Old Gadgets Can Be Worth Big Money—Here's Why You Should Hang on to Yours

That computer in your closet could be valuable

  • Some vintage gadgets are selling for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions. 
  • Experts say old electronics appeal to a sense of nostalgia. 
  • A first-generation iPhone up for auction could sell for as much as $50,000.
A vintage Sony Walkman with matching headphones against an orange background.

Florian Schmetz / Unsplash

Don't throw away your old electronics because they might be worth a small fortune someday. 

An unopened first-generation iPhone from 2007 went up for auction and was selling for more than $16,000 on Thursday. Experts say there's a growing market for vintage electronics as collectible items. 

"Old gadgets hold as much nostalgia as a baseball card or comic book, perhaps even more to some people," Vincent Zurzolo, the president of Metropolis Collectibles auction house in New York, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Gadgets are things we use every day and oftentimes all day for a period of our lives. Often disposable and hardly ever kept in sealed or mint condition, people wax nostalgically for the good old days when enough time goes by. Early cell phones, computers, video game consoles, and the like become cherished by people who grew up or grew older using them."

Outdated but Still Loved

The iPhone that's on the auction block, which could sell for as much as $50,000, is a far cry technically from today's models. The phone sports a 3.5-inch screen, a 2-megapixel camera, and a whopping 8 GB storage. You can't even add apps. But it's not the specs that drive up the prices of old electronics.  

"According to the laws of supply and demand, the fact that obsolete gadgets are so difficult to find suggests that the supply is extremely limited," Bisrat Kinfemichael, a professor of accounting and finance at New York Institute of Technology, told Lifewire via email. "Even if only two bidders are interested in purchasing the gadget, a bidding war may ensue, causing the price to increase dramatically. The availability of online marketplaces, such as eBay, has made it easier to find such buyers."

Consider looking in your attic for old electronics, as certain rare items have sold for big bucks. Take, for example, the Lawson's Ticket Station J-League Nintendo 64, which reportedly sold for a whopping $64,646. Also valuable is the Zelda Minish Cap Game Boy Advance, which went for $24,000.

Some ultra-rare gizmos can reach stratospheric heights at auction. Last year, a functional Apple-1 computer hand-numbered by Steve Jobs sold for $468,750. 

"This Apple-1 was one of the first to be publicly auctioned, sold in April 2002 at the Vintage Computer Festival in California," the auction house wrote on its website. "It was purchased by Roger Wagner, a personal computing pioneer who authored the first book on assembly-language programming for the Apple II. He is a longtime friend of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who said: 'Roger Wagner didn't just read the first book on programming the Apple computer—he wrote it.'"

Roy Castleman, the CEO of Computers In The City, said in an email that gadgets that were cutting-edge or revolutionary at the time of their release are more likely to have value. 

"The first-generation iPhone is a prime example of this, as it was the first smartphone to have a touch screen and was a major shift in the way we use our phones," he added. 

Several vintage cameras and accessories arranged on a table with a plant, books, and modern headphones.

Cavan Images / Getty Images

Diminishing Returns

Not all gadgets gain value as they age. One study analyzed the original retail prices of 22 popularly re-sold items against sold prices on eBay. Cell phones lose 42.7 percent of their value in a year and 79.96 percent within five years. Smartwatches and headphones lose over two-fifths of their value within the first year and about half of their value within three years. Laptops retailed in 2020 have lost nearly 23 percent of theory value, and computer monitors lost almost a third (32.5 percent) in just a year. 

Former professional hacker Nick Donarski has a closet full of old gadgets he tinkers with. In an email to Lifewire, he said he doesn't like discarding items so soon after he bought them new as technology quickly becomes obsolete. 

"I would love to tell you I have parted with all my old gadgets, but I think people hang on to them for the same reason they collect other things," said Donarski, the co-founder of blockchain company ORE System. "The off chance that it will be worth some fraction of what you paid for it in the first place."

Was this page helpful?