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The Grumpy Git: Retrocomputing and eBay

Well, here we are again at another Monday. The wondrous world of computing rolls on, getting forever more irritating by the minute. I once again have found something to complain about so here we go… We all like retrocomputing; the playing of old games bringing back hours of nostalgia, or hours of pain, depending on your preference. One thing I think we can all agree on is, it is becoming a very expensive hobby.

Now I appreciate as numbers decline of certain models of machine out there, the value will increase, which is fine when there is less than 50 left in the world, so, yes, I can understand asking a high price. The Commodore C65 comes to mind; they were in limited numbers (mainly prototypes I believe) so if they arise, a larger price is asked.

However, this is where the problem lies. Machines that were mass produced in millions, and still a large number of them are available, people still believe they can charge silly amounts of money on the grounds of it being “retro”. An example of this is the ZX Spectrum, where there were literally millions of them produced in the UK and Europe. So you would think that they would be cheap as chips. eBay averages them at between £60-£100; way more than they are worth.

Okay, certain parts such as the membranes for keyboards are getting harder to find–that is until someone starts 3D printing them. However, there are still a massive amount of them out there, so why such an inflated price? Simple. Because people will pay that inflated price. I remember seeing them at car boot sales and people were virtually giving them away. However, go to a car boot sale for one now and people will want £50 for it. It’s gone silly.

The horrible thing is it is filtering out of the world of eBay and out into the streets. Charity shops look up the going eBay prices and match them in store. Stores which specialise in second hand trading (you’re local Cash Converters or equivalent) also use eBay as a guide, so all of the tech or games you could pick up for a lower price has all been marked up.

Now, I know you are thinking I just want something for nothing. Not in the slightest. I have paid for every machine I own, with the exception of one and it was broken. It’s not just the ZX Spectrum but all 8/16-bit machines have ventured into the realms of the silly on eBay. If you are lucky, you can normally find someone in a user group or Facebook sales group who will sell one at a reasonable price.

It’s just sad that people are trying to extort an area just because the machine is slightly older. Especially when you have the likes of the ZX Spectrum Next at €167 or thereabouts, which is the new progression of model. Do you think this will cause the older ZX Spectrum models to drop in price? Of course it won’t.

When Apollo Team announced the Vampire V2 accelerator board for the Amiga A600, can you guess what happened to the A600 price on eBay? Yep, it went from about £20 to about £100+. This sort of thing should be stopped.

Even software is now going for silly prices. I remember buying a copy of TLL (Tornado Low Level) for the Spectrum on eBay for £0.99, and that included postage. Now such games can cost between £7-£20, and it’s not as if they have got any rarer; they were also produced en mass and probably worth about £0.02, but, no, can’t do that.

I once walked into a charity shop many years ago and offered my collection of Spectrum games at the time which was quite extensive. The guy said to me “Chuck ‘em in the skip, mate. I can’t give them away”. Oh how times have changed. Am I bitter because I can’t afford stuff? Possibly, but the fact that stuff is overpriced even if I had the money, I would be reluctant to pay what many ask for.

I want to also add if you have refurbished and repaired a machine, cleaned it up then sell it for a slightly higher price then fine, you have actually made an effort and probably tested it, so the higher price can be justified. However, most people just get the machine dug out of Granny’s attic, clean the dust off it, stick it on eBay and hope to make a small fortune. Not good.

Well that will do for now… Feel free to add your own opinions, disagreements, etc. in the comments.

Until next time… Nanoo Nanoo…


When not trying to run old machines to their limits, I occasionally write articles. As a man who has spent too long around retro machines, I have managed to play or try virtually every retro machine out there. Also quite a miserable sod who is known for strong opinions.

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