Rant about Computer "Collectors"

On a mailing list, Daniel mentioned that the chassis of a DEC PDP-8/e minicomputer (no cards, no CPU, no memory) sold for $1300 on eBay. He later said:
It's crazy. I can't believe what they are paying on EBay for less than *incomplete* systems. I could see $1400 with drives, running, tested, manuals, etc... but a shell??????
This is a subject that's been bothering me for a while, so I posted the following reply:

That's because eBay is where "collectors" hang out. Not people like us, for whom collector is an insufficient/inaccurate term.

It's like the difference between coin or stamp collectors and classic car enthusiasts. A coin or stamp collector gets the coin or stamp he's been drooling over, puts it in a book or in a display on his wall, checks it off a list, and he's done. Since coins and stamps don't "do" anything, that's fine.

But a classic car enthusiast maintains classic cars in working order (or at least attempts to do so), and drives them now and then. They're not just a checklist item.

A seemingly large percentage of the computer "collectors" on eBay are just people who see collecting computers exactly like collecting coins. They don't give a shit whether the thing works, as long as it looks cool and will impress their friends. Hell, if they got a PDP-8 that did work, they wouldn't know what to do with it aside from destroying the core planes to make wall hangings.

That's why I personally will try never to sell any truly rare items on eBay. I'd rather make sure that they go to a good home, rather than be obligated to sell to one of these collector" assholes, just because he had deep pockets.

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Last updated October 13, 1999

Copyright 1999 Eric Smith.


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