In Part 1 of our three part series on IC collecting we discussed why to collect vintage computer chips. For Part 2 we covered what to collect, how to set and keep a focus in your collection. For the final Part we’ll cover some of the ways of how to find and collect the IC’s you want.
There are two main parts of the How of IC collecting. Where to I get my chips? and Where do I put them? For most collectors cost is a concern, for the right money you can have most any chip, but since i have yet to find the dollar/Euro/yen tree cost is a factor in acquiring chips. One of the greatest sources of chips is eBay. Several categories in particular are a good source of chips, IC?Processors in the Business/Industrial category, the CPU/Processors and Vintage categories in Computing, and Scrap/Recovered Gold. Of these Scrap Gold can yield some of the most interesting chips. Scrap sellers in general though have no idea about what they are selling (as far as collectibility) but most are happy to work with you. If you win a lot with a nice chip in it, send the seller a note to pack the chips well, and in most cases they will. They are sold as scrap though so keep that in mind if they don’t come in perfect shape. This can be a good chance to learn the art of pin straightening.
If your collection includes chips that are ‘modern’ try to have patience, that $20 Xeon will be $5-6 if you wait a few months. IC’s, and processors specifically, pricing usually works on an inverse bell curve. The bottom of which is the end of any real usability, but still too new, and too common to be seen as rare/collectible. The goal is to catch prices at the bottom of this curve. Some chips will hit bottom much sooner, or much later then others, specifically, the fastest/best processor in a given package/platform, will hold its price much longer then any other. For example a 1GHz Athlon Slot A, that fastest you could get, is still a relatively expensive processor. On the other hand, the slowest processor in a given platform gets cheap fast (like a Slot A Athlon 500).
The CPU-World.com forums are another great source of chips, with members posting things for sale daily. It’s also a great source of information for pricing, and information. There are other forums that deal with Vintage computers, and IC’s that may meet your needs as well. These forums also can be helpful in finding people to assist in buying IC’s from overseas, that otherwise would be difficult to acquire. The CPU Shack offers a service through AVICC (Association of Vintage IC Collectors) to help assist overseas (non-US mainly) collectors purchase chips. You can read more about it on the AVICC FAQ page.
IC Brokers often stock many chips of interest, but also list many they don’t which is highly frustrating. They are also generally not set up to work with collectors, they prefer to sell in qty and selling 1-2 chips isn’t ‘worth their time.’ There are some exceptions, such as Demotronic in Germany, Summit Electronics Corp in Florida and ACP Surplus on eBay and several others that will gladly work with the collecting community. a ‘Group Buy’ amongst collectors can often be arranged to help purchase a large lot of chips, or meet a min order quantity requirement.
Lastly, chips may be found in around your community. Yard Sales, flea markets, and Thrift stores often have old electronics for very inexpensive, or even frere that contain chips you collect. I have found numerous interesting processors in old cable modems, printers, computers, game consoles etc found at sales. Sometimes old processors may even be acquired from computers people throw out, once people know you are looking for old electronics, your porch will soon be full. Pay attention to local universities/companies, which often sell/discard their old equipment, they can be a valuable source of chips. You may even be able to work out a relationship with a local scrapper/recycler for chips. If you acquire chips you don’t collect, that’s ok, you can sell/trade them for ones you do.
As this post got a little longer then I anticipated we’ll cover storage in yet another post…