Early Investing

Going Down a Collectibles Rabbit Hole

Going Down a Collectibles Rabbit Hole

There’s a group of about 10 people that I’ve been friends with since 1995. We were all young professionals back then, starting out in our first jobs and trying to navigate life as best we could. The fact that we’ve all stayed in touch and remained friends for this long is remarkable. The fact that our text chain is very active on a daily basis is absolutely amazing. And I am blessed to be part of this incredible group. 

One of these friends was visiting his mom recently and decided to go through some of his old stuff. As he sorted his old belongings, he unearthed an Atari 130XE (circa 1985) in mint condition and a “Mad’s Vastly Overrated Al Jaffee” comic book in pretty good shape.

When he shared his finds, we had a nice trip down memory lane. Most people know Atari as a video game pioneer. The Atari 2600, which I played on as a kid, ushered in the video game era. But most people don’t know Atari also made computers back in the day.

Atari used to compete with IBM, Tandy, AT&T, Compaq, and others in the home computer space. Our phones today are significantly more powerful and easier to use than those computers. But I still miss them. Those old machines were simple but powerful. And if you could master the operating system and the various keyboard shortcuts, you could do some things almost as quickly and easily as you can with today’s computers.

Because Atari is such an iconic brand, I wondered if there would be a market for an Atari computer in mint condition — especially considering an unboxed “first edition” Apple iPhone sold for more than $63,000 at an auction earlier this year.

So I hopped on to eBay to look around. The good news is there is a market for classic computers. The bad news is the unboxed machines are selling for only $325 to $500. Not bad. But definitely not $63,000!

After going down the Atari rabbit hole, I decided to look into the Mad comic book. Al Jaffee passed away last month at the age of 102. Sometimes, when someone as iconic as Jaffee dies, it sparks renewed interest in their work.

A quick search showed that the comic was being sold for anywhere from $15 to $30. I did see one version of a signed Al Jaffee first edition Vastly Overrated comic selling for $500. But that was the outlier.

Even though my friend isn’t going to strike it rich with his finds, I really enjoyed looking into both items. It’s why I like collectibles. The history behind each item we own — regardless of value — can be fascinating.

Plus, you never know what’s going to drive a market. In 1995, the idea of anyone paying more than a few hundred bucks for Apple collectibles would have been laughable. Now, there’s a market.

Perhaps in the future, a crazy hot Atari market develops or people begin to appreciate the true genius of Al Jaffee and prices begin to rise. Then the value of my friend’s pieces will soar.

But if it doesn’t happen — and it probably won’t — neither my friend nor I really care. The nostalgia trip we shared over the Atari computer and Mad comic was priceless. Both brought us joy again. Anything more than that is just gravy.

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