Apple Collectibles, Keep This — Toss That


-VMM Macintosh Way

Have you ever looked around your garage or spare bedroom and thought: “There’s enough Apple stuff here to start a museum?”

That’s pretty much what happened to Adam Rosen, who runs the Vintage Mac Museum, a private collection of all working machines, out of his Boston-area home. (Take a peek at his prized pieces in the gallery in this edition.)

The certified Apple consultant and Cult of Mac contributor on all things vintage gave us the skinny on what to do with your burgeoning collection: what to toss, what to hunt for on eBay and what to beg your significant other to let you keep.

Cult of Mac: Since 2009 when the Apple 1s started resurfacing the prices have gone from under $20,000 between private collectors to over $300,000 at Christie’s – any thoughts on whether this is having any effects on the general market for Apple collectibles?

Adam Rosen: Apple 1 prices have been unreal, they’ve sold as high as $670k!  This has definitely had an effect on the size of the market for Apple collectibles, expanding it significantly.  The effect on value is more variable.

For rare items and prototypes, value has definitely gone up. If you have a prototype clear case Macintosh SE, yeah, that’s gonna interest people.  But there were a lot of Apple IIs and Macs manufactured.  With so many more people aware of the prices of rare Apple systems the market gets flooded with common models. A Mac Plus today is only worth about $100, even if it’s been in the attic for 20 years.

CoM: A few years back,  you said the size of a collection depends on what the person you live with will tolerate – does that still stand? Is there stuff you’ve decided to sell or give away that you were previously holding on to?

AR: That definitely still stands.  I’ve been contacted more than once by fellow collectors whose significant other has decided that it is Time for Things to Go, and they are willing to offer me a good deal!

I’m currently single – which lessens pressure from others to shed possessions – but it’s still necessary to purge occasionally in order to reclaim living space.

CoM: You have also said that the original 128K Macintosh is always desirable, does that still stand?

 AR: That is still true, and the value has increased.  A working 128k Mac is currently worth $750-1,000, one with an original box and packaging can command double that.  Vintage Mac prices spiked after Steve Jobs passed away, they’ve come down since but the first model will always be desirable.

CoM: If taking up space with old computers is a problem – what smaller collectibles are worth having?

AR: Funny you should ask that, as my collection has expanded I’ve become more interested in smaller promotional and marketing items.  They cost less and look nice next to other equipment.  Few are investment worthy yet, but collectively they have some value.

Original Apple marketing schwag is always desirable – posters, pins, buttons.  Store display banners are prized, though these can be large. “Think Different” posters are nice but still fairly common – buy a set and hold on to those.  Items signed by Steve Jobs are highly valuable; things by Woz not as much, since he has signed so much.  Apple clothing, manuals and stationary don’t really command much value.

CoM: What’s the most prized piece in your collection and why? How has that changed over the years?

AR: This has definitely changed over the years. I have a Mac Plus where the back and one side have been replaced with plexiglass to show off an internal hard drive upgrade.  This isn’t a translucent prototype, more like a working “cutaway drawing” of the Macintosh.  It’s a very unique piece.

I recently bought a 128k Mac with original packaging, I’ve wanted one of those for some time.  It’s a must-have for any serious Mac collector.

I’m also a big fan of the Picasso-style artwork.  Last year I bought one of those lighted Macintosh logo dealer signs which Apple supplied for the Mac’s introduction.  These are gorgeous, I love turning it on and looking at the light reflect inside the engraved glass.

CoM: Any thoughts or advice on finding or buying prototypes? That last Christie’s auction also had that clear cased SE, for example…

AR: eBay is probably the most likely place to find prototypes, it’s the biggest worldwide marketplace.  Craigslist can also be a good place to find old tech, especially in the larger cities.  Of course, knowing people who once worked at Apple never hurts!

Prototypes of products nobody cared about may not be worth anything.  For example, nobody is looking for a developmental Apple III system.  But if you can find an unshipped Apple tablet prototype from the 1980s or 90s, grab it.

By the time things show up at Christie’s you know you’re not going to be getting a bargain!  I don’t know how much that clear SE actually sold for, I think the last bid I saw was $5,000.  That’s still a lot more than a standard SE, which sells in the $100 range.