Help with pricing on vintage computers?

From: Jay West <>
Date: Mon Jan 13 16:56:00 2003

I REALLY don't want to start a long thread on ebay pros & cons, but the post
lawrence made got me thinking. I'll try to keep it lucid instead of trolling

It strikes me that when a manufacturer sets a price, he is planning on a
production run of at least X machines, and hopefully production runs after
the initial one if all goes well. So when they decide on a price, it has to
do with market values for sure, but also for recouping their design and
production costs. But what I'm driving at is the manufacturer knows he's
going to make (and probably sell) at least X units. He has INVENTORY. He
doesn't have to recoup his costs on one unit. He can discount and get less
money for a system if he wants, because either he has already covered his
production costs or because he needs to sell more units to get closer to
same. Also keep in mind - the manufacturer's cost is generally fixed. It's
the same cost for machine #1 as it is for machine #5000. Generally anyways.

The ebay seller on the other hand, doesn't have this luxury. No inventory.
Chances are he only has one item. Period. Forever. So it is clearly in his
best interest to get the highest possible price. And I can't blame them one
bit. The simple fact is... when a particular item on ebay goes for 100 times
the value WE think it should have, to the person who bought it... well, it
*IS* worth that much. And that's pretty much the definition of market
value - what someone is willing to pay. And the ebay seller's costs... they
DO fluctuate wildly. One guy may have bought the system for $500 before
taking it to ebay, the other guy may have picked the same exact model system
out of a dumpster behind his apartment for zero cost. Another guy may have
emotional attachment which raises the price he would want. Others just have
an unrealistic idea of what a system is "worth", probably cause of ebay

So, I must say I despise the "high" prices of some stuff on ebay. Cause I
have to pay them - sometimes. I hate that all the systems there go for
"real" money, when, if ebay didn't exist, the "come and pick it up and you
can have it" mentality would be a lot more prevalent. And folks like us
would have a lot more cool vintage hardware - maybe. But, ebay is there, it
is ubiquitous, and it does certainly establish "market value" as defined by
what people are willing to pay. And actually, I am sure the high prices on
ebay are not lost on junk dealers and "for profit" folks. As a matter of
fact, I would bet the fact that you can get well over $1K for an Imsai 8080
on ebay, is DIRECTLY responsible for a LOT of Imsai 8080's NOT going into
the dumpster. Is that such a bad thing? And when you have everything needed
to make a system run except ONE single missing card... is it bad that you
find that holy grail card on ebay? I don't think so. Not if it gets another
vintage machine up and running.

On the other hand, people tend to look at ebay completed items as "what an
item is worth". The problem with this is that on ebay the prices fluctuate
WILDLY for exactly the reasons I listed above. One guy may want a lot
because he paid a lot for it. From the buyers prospective, when checking
historical prices on ebay, it is hard to know what it will go for today,
because on that day, there may have been 5 collectors who desperately wanted
an item, driving the price way up. But by now, most of them may have already
found one from other sources.

So I guess I have to say I both love, and hate, ebay at the same time. It is
not a good indicator of the "collectible value". But it is a very good
indicator of 1-Is there a market for... and 2-What was it worth on that
particular date and time.

Jay West

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Received on Mon Jan 13 2003 - 16:56:00 GMT

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