Help with pricing on vintage computers?

From: Sellam Ismail <>
Date: Tue Jan 14 12:05:00 2003

On Tue, 14 Jan 2003, Jay West wrote:

> > There are, and have been, for decades, valid mathematical and actuarial
> > methods for determining the value of a given object based on several
> > criteria, including of course supply and demand. Why should ending prices
> > of eBay auctions all of a sudden supercede that science?

> Because the science is WRONG. Period. If "established" practice says an
> item is worth say $10, but most of those items sell for $100 on ebay,
> then, well, yeah, the science is flat wrong - at least as far as
> predicting what an item is worth in terms of dollars that people will
> pay for it. Well, ok, maybe the science is right in theory, but in
> practice, it's just plain wrong.

The science is wrong, or the people bidding are wrong? Suppose 10 people
pay $20 for a 3-inch long Lhasa-Apso turd on eBay because the seller says
it's magical. A few other people auction a similar item and for a short
time a frenzy is created. Finally, people start to realize that their
turd just stinks and is not magical, and the hype dies down. The next
time you go to buy manure, should you expect the price to be inflated a
bit because of the "magical" turd that once sold for $20 on eBay?

Ok, now consider that this did happen with the Commodore 64. A machine
produced in the millions, one would occasionally sell on eBay for some
stunning amount (well over $100). Is it valid to consider that all C64s
are worth a bit more now because a few foolish people paid more than $100
for them at some point? Hardly.

The fact is, the science is correct. Given enough time, the price will
come back down to a level that is in line with the supply and demand of a
particular item. This is just not always obvious on eBay.

> > Which is not at all useful for long-term market valuation.
> Perhaps. But I suspect that most of us are more concerned with "what am I
> going to have to pay to get that one missing card from my xyz system to get
> it up and running", than "wonder what a museum would pay for my system".

> That's us... and for the non-collectors, when they ask about prices it's
> because they want to know what they can get for it, and ebay prices should
> be included in that type of valuation.

I disagree, because as I have argued, eBay prices are unreliable.

> However, from time to time I DO have to pay what I consider to be STUPID
> amounts of money for something I need and can't find. I have to pay this to

Me too. But I don't expect to recoup that investment later on, because
there was a "I need it now" premium on the price I paid. The price would
be an anomaly, and would be thrown out of any statistical analysis.

> ebay or to old equipment vendors. As a result, once in a while, as much as I
> dislike it, I have to sell a classic computer on ebay to cover my real $$$
> costs to get a system up and running. Just my own 2 millidollars worth.

Because you know it will get far more on eBay than if you were to just
sell it through other channels. Right? :)

Sellam Ismail Vintage Computer Festival
International Man of Intrigue and Danger

 * Old computing resources for business and academia at *
Received on Tue Jan 14 2003 - 12:05:00 GMT

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