporation and predated microprocessing, so it used small-scale integration TTL (transistor–transistor logic) chips. Despite being widely considered the first-ever commercially available personal computer—and despite its rarity (only 50 were made, period, and the number of machines that still exist is believed to be in the teens)—it’s not even the most valuable on this list! Learn about 11 of the most expensive things that have ever been stolen.
The name says it all! This was Apple’s first family of computers. Steve Wozniak built the first Apple-I himself and began to sell them in 1976 for $666.66, a price Wozniak reportedly chose because he liked repeating numbers. Around 200 Apple-I machines were built in total. The Apple-I, which continued to be produced and sold until August of 1977, didn’t require separate hardware to operate it, a unique feature for the time. Remaining Apple-Is have sold for massive amounts of money, including one that a private collector bought for $330,000 in 2013 and another that went for $375,000 at a 2018 auction in Dallas. Sellmymobile.com puts its value at $458,711, with a whopping 68,707 percent return on investment. Check out Sellmymobile.com’s full list of computers with the highest return on investment—unsurprisingly, the Apple-I tops the list. Plus, learn about the quirkiest items that sold for millions at auctions.
How to sell old computers
If you have any of these vintage computers, or even if you don’t, selling your old tech is a great way to make a little money. “While functioning [machines] will be the most lucrative, some collectors will buy broken items to strip for parts,” says Rob Baillie from Sellmymobile.com. “So even if your old computer is broken, don’t be too quick to write it off, as it could still be worth more than you’d expect to the right collector.”
If, by chance, you do have one of the ultra-rare gadgets, Baillie recommends getting expert input before trying to sell it on your own. “Having a professional value and authenticate your item could help to dramatically increase the price that potential buyers are willing to pay, and they could even have a network to contacts to help drum up business.”
But if your old tech is not on one of these master lists, it could still fetch a pretty penny. “If you think that you might have a valuable PC or video game console at home, start by looking at similar examples that have recently sold on auction sites,” Baillie suggests. “Getting a feel for how much collectors are willing to pay will help you set a realistic price making for a quicker sale.” Next, find out if you have any of these incredibly valuable items in your attic.