Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vintage Computers - Where do computer collectors find them ?

David larsen Bugbooks
SCELBI Microcomputer
SCELBI Microcomputer 
How did you find the computers in your 40 years+ of collecting ? That is a question I get often. My historical collection of microcomputers is very nice and includes a lot of hard to find computers - like the Apple 1, SCELBI , and a warehouse full of historical computer memorabilia.

First of all I have been involved directly with computers for over 50 years  & that was a big help. However the source of most of my collection was a result of just advertising for them.  For more then 30 years I ran  very simple classified advertisement "wanted pre1980 microcomputers for historical collection".

Enlarge the photo's by clicking on them and then even more by a right click and select "View image' you can easily read the text.

vintage computer wanted advertisement
Ad in QST magazine
 This simple ad placed in about 6 publications every month for many years resulted in 1000's of responses and resulted in a wonderful collection of computers  for the 'Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum' collection. Often a pleasant and sometimes humorous dialog would develop between me and the person responding to the advertisement. 

Computer Collector
Computer Collector

I have many 100's & probably 1000's of letters, fax's, emails, postcards, notes scratched on the back of napkins, and phone logs as well.  I kept them all and now it is interesting to look back at them. 

I selected a few of the offer letters and notes -  I hope you find them interesting.


Adam Schoolsky letter
Schoolsky Apple 1
Schoolsky Apple1 Computer
Schoolsky Apple1 Computer
I did purchase this Apple 1 Microcomputer from Adam Schoolsky & you can see in the letter many other nice items as well. Here is a video about this computer in our "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum" 'CLICK'

Craig Solomonson offered me this Apple 1 computer July 1996 for his price of less then $40,000.

WOW I sure missed a computer that made the big time - Auction at Breker Nov 28, 2010 - Yes, Italian collector Marco Boglione paid $212,000 for a 34-year-old Apple-1

Craig Solomonson  Apple 1
Craig Solomonson  Apple 1
The information below is from the Apple 1 Registry 

Solomonson Apple 1 
NTI logo at one time purchased from Frank Anderson, an electronic dealer in Great Falls, Montana by Craig Solomonson for MECC.  Craig reports that this computer was sold by Jobs and shipped from his parents address. Woz seemed a bit confused when Craig showed him the invoice and asked about it. He said "Not sold by us, although Job's may have sold it without telling me." 
  • Sold by Craig to Jesse Sackman in California
  • $50,000 unit sold in Ebay auction 320447681957, late in 2009

Byte Magazine Number 1
Byte Magazine 1

Donation Postcard Larsen Blog
Donation Postcard Larsen Blog

Sometime we  received a note on a card or scrap of paper.  This card from John was loaded with good stuff and for only $25.  First issues of Byte and Kilobaud magazine and a COSMAC VIP microcomputer. This was added to our historical collection.


Regis Mckenna & Steve Jobs
Regis and Steve Jobs 
McElwee Letter Larsen Blog
McElwee Letter Larsen Blog
At times the letter or inquiry had lots of interesting historical information about the collector or computers. In this letter McElwee tells about his activities in the very early days of the Microcomputer Revolution - MITS Altair, Pertec, first person to work with Apple at the Regis Mckenna Advertising Agency ( He still has a copy of the first Apple Marketing Plan), also he worked for Atari. That is an interesting  historical background. I don't remember just what I purchased from him - I know I would have liked everything in his letter.

For the rest of the story read more
Enlarge the photo's by clicking on them and then even more by a right click and select "View image' you can easily read the text.

Forest Duston Computer letter
Forest Duston phone log

 Apple 1 computer
Forest Duston Apple 1 computer 
I also keep a  phone log of all the calls about computers that are available. The photo to the left is copy of call from Forest and he told me he had 2 Apple 1 computers. I was skeptical about that however over the next year I found it was true and purchased both of them. I really fortunate find for me and he got his price. He was prompted to sell when his children started college.  


Snyder Apple 1 computer
Snyder Apple 1 computer 
John Burch Apple 1 computer
John Burch Apple 1 in wooden case 
This Apple 1 computer offered by the law firm for $15,000 was a great offer. Unfortunately at that time I was not able to make  a deal.  I don't know who  ended up with Apple 1 ? It had a nice history and original letter from Steve Jobs with it.  Even lawyers seemed find my little classified advertising.  

During the 80/90's I was offered about 10 Apple 1 computers and managed to purchase 4 of them. One offer was I purchase a new van automobile and trade the van for his computer.

MITS Altair 8800 computer
MITS Altair 8800 
Brady Letter Larsen Blog
Brady Letter Larsen Blog
This letter from Brady resulted in me acquiring serial #21A MITS Altair 8800 computer. I do know  their are 2 with lower serial # however this one was ordered 12-17-74 as wired unit and may be the lowest serial # for a factory wired 8800. I remember on the phone he told me he was one of the folks that camped out for a week in the parking lot at the factory waiting to get his computer.   Ed Robert's  the owner of MITS expected to sell about 500 computers. He had orders for 5,000 in a very short time.

I am of course delighted to have this computer in the "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"  Here is a video I made of this computer 'CLICK'


Pique Letter Larsen Blog
Pique Letter Larsen Blog

Magnetic Core Memory
Magnetic Core Memory

Many items other than computers were in the offerings. Here are 2 Core memory boards - I am sure I purchased both of them.


Simoneau Letter Larsen Blog
Simoneau Letter Larsen Blog

Heath H8 Computer
Heath H8 Computer 

We advertised in about 6 publications and here is a response to ad in Electric Radio.  I purchased this Heath H8 with H9 monitor and keyboard.


Apple 3 computer
Apple lll computer 
Brachhold Letter Larsen Blog
Brachhold Letter Larsen Blog
This fax from Paul was loaded with goodies. Frankin ACE, Apple lll, several OSI computers --- 40 Atari T- shirts ---and a Kaypro dealer sign.  I know where the sign is in the warehouse and will get our for a few photos. This package was a little expensive for the time - over $1000 but it looks very inexpensive now. I purchased all these items.

It also included item 13 -- Whatever else I promised yo that I cannot remember.  I don't remember what I received so that makes us even.

david larsen KK4Ww N4USA
Bugbook Computer Msuem

The Kaypro sign is now in our museum - look to upper left of photo  Dave 1-15-15.


Winkler Letter Larsen Blog
Winkler Letter Larsen Blog

Len Winkler Radio show

Looks like I was on the Len Winkler radio show in 1995. I remember the show but not much about the interview.

I don't think anyone listened as is was on at the start of the Super Bowl.


MITS 8800 Micrcomputer
MITS 8800 
Graham Letter Larsen Blog
Graham Letter Larsen Blog

Here is a letter all collectors would like today. A MITS Altair 8800 for fifty bucks +  $10 for shipping.

Thank you John for this computer.

First Intel  microprocessor 4004
1971 First Intel  microprocessor 4004 
 Microcomputers came about in the early 70's so the 70's & 80's were mostly when folks purchased and kept their computers. They was so expensive that  people could not think of discarding the old obsolete computer - it seemed like just pitching out thousands of dollars. However in the 90's many were ready to do away with the old computer . I had many calls like " my wife cleaned out the closet and told me toss this old stuff".  Often when retiring or moving into assisted living I would also get that call "Are you interested in this old compute". Many felt there was some historical value and were happy to find a new home for their old computer.

Advertising for a long period of time did prove the power of a long campaign.  Sometimes it would be 5 to 10 years after I started  advertising for historical computers I would get a call -- "I have been saving this computer and have been seeing your advertisement for years - would you be interested in my old computer?".  Fact is I still get a few calls from those old classified advertisements.

David Larsen KK4WW
I used all the other normal methods to find computers - flea markets, garage sales, friends, eBay, computer festivals and more. The biggest flea market for me was the Dayton Amateur Radio "Hamvention".  This convention would have 30,000 attending and at least 1000 market vendors.  Most all collectible computers disappeared from the general flea markets and garage sales after the year 2000.  Thank you for reading my blog.
"by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian  


  1. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together.
    I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and
    posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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    1. Hi Glenstone - Thank you for the comment and glad you took the time to read the blog. It does take a long time for me to write the blog -- this one at least 6 hours.

      This include finding the photos, letters and other material to scan. Then the creating is slow for me. This does not include the thinking time in advance just putting together in my mind what I want to do.

      I have so many events and things in our life I want to put into words. Like - the dozens and dozens of trips my wife & I have made, businesses we have owned, books written in the past, friends and family, new ventures we have on going and so on. The list is too long and I will never get it all finished.

      After all it has taken me 75 years to get to this time and only 25 more to go ( that is the most time left).

      It is worth the time for me. I only need to do this one time and it will always be available. If I write enough of them I may p


I look forward to your comments and will respond.