eBay sniping

From: Vintage Computer Festival <vcf_at_siconic.com>
Date: Fri Apr 25 14:18:00 2003

On Fri, 25 Apr 2003, Doc Shipley wrote:

> There will never be any true or even consistent determination of a
> thing's "objective value". It's a null phrase, an impossibility.

Perhaps. But there has to be at least some generally acceptable standard
by which people can use to trade fairly. We do not really have that right

> "Value", by its very definition, is purely subjective. Any attempt to
> assign an immutable quantity will fail. Even the criteria you've used
> as constants are variable, and subject to personal interpretation.

I can concur with that.

> "True" scarcity? You intend to verify each unit produced, and verify
> the destruction of each unit not known to still exist? It's not
> possible.

Ok, perhaps "true" was too strong an adjective. But it is not impossible
to give an educated estimate (based on good research) as to how many units
are out there. I've just learned of possibly four more Apple-1's that I
was not aware of before, which will take the total of known units in my
personal registry to 32 (I still have to verify there is not overlap from
what I already know).

With significant machines produced in low numbers, such as the Apple-1 and
PDP-8, it may not be all that impossible to estimate within a margin of
error of +/-15% the total number of units out there. Once that number can
be ascertained, a reliable "value" based on demand could be established,
and trading can then be conducted on that basis of knowledge.

Of course, there is still variation based on condition and accessories
(peripherals, documentation, software, etc.) and that can also be
objectively valued with more research.

> Regional and *perceived* scarcity are much more relevant factors to
> real current value than some assigned global scarcity. A good example
> is the plight of the DEC collectors in Australia and New Zealand, who
> would commit unnnatural acts for a working VAX. Meanwhile, I have a
> stack of them in storage, besides the several I use at home. I would
> drive across town to rescue another VS3100, but I doubt that I'd pay
> cash for one.

Wasn't someone just arguing in a message a short while ago that eBay has
now opened up a global market and therefore increased demand to the same
finite supply? Of course, this depends on whether or not you use eBay to
market your wares. And then there's the issue of shipping charges, which
adds to the overall "value" that a person will assign to something. If it
can be had for $1 but costs $99 to ship, it could be considered to be
worth just as much as someone who could pick it up locally and would be
willing to pay $100. This assumes that the buyer is taking shipping into
consideration when they put down their bid.

But regional scarcity implies ignorance on the part of the buyer. You
cannot always rely on this. And in a global market like collectable
computers, you cannot completely rely on this anymore.

> Understand that I'm not nit-picking. I'm trying to demonstrate that
> the "artificial" influences on eBay, realtime auctions, the feeding
> frenzies I've seen at swap meets -- they are _valid_ factors in the
> value of any product, and doubly so with collectibles.

I can't entirely agree. I'll pull up an old example. If people are
regularly paying $10 for Apple //e's and then some uninformed buyer one
day pays $500, are all Apple //e's suddenly worth $500? or some
significant amount over $10 that is arrived at by averaging in the $500

I say no, it's still only worth $10.

> My PDP-11/53's "true" "objective" value would have to be nil. There's
> nothing it can do that can't be done more efficiently by a later
> PDP-11, and nothing *I* do with it that I couldn't do in SIMH, much
> faster and at a much lower real expense. Its value is *entirely*
> emotional, and entirely subjective.

Then what was it worth when it was new? Wasn't the "value" then also
entirely emotional and subjective?

Sellam Ismail                                        Vintage Computer Festival
International Man of Intrigue and Danger                http://www.vintage.org
 * Old computing resources for business and academia at www.VintageTech.com *
Received on Fri Apr 25 2003 - 14:18:00 BST

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