Archive: Computer Collector Newsletter / Technology Rewind, Jan. 2004 - March 2006

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Goodwill and vintage computers

by Evan Koblentz

Recently there's been discussion of finding vintage computers at Goodwill stores, via the's cctalk mailing list. How can we as collectors ensure that significant items aren't disposed of?

Goodwill Industries International, the umbrella organization for 200 independent agencies, does not set master policies for the operations of its 1,874 stores in the U.S., 75 in Canada, and one online (the address is, but it's up to each store to determine which items are posted). About two-thirds of the stores accept computers, although there is no master list of which stores specifically. The only way to find out is to contact the stores -- information is at and (800)664-6577.

But what can computer collectors do to salvage, say, a pre-release prototype of an IBM 5100? "Shop early and shop often" is the approach taken by collectors of most sorts, spokeswoman Christine Bragale noted. Bargains for computer collectors are especially likely to be found at the Goodwill Computer Works stores in Santa Ana, Calif. ( and Austin, Texas ( -- the Austin location even has its own computer museum slated to re-open in May.

Store managers are generally alert for valuables, at least since someone found an original Picasso etching in a $3 throwaway pile a few years ago, Bragale said. "The donations attendant who had sorted it saw a broken frame and a picture of a nude," hardly something Goodwill would normally carry, she explained. Luckily that was noticed in time and sold at auction, she said. Vintage computer hobbyists are encouraged to volunteer for sorting duty at their local stores.