Tech Treasures from the Past

Yesterday’s technology may become today’s collector’s items, so think before you toss

Issue: Aug 2015

With technology, the latest and shiniest may seem like the best but sometimes oldies can be goodies, because some can become coveted collectibles
With technology, the latest and shiniest may seem like the best but sometimes oldies can be goodies, because some can become coveted collectibles

When it comes to tech gadgets, the latest is often considered the best. In fact, the shelf life of tech products is often so short that this year’s must-have can easily become next year’s has-been.

There are, however, some tech gadgets that have endured the test of time to become prized collectibles. In June, a woman threw out what she thought were three boxes of electronic waste at a recycling centre in California. The ‘trash’ turned out to be an 8-bit Apple I computer, one of the first-generation desktop computers put together by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. The vintage computer was later sold to a private collector for US$200,000. Now, the recycling company is looking for the old lady to give her half of the money.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. INSIDE takes a walks down history to dig up some old tech products that may reap you a tidy sum today.

1. Nintendo Game Boy (1989)

The Game Boy that once enthralled thousands of children and teens can now fetch a small fortune so raid your storeroom for your old device
The Game Boy that once enthralled thousands of children and teens can now fetch a small fortune so raid your storeroom for your old device

The handheld video game that burst into the gaming scene in 1989, initially bundled with the brick puzzle game, Tetris, can still be bought today. What the collectors are looking for are those still in mint condition and un-opened. On eBay, the asking price for a complete-in-box Game Boy is nearly US$220.

Tip: Early edition tech (70s and 80s) can fetch quite a profit when it is in its original packaging with an unbroken seal. The software itself it almost worth nothing, being obsolete.

2. Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (1979)

The Sony Walkman that gave an entire generation portable music is now a collectible with an asking price on eBay of US$2,995
The Sony Walkman that gave an entire generation portable music is now a collectible with an asking price on eBay of US$2,995
Photo credit: Sony

Before the iPod and MP3 player there was the Sony Walkman, providing music on the move. The original portable cassette player made number one spot on PC World’s ‘The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years’ in 2005. Today, one of the highest going price for the blue and silver on eBay is US$2,995.

Tip: Rarity counts. Sony stopped production of the Walkman in Japan in 2010 although Chinese manufacturers continue to make the device. Collectors often look out for items with low serial numbers as evidence of their rarity.

3. Nokia 3310

Released in 2000, almost everyone had a Nokia 3310 at one point or another. One of the best handsets ever to be made and virtually indestructible, it is slowly increasing in value as a collectible. In a good condition, this mobile phone has been known to fetch up to US$150.

Tip: The condition of the old device can make the difference between a sweet deal and a dud.

4. Motorola Dyna TAC 800x (1983)

The brick phone may now be defunct but if you still have a Motorola Dyna TAC 800x, it can fetch you a tidy sum today
The brick phone may now be defunct but if you still have a Motorola Dyna TAC 800x, it can fetch you a tidy sum today

The first handheld cellphone to enter the market, the Motorola Dyna TAC 800x was a clunky, deadweight of a device earning the nickname “brick phone”. Nearly one kilogram and requiring 10 hours of charge time for just half an hour of battery power, it generated tremendous demand when it made its debut in the 80s at nearly US$4000 a piece. Today, vintage phone collectors are pricing this brick phone at as much as US$1, 240.

Tip: First launched models tend to generate a lot more interest than subsequent models, especially if it is the first version of popular product.

5. First Generation Apple iPod

Classic iPods may not be the height of hip but if you have a first generation iPod released in 2001, you may be holding on to a treasure worth five figures
Classic iPods may not be the height of hip but if you have a first generation iPod released in 2001, you may be holding on to a treasure worth five figures

The first iPod was released in 2001. It had 5GB of storage, which, by today’s standards, seems paltry since some models now have up to 80GB of space. But it is a design classic and on eBay a first generation iPod in mint condition is going for US$13,849.

6. Pokemon Distribution Cartridge

The role-playing game developed by Game Freak and Creatures Inc and published by Nintendo came onto the scene in 1996. It is the second best-selling video game franchise in the world next to the Nintendo’s Mario franchise.

Distribution cartridges are special devices used to distribute Pokémon events such as movie premieres, expos, festivals, Pokémon Centre stores and toy stores. With these special cartridges you can collect rare Pokémon characters. The asking price on eBay for some of these distribution cartridges can go as high as US$650.

Tip: Desirability can up the game and the price. These distribution cartridges are sought after because Pokémon fans seek them out to gain access to rare Pokémons.

Admittedly, not every outdated device will get the cash registers ringing. But as technology spreads its reach, there will be more who are willing to include old tech in their collection of antique finds (and pay for them). So, if you have a first edition or a limited edition of anything, keep it in good condition, maybe even in its original packaging. Who knows, somewhere down the road, a collector may pay you big bucks for it!

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