In with the Old This month antiques dealer Edd Thomas, one of a new breed of young experts revitalising the industry, considers the growing demand for vintage electronics
The world of antiques and collectables has always been a hotbed of insider tips and sure winners in the race to predict the next big thing. Some have succeeded but most fall by the wayside as quickly as announced.The trick of the forecaster is to glimpse connections between a host of seemingly disconnected fads that in fact are spelling the coming of fresh winds.The very new but emerging trend below represents not a fad, but a whole new collecting field. Although it has yet to gain recognition from the establishment it is sure to blossom within the next five years and is one I’m happy to invest in.
Vintage personal electronics Crazy as it may sound the world of vintage personal electronics is a potential minefield of untapped growth. Don’t be misled by any geeky connotations, at its core it’s both the cause and outward expression of a truly global revolution. It has facilitated not only a leap in the way we communicate, conduct business or entertain ourselves, but via the software created alongside, has also fundamentally changed the way we explore our world and express our inner selves.
An Apple 1 computer, regarded as the first example of home computing, made $905,000 (£600,000) when it sold at Bonhams New York last October
From nostalgic electronic games, mobile phones, music players or ever more powerful super computers, the personal electronic technology of the last 50 years has become the fabric of our self identity.
Entertainment From personal stereos to handheld electronic games, we have become ravished consumers of entertainment. Countless studies have shown the social and psychological shifts that have taken place because of this consumption. Looking back at those early crude and pioneering games and machines is like tracing the ancestral path of who we are. Even now, only 30-40 years since these icons of entertainment came out, there is a growing band of collectors willing to pay greater and greater amounts for the right pieces.To give you an example, the very first Sony Walkman (the TPS-L2) sells now for around £500 for a tatty example, and runs to several thousand pounds when mint in the box. Those large and irksome 1980s boom boxes we all propped on our shoulders now change hands above the £1,000 mark. Even humble handheld games consoles like Donkey Kong or Super Mario regularly fetch over £500 to the right person.
Communication The other month saw a new milestone in vintage communication. An early Apple prototype computer (one of only five known ‘working’ examples) sold for just shy of a million dollars.While this may set the benchmark, the ‘trickle down’ effect will boost prices across the field.
Dragon or Amstrad are still only valued in tens or low hundreds of pounds because of the numbers released, but with research and development machines of the 1950s to 1970s worth far in excess of £10,000-£20,000, personal computers will rise too.
‘Looking back at those early crude and pioneering games and machines is like tracing the ancestral path of who we are’
Alongside computers, sits their cousin the mobile phone. First widely available to the public from 1983, these bundles of distraction have tugged close to our hearts since the start and everyone has a favourite. Currently the collecting market is new for these objects and while your average battered and unboxed phone may only make a crisp £20 note, the early and milestone machines in mint condition including the Mobira Senator or Motorola 8000x already trade hands for a few thousand pounds each.
As the trend grows While there will always be people who choose to collect things from time BC (before computers), vintage electronics represent not a fad, but a whole field in itself (akin to porcelain perhaps).The marketplace so far exists almost exclusively online between collectors, but due to the nature of it, the audience is truly global. As such the prediction has little likelihood of ‘burning out’. If you want to know more, do get in touch, but when you are next in an auction and a clunky plastic tape player with a tatty box and missing parts becomes the star of the show- try not to act so surprised!
Computers are the undeniable dominant force in the world today and their early ancestors have already gained cult status. So far most basic home computers of the past such as the Spectrum,
For more details of Edd’s Wiltshire-based business visit www.eddintheclouds.com.