Tips For Newbie Collectors

So you want to start collecting vintage computers, but don’t know how to start or where to look?  Recently I have received questions about where I find computers and basic tips on maintaining/troubleshooting them.  Here I’ll try to answer some of these questions:

Q: Where do I find computers for cheap?

A: Not Ebay :).  I do buy some things off ebay, like parts and games, but never computers because my pockets are just not that deep.  Here are the 5 places I recommend going:

  1. Craigslist: About 70% of my collection was acquired from craigslist ads.  I used to make it a habit every morning to do my routine searches for keywords like “Vintage Computer” “Antique Computer” “Apple II” “Commodore Amiga”, etc.  But now I use an app on my phone that notifies me when a new match is found.  I use cPRO, but there are many others available and all should work just fine.  I also sometimes use Statewidelist.com because it searches Craigslist throughout the state and not just within my city, but it doesn’t seem to index often enough to pick up on the most recent ads.
  2. Estate Sales / Garage Sales:  I have had a couple great scores from local estate sales.  What is an estate sale?  It’s like a garage sale but rather than selling the stuff in your garage you’re selling the stuff from your whole house.  It is often done when the previous owner has passed away or is in a deep financial crisis.  You can conduct searches on Estatesales.net for your zipcode and lots of them will have pictures.
  3. Flea Markets: Aka Swap Meets.  I’m not a huge video game/console collector, but if I was, these places would be a wet dream.  I often find old NES, Atari, Sega games and systems in huge numbers at flea markets.  I also have found retro computers and software, but I’d say that only happens about 20% of the time I visit them.
  4. Online Marketplaces: There are lots of computer websites that tend to have dedicated marketplace threads such as vintage-computer.com, amibay.com, eab.abime.net, and atariage.com.
  5. Local Recyclers:  Ever see advertisements for “Free Recycling this Saturday?”  Well go check it out and you might just find some buried treasure.

Q: Are old computers easy to fix?

A: It depends:  If you have no special tools for measuring voltages or testing caps and ROMs then it can be difficult to pin point an issue.  You’ll have to visually inspect the components for certain giveaways.  From my experience though, 80% of the non-working computers I pick up can be fixed by performing some routine maintenance such as cleaning the logic board, ensuring all cables are properly connected, and reseating any socketed chips.

I demonstrate this process in my Amiga tear down video below:

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