In 2015, a woman brought some old electronics to a recycling center in Milpitas, California. Among the contents was a PC far too old to be useful and an Apple 1 from the 1970s. It turned out to be remarkably valuable as a collectible when it was later sold to a private collector for $200,000. The woman had given away a fortune.
The collectible electronics market has only increased since then. In 2020, a factory- sealed video game from the 1980s sold for $114,000. Mint-condition iPhones from 2007 can have $8,000 price tags. As each generation ages, it becomes nostalgic for things it remembers fondly from its youth. For the current crop of young and middleage adults, that includes old tech.
The loftiest vintage-tech values apply only to rare tech and/or items never removed from the original packaging. But there are plenty of gadgets gathering dust in American attics that could fetch $50 to a few hundred dollars on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, including…
Early Apple computers. There may not be an Apple 1 in your closet—only a few hundred of those were made. But the Apple II sold well in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And the Macintosh 128K— the original Mac—was popular in the mid-1980s, so you could easily own one. They won’t bring life-changing money, but they could be worth enough to buy a brand-new Macintosh computer. Examples: An Apple II with a low serial number sold for $7,155, and other Apple IIs bring $500 to $1,000.* Macintosh 128Ks often sell for $500 to $2,000, or as much as $5,000 with their original boxes.
Early Apple iPhones and iPods. Apple’s early phones and digital music players are collectible even though they’re less than 20 years old. Examples: First-generation iPhones, released in 2007, sell for between $40 and $350 depending on condition. Never-used ones sealed in their original packaging often go for around $8,000. First-generation Apple iPod 5GB music players, originally sold in 2001, can bring $150 to $400.
Video-game cartridges. The value of old video games has skyrocketed in recent years, but generally it’s only the games sealed in their original packages that generate big bucks. Super Mario Bros., a 1985 game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, sold for $114,000 in 2020 because it was sealed in its original packaging and in mint condition—that game is worth around $10 if you have just the cartridge. If you have old video games, look them up on PriceCharting.com or GameValueNow.com to see if they’re worth selling. Examples: Donkey Kong Jr. Math for the Nintendo Entertainment System sold for around $100 without packaging. River Patrol for the Atari 2600 sold for $770 without packaging.
Digital wristwatches from the 1970s and 1980s. Watch-collecting has been red hot lately, and not just classic luxury brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe—early digital watches from Casio, Pulsar and Seiko are collected as well. Examples: Hamilton Pulsar LED men’s wristwatches, among the earliest digital wristwatches, can bring from $200 to $500 in working condition—potentially more if you have the original box. The Casio 79QS-39 digital watch often sells for $70 to $100…the Casio DBC-630 digital calculator watch, $90 to $130. The Seiko model 0634-5009 LCD sells for $100 to $350.
Sony Walkman. These famed portable music players might seem unnecessary now when you can choose from millions of digital songs to play on your phone, but collectors are paying hundreds of dollars for some vintage Walkman models. Examples: The Walkman model TPS-L2, first sold in 1979, often brings $350 to $700 depending on condition—it’s the model featured in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy. The Walkman model WM-D6C, made from 1984 through 2002, can bring $200 to $600—or over $1,000 if you have one that’s unused in its original packaging. Walkman models that play compact discs have begun to be collected as well—the Sony D-5 can bring around $200.
Handheld electronic games from the 1970s and early 1980s. These batterypowered toys don’t have video display screens, just LED lights that turn on and off during game play. Examples: Mattel Battlestar Galactica Space Alert, a game that went on sale in 1978, fetches $20 to $60 depending on condition…or $100 or more with its original packaging. Coleco Electronic Quarterback, a handheld football game from 1978, brings $30 to $40 but can reach $60 to $130 with original packaging. Pokédex, a Pokémonthemed handheld electronic game, often sells for $40 to $60—or $100 to $250 if still sealed in its original packaging— even though it dates back to only 1999.
VHS tapes from the 1980s and 1990s. Get ready for the next big collectible. Vintage VHS tapes are being graded and encapsulated in sealed, Lucite cases as movie buffs preserve a bit of nostalgia. These obsolete cassettes represent the first time a film could be watched outside of a theater. A new company called VHSDNA is leading the effort to grade boxes and tapes—sealed tapes are worth more than those that were opened and played—and they are bringing big bucks online. VHS copies of Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope are selling for more than $1,000… and a tape of Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back sold for $280.
Wood stereo speakers from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Buyers snap up old speakers that have stylish wooden cases, then replace the electronics inside with Bluetooth speakers. There also are some old speakers that are prized for their audio quality. Small “bookshelf ” speakers made from mahogany, maple or teak are popular… old oversized speakers and oak construction are less desirable. Examples: A pair of Pioneer CS-99A speakers from the 1970s recently sold for $1,500. A pair of Tandberg 112-7 speakers from the 1960s recently sold for $250.
Small kitchen appliances from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Cooking and baking have been popular hobbies of late. Some kitchen converts have begun seeking out gadgets from the kitchens of their childhood homes for nostalgic reasons. The devices in demand tend to be those that have distinctive retro styling. Examples: GE Spacemaker 10-Cup Coffeemakers from the 1970s sell for $30 to $80 depending on condition, or $150 to $200 for unused examples in their original packaging. Oster electric mixers and blenders from the 1970s and earlier can bring anywhere from $35 to $300 depending on model and condition.
Boomboxes from the late 1970s and early 1980s. These portable-but-bulky cassette-tape player/radios are not an especially convenient way to listen to music, but they are an iconic item from their era, and certain models now are collected. Boomboxes that include compact disc players are less likely to be collected. The bigger and showier a boombox, the more likely it is to have value—especially if it’s made by a respected manufacturer such as Sharp, Sanyo, Panasonic or Magnavox. Examples: Panasonic RX-5500, which was first sold in 1979, now sells for $150 to $500. Sharp GF-8989, first sold in 1981, now sells for $150 to $250. Even nonfunctioning boomboxes can be worth around $50 or so—collectors try to fix them or use them for parts.
Portable radios and clock radios from the 1960s and 1970s. Radios made by big-name electronics brands such as GE, Panasonic, RCA and Sony tend to be especially desirable—but any radio that has a distinctive retro look might be collected. Examples: Panasonic model RQ-831 recently sold for $125. GE Superadio model 7-2880B recently sold for $100. Weltron “Radio Ball” Model 2001 AM/FM 8-Track players from the 1970s sell for $200 to $500 depending on condition—collectors love their space-age styling.