Review of the “Vintropedia” book

The following is a review on “Vintropedia”, a book that claims to gives relevant prices on many old computers.


Vintropedia 2009 – a review

Fritz Hohl, 10.09.2008

Recently, the first edition of a Price Guide book was published that contains also prices for about 3300 computers (completed by prices for 1800 consoles, 2000 accessories, and 7000 pieces of software). Every item makes one line in the book. In the case of computers, each line contains information on

  • the manufacturer
  • the model name
  • launch year
  • CPU, number of colors, amount of RAM and ROM, and finally
  • the price in GBP

In addition, the books contains 15 vintage ads.

Clearly, the amount of gathered data is impressive and alone having the list of models is good to have as a book.

Still, the most important data are the prices, and here some questions pop up:

  1. can such a thing like an accurate price list for all computer models be done at all?
    First, from which do you get such a price? From Ebay? From what some collectors are willing to pay? From the perceived “rarity” of the model? It is not only unclear what sources the authors use, it is also unclear whether this is the same price. Second, time is an issue. Prices change over time. Taking into account sales from 5 years ago might give you a fals impression when it comes to what price a model would achieve today. Third, do you get a statistically sound data base? Some models are so rare (or have so low demand) that there are barely sales that give you a price. Last, but not least, this work probably cannot be done with reasonable effort. You simply cannot monitor all sales on a collector level worldwide. Even monitoring all ebay data is something you can achieve only half-automatically, and it is still a major task (that to be honest I doubt the authors have done).
  2. in which region this price should be valid for?
    First, prices also depend in the region a computer is sold. Second, as exchange rates change, one currency does not “fit it all”. A price a collector is willing to pay is often a round number, e.g. $1000. Now, $1000 are 710 EUR today and maybe 1200 EUR tomorrow.
  3. can one price do it all?
    Prices for a computer depend not only on several variables like being boxed, or having a special accessory. These variables change the price for different models in a different way or are even different for different models (e.g. a video toaster raises the price of an Amiga whereas this device does not exist for other models).

As I am very interested in prices for rare vintage computers, I tried to assess the “price accuracy” aspect of this book using my own 6-months-spanning records of ebay.(com,uk,de,fr,it,es) sales of some rare computer models.

For 73 models I estimated the differences between their prices (in GBP) and my prices (in Euro). Out of the 73 models, 31 (or 42%) had about the same average price. 7 of the 73 (or 10%) had a higher price in their list, 11 (or 15%) had a lower price. For 24 models (or 33%) their price differed strongly from my price or my intuition (all prices in Euro),e.g.:

Model Vintropedia My List
Acorn Atom 405 107
Apple Lisa 1 1245 -*
Atari 800XE 118 39
Atari ATW800 342 -*
Atari Falcon 62 270
Atari ST Book 119 546
Be BeBox 44 394
Canon Cat 50 -*
C64 Golden 560 2726
Amiga 3000T 62 -*
Mattel Aquarius II 93 -*
Micronique HRX 31 -*
Oric Telestrat 81 -*
Rockwell Aim 65 311 171
Sinclair QL 250 83
Sinclair ZX80 342 173
Tatung Einstein 256 436 60

*I would buy any amount of these machines for this price. Just contact me 🙂

I also tried to find out (in a blackbox manner) how they find their prices. The first thing you find is that there are a fixed number of prices:
10-100 GBP in 5 GBP steps
100-200 GBP in 25 GBP steps
200-1000 GBP in 50 GBP steps
1000-3000 GBP in 250 GBP steps
and some “special prices”, namely 5000, 9000, and 12000 GBP each for a certain model.

To me, this seems to hint to a category-based approach where each model was given a certain category (“is as rare as”?) and then the categories were ordered and priced according to the above scheme. This is of course only a speculation.

For me, the overall conclusion is this: First, the price list is better than having no information at all, and I do not know a comparable, actual publication that tries to achieve the same goal. Second, you have to be aware that there are some hefty inaccuracies in there. Third, the way the list is done might not give you the price information you need. The goal of the authors seem to be to increase the accuracy of their prices over time by taking into account the (maybe angry?) feedback of users. Until this happens and several iterations delete the major mistakes, this book remains a source for experts that know how to interpret these numbers.

VINTROPEDIA – Vintage Computer & Retro Console Price Guide 2009
Michael Starr(Author), Craig Chapple (Author), Arianne Wolodarsky (Illustrator)
328 pages, Lulu Press; 2009 edition
http://www.vintropedia.com/
ISBN-10: 1409212777, ISBN-13: 978-1409212775
Price: £16.00 – 22.50

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