Task: Tips for Finding Local Atari Hardware and Software
Time: 15-30 minutes
The easiest place to find Atari hardware and software is on eBay. However, even the most common Atari goodness is way overpriced. There is also the problem of shipping that can leave your items cracked or worse. The best place to find Atari stuff is through local connections. The prices are better and you don’t have to deal with the uncertainty of shipping. The following are some tips for maximizing your success.
Tip #1: Find local sellers on eBay, Facebook, etc.
Even though buying on eBay is challenging it is sometimes possible to use these sites to identify local sellers that in your close to your zip code. For example, eBay provides the location of the item in the listing. Facebook Marketplace allows you to limit a search to a specific radius based on miles. Reach out to the buyers and ask them if they have other Atari items they would be willing to sell. I recently scored a local Atari 1040 ST that was cross-listed on eBay and Craigslist in my city. Interestingly, the seller had it $50 cheaper on Craigslist. I also recently discovered a Facebook page for yard and garage sales in my area.
Tip #2: Post a wanted ad in Craigslist.
Craigslist can be a good way to find local Atari stuff. An even better strategy is to post a wanted ad. Make sure to say that you are a collector and that you will not resell stuff for a profit. Here is an example of someone (not me) doing this in Philadelphia.
Tip #3: Post a wanted ad in your local newspaper or community website.
My most successful local efforts have come from posting to a local community news and announcements website. These posts cost about $35/week to reach about six local towns. I do this several times per year when I know I have some upcoming time to drive and pick up stuff on a weekend. I have done this four times over the past year and three of these posts have landed fairly large lots including a 400, 800, 800xl, 410, 810, 850, etc. One of the people I picked up from called me back several months later to let me know they had found some additional stuff. This has been very fruitful and the prices I paid were about half what eBay would have been. I have included below a screenshot of my local community website post. There are still people that have this stuff in their basements taking up space!
Tip #4: Post flyers at local stores and libraries.
I haven’t tried this yet but it is on my list of things to do. I can’t imagine this wouldn’t yield something and it is free!
Tip #5: Word of mouth.
Talk to all of your local friends and family and let them know what you are looking for. Ask them to ask their friends and co-workers. This hasn’t yet paid off for me but it might for you!
Tip #6: Visit flea markets and community rummage sales.
I used to do this back in the early 2000s and that is where I found much of my current collection. I have been to a few flea markets over the last few years with limited success. However, I know other Atari collectors that have had some good scores. If you have the time this might be a fruitful avenue. One strategy would be to talk to sellers and let them know what you are looking for. Even bring pictures! They will then keep an eye out and bring it with them to sell. Establish a relationship and check back with them each week or every so often. Give them your contact information.
Tip #7: Start or join a local Atari user group.
If you live in a larger city there might be an Atari user group you could join. This would be a great way to meet people who usually have stuff they are willing to part with or swap for. If not, start your own Atari group! I am definitely planning on doing this in my city. I think this would be a great source of contacts for Atari hardware and software.
Tip #8: Explore and post in the Atari Age forums marketplace.
Atari Age can be a great place to find Atari stuff and prices that are generally less than what you would find on eBay. This is because the people buying and selling are collectors and enthusiasts and are often more motivated to offer a fair price. I have found local people this way. There is a special thread for want ads and you could make it clear that only local sellers should reply. Be sure you only post in the appropriate Marketplace forums. These kinds of posts are not welcome elsewhere on the forums and users will be quick to let you know that.
Tip #9: Attend a Vintage Computer Festival or other retrocomputing event.
If you are lucky enough to live within driving distance of a retro computing event such as the Vintage Computing Festivals you might be able to find good hardware and software from attendees who bring extra stuff they want to part with. These events usually set up a room where people can sell stuff. I recently attended the VCF East meeting in Wall, NJ and there was definitely some Atari items there to buy. I ended up buying a book I didn’t have.
Tip #10: Set up a booth or table at a local festival.
Most towns have one or more festivals that are held in the summer or fall. If you are really hardcore you could pay to have an Atari table or booth where you could meet people who might have stuff they are willing to part with. I have never done this and don’t know anyone who has so consider this a risky move. Most festivals charge at least $200-$300 for a table like this so it would really need to pay off to make it worth it. Might be a good way to advertise a new Atari user group while also looking for stuff to buy.
It gets harder and more expensive to find Atari hardware and software these days. The supply is shrinking and the interest is rising. What this means is that we all need to work harder to get those items that we are looking for. I have had moderate success with a few of the strategies listed above. I plan to try some of the others. I will update the list as I get from feedback and have new success stories to share. Let me know if something has worked for you and I will add it to the list. Happy hunting!