It often feels as if gadgets lose value as soon as you buy them. The fast pace of technology means that the cutting edge never lasts for long; the smartphone that you bought just last year has already been replaced in the shops by a newer, shinier model.
However, with the relatively new trend for collecting in the world of technology, gadgets that were previously considered utterly obsolete have found a new home among nostalgic enthusiasts, young tech-savvy types and even museums.
Marvin Reigersberg, expert auctioneer of Computer Collectibles and Video Games at online auction house Catawiki talks about how, if at all, it’s possible to spot a success in a gadgetry collection.
Q: What are the old gadgets buyers and sellers should be on the lookout for? Are there gems people may unknowingly have tucked away in the attic, or that they could spot on offer at a carboot sale?
Marvin Reigersberg: “Things that are really valuable have mostly found their way into the hands of collectors. But some key items to look out for are old home computers from brands such as Commodore, MSX, Amiga or Atari; pre-iPod Mp3 players such as the Diamond Rio or Creative Nomad; Eighties or Nineties laptops with operating systems such as MS DOS or Windows 3.1 installed.”
Q: The items suggested range from the early 1980s up to the late 1990s. How long should people expect to hold on to their gadgets before they move past that ‘obsolete’ phase and move into collectability?
MR: “Collectability really depends on a number of factors: brand, initial rarity, current rarity (how many items have survived the spring cleaning), how has the brand or specific item influenced the industry.
"To give an example of how big the influence these factors can be: an Apple Lisa computer in mint condition can nowadays sell for tens of thousands – something no one would’ve expected 10 years ago before the success of the iPhone and iPad.
The recent success of Apple as a company has sparked great interest for older Apple products unrelated to their current success.”
Marvin’s mention of Apple is of particular relevance to potential buyers and sellers of computing collectables. Apple today, the most profitable company on the planet, is utterly transformed from the failure-plagued firm of the mid-nineties.
The successes of a tech company can be frustratingly unpredictable and the influence a product has even more so. For example, in 1982 the videogame E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for Atari famously flopped so badly it arguably sank not only Atari but the entire gaming industry with it.
Yet today the same industry is bigger than ever and can even be seen as leading the charge into tech’s next big thing: virtual reality.
Marvin suggests this could be the place to look for today’s tech becoming tomorrow's collector’s item: “Wearable computing is expected by many analysts to change the way we consume entertainment and interact with the rest of the world.
"Things that we now know from sci-fi movies (such as contact lenses with built-in screens, hypodermic chips, electronic mind-reading) will enter consumer electronics over the next few decades.
“When that happens, it will surely mean current generation wearables (VR glasses such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift, Smartwatches such as Apple Watch and Samsung Gear) will gain collector interest and value.”
There will never be an exact science to predicting future tech successes or which items from the past will become a big money-maker, but that’s just part of the fun of collecting.
However, if you think there might be some buried treasures stashed away in a dusty box you can sign up to Catawiki and submit it to their weekly Computer Collectibles auction.
And next time, whether it’s an old Nokia 3310 or a Google Glass, maybe think twice before giving up on on old gadgets.
To find a globally-curated mix of vintage fashion, jewellery, furniture, art, classic cars and rarities including old vinyl records, coins and comics, visit catawiki.com