Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Do you have an old, unopened smartphone lying around? You might be sitting on a fortune. A first-generation iPhone recently sold for over $190,000 at auction.
Most vintage technology isn’t that valuable. But it’s still worth opening up your junk drawer to fish out an old Zune (currently going for $129.99 on eBay), Sansa Clip ($89.99) or Alphasmart Neo ($59.99).
It’s time to open up that junk drawer and dust off that box of old devices — they could mean serious money.
How to Sell Your Old Tech
We put together this handy guide to explain how to sell your vintage tech treasures — plus, what to do if they turn out to be trash.
Do the Research: Is Your Old Tech Trash or Treasure?
There are plenty of old smartphones, video game consoles and personal computers in the world. But only a small minority are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. What sets them apart?
“Rarity is huge,” said Rena Youngblood, Executive Director of The Computer Museum of America in Roswell, Georgia. “It’s probably the number one characteristic of a computer worth preserving.”
The Computer Museum doesn’t buy digital artifacts, but it does curate them. One of the most treasured pieces in its collection is an Apple-1. “It’s a very special and valuable artifact,” Youngblood said. “It was also valuable to the race to get microcomputers in homes and on desks.”
Its place in tech history is part of why an Apple-1 sold for nearly $700,000 at auction in 2022.
Another microcomputer, the TRS-80, is currently listed for $120 on eBay. It’s a piece of tech history, too, but not nearly as rare. “We have a ton of them,” Youngblood said.
Are there few others like it? Is it historically significant? Is it in great condition? If the answer to all three questions is “yes,” you could have a tech treasure on your hands. Search online to double check, but here are a few examples of tech worth some serious dough.
Old Electronics Potentially Worth Six Figures
Just because your vintage tech isn’t worth six figures doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Most things that provoke nostalgia have some value.
Old Electronics Potentially Worth Hundreds to Thousands of Dollars
Decide Where To Sell Your Vintage Tech
The best way to sell your vintage technology depends on what, exactly, you have. Here is a rundown of your options.
Six-Figure Sales: Auction House
If you’ve got something really valuable on your hands — like, Apple-1 valuable — it’s time to call in the professionals.
Semi-Valuable One-Offs: eBay
If you are sitting on a more modest horde of electronic treasure — say, several Tamagotchis — you can handle the sale yourself. EBay is full of DIY auctioneers selling vintage technology at a range of price points.
Quality and Quantity: Etsy
What if you don’t just have a junk drawer of old technology — you have a whole house full? Consider launching an Etsy store.
PiddlinPixie has racked up dozens of sales of vintage cellphones, camcorders and more. You could too.
Modest Reward for Old Phones: Sell to a Refurbisher or Trade In
A 10-year-old smartphone is not unique enough to interest collectors or functional enough to interest most smartphone buyers. You could still get a buck or two for it from a phone reseller like Gazelle.
Alternatively, if the phone isn’t too old, you could get store credit for trading it in. Apple, Google, Verizon, AT&T and many other retailers accept phones. If you’re already planning to buy something new, this could be the most cost-effective option.
What To Do With Old Tech You Can’t (or Won’t) Sell
Not all vintage tech is worth selling. That old Nokia might be worth approximately $0.05.
Or maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe you would rather do some good with your collection of pristine personal computers. Either way, you have options.
Historic Tech: Donate to a Museum
You don’t have to sell a priceless piece of technological history. You can preserve it for future generations.
“There are subject matter experts today who will find artifacts that are 100 years old and not know exactly how they were used, because most of us don’t write, log, or study our everyday items,” Youngblood said.
“We need to preserve the stories for the people who aren’t here yet.”
To offer your digital artifact for donation, visit The Computer Museum of America’s website. Be ready to write what you know about how it was used and who used it. Pictures are also helpful.
Get in touch — especially if you have an IBM 360. “That is our white whale,” Youngblood said.
Old Cellphones: Donate to a Nonprofit
Many of us take the ability to make a phone call for granted. But survivors of domestic violence don’t always have safe, consistent access to a phone.
Contact your local domestic violence shelter to ask if they accept donations, or donate by mail to the 911 Cellphone Bank.
Electronic Waste: Recycle
Whatever you do, don’t throw your old tech in the garbage. Electronic waste contains heavy metals that pollute soil and endanger humans.
Recycle your unwanted phones, computers and tablets at an e-waste drop-off point. Try your local recycling center or major electronics retailer.
What To Do With Cords
It’s not just about the electronics. It’s about the charging cables that go with them. Approximately 100% of Americans have a drawer or box full of old cords.
If the cord is attached to something unique, it might be worth more than you think. This vintage Leica charging set is going for $145 on eBay.
Your garden variety USB cables won’t be worth as much, but if they’re in good, working order, you can sell them online, too.
You can also make a little extra cash by selling the metal inside the cables. Depending on what method you choose, stripping cables can harm yourself and the environment, so proceed with caution!
Does all that sound like too much work? You can recycle cords at most e-waste drop-off points. Better yet: donate them. Schools can sometimes use old cords and cables for STEM education.
Your tech trash could be someone else’s tech treasure.