Collecting: The 1980s Tech

Pac-Man is the highest grossing video arcade game of all time. This original 1980 Pac-Man sold for $349 in June 2014.

How well did you do at Pac-Man? Were you Apple, IBM or an Atari type? And what did you do with your DeLorean? Were you one of the few that mastered Rubik’s Cube? If you remember any of the above you grew up with 80’s Tech.

Each was innovative for its time when they were introduced, but do they hold up as collectibles today?  Follow along with Modern Marvels “80s Tech” on the History Channel and compare recent auction values. You just might have one or two of these innovations somewhere at home.

This fully functional IBM 5150 sold for $899.99 in November 2017.

IBM PC 5150Introduced in August 1981, IBM was a latecomer into the personal computer market. Others had gotten there well before IBM even considered it. Yet, IBM still held about 60% of the mainframe computer market from 1952 on. But would their personal computer sell? Priced at $1565 in 1981 ($4450*), the IBM PC 5150 had 16k of RAM, color graphics adapter and no disc drives. Auction value today: $200$900 complete as originally ordered.

This 1984 original Apple Macintosh sold for $3799 in October 2016.

Apple Macintosh – If you wanted something done on a computer, you had to input computer code to do it. In 1984, Apple came out with icons to do the computing code for you. All you did was click on the icon “…which took computing from daunting to doable,” according to Modern Marvels . That was an innovation that even IBM didn’t have – yet. The Apple Macintosh sold in 1984 for $2495 ($6808). Auction value today: $600$3800

Pac-Man Video Arcade Game – This is where many spent quarters on a Saturday afternoon, Pac-Man at the arcade. Introduced in the USA by Midway Games in 1980, it was licensed from the original Japanese game designer Toru Iwatani. It is the highest grossing video arcade game of all time with about 100,000 units produced. Cost about $1995 ($6300). Auction value for original 1980 standalone cabinet: $349; others that were refurbished were auctioned at $1800-$2200.

Atari 2600 – Released in 1982, the very first cartridge video game console by Atari, Inc. that had a joystick, controllers and game cartridges such as Pac-Man and Combat. It was introduced at $199 ($634). A complete console with original box sold at auction for $421 in 2015.

A Sony SL-8200 of the early 1980s was sold at auction for $90.

The VCR – Introduced in mid 1970’s for consumer use, Betamax format from Sony came first in 1975 with JVC’s VHS format following a year later, but didn’t really take off until the early 1980s. Either way, you could record television shows to watch when you wanted, not when they were scheduled. A Sony SL-8200 of the early 1980s was sold at auction for $90 while a JVC HR-3300U VCS format was being offered for $675 (no auction records available).  Both were sold from $300 to $500 ($854-$1400).

This first Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (July 1979) sold for over $600 in 2011.

Sony Walkman – This was the first low cost, portable audio cassette player when it was introduced in 1979 by Sony as the “Walkman” allowing anyone to listen to music while on the move, but was most popular in the early 1980s. It originally sold for about $150 ($477). An original Walkman TPS-L2 was sold at auction starting at $100 in 2012 to up to $640 with original box, instructions and accessories in 2011.

Sony CD Player – A new audio format introduced in 1982 by SONY, the CDP-101 was an electronic system that played a polycarbonate plastic digital optical disc data storage unit or compact disc, known simply as a CD, using a semiconductor laser to read the etched recording. The original price to consumers was about $900 ($2560). At auction an original CDP-101 sold for $130 in 2011, but needed repair.

A fully functional Motorola 8000X was auctioned in 2011 for $4050.

Motorola DynaTAC-8000X Cell Phone – Known as “the brick,” it was the first commercial handheld portable cell phone when it was introduced in 1983 that didn’t need a briefcase or to be installed in a vehicle. It weighed about 1.5 pounds. You could talk for 30 minutes, but then you had to recharge the battery for 10 hours. It sold for $3995 ($10,125). Since these phones used an analog system, they are no longer compatible with more digital cell systems today. A fully functional model was auctioned in 2011 for $4050, but other later models sold for $300 to $600.

The DeLorean DMC-12 – Created by John DeLorean for his DeLorean Motor Company from 1981 to 1983, this “gull wing” coupe car was so distinctive it was featured in the movie Back To The Future as a car of the future. There were about 9,000 DeLoreans produced in total before liquidation in 1983. It had a suggested price of $25,000 in 1981 ($71,226). Auctions show only those sold in UK for $47,000 to $67,000 in 2014.

An original Rubik’s Cube still in its round plastic box sold for $42 in UK in 2012.

Rubik’s Cube – Conceived as a puzzle by professor of architecture Erno Rubik in 1974, it was licensed in 1980 through the Ideal Toy Corp. It is a 6-sided cube of 9 squares on each side featuring a different primary color; white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. The object is to get each side to show one solid color by moving each cube independently. It has been considered the greatest puzzle ever and sold for about $12 ($38)  in 1980. An original still in its round plastic box sold for $42 in UK in 2012.

Simon – It is an electronic game of memory commercially launched in 1978, but was quite the fad in the early 1980s. A player matched the sequence of lights as they progressed faster and faster until the player failed, then the game was over. It originally sold for $24.95 ($80). A Simon in its original unopened 1978 packaging sold for $295 in 2011 with others selling for $100 or so.

If you ask any tech person what were the most influential gadgets of all time, many on the list will always include quite a few from the 1980s, from the VCR to Simon the electronic game. But many of these gadgets still are highly regarded as part of any “have to have” collectible list, too.

*Note that the selling price of the time is inflation-adjusted in parentheses, if it was known, using the Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Tom Carrier is a General Worthologist with a specialty in Americana, political memorabilia and he has been the resident WorthPoint vexillologist (flags, seals and heraldry) since 2007. Tom is also a frequent contributor of articles to WorthPoint.

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