Dear Ms. Smartphone: When my husband heard last week that Apple was discontinuing the Ipod he went out and bought 2 more of them. When I asked why he needed more Ipods he was sort of vague. He said he wanted them for parts, and etcetera. It’s the etcetera that I do not understand. Do vintage ipods have value? Zoe, Mill Valley
Dear Zoe: You didn’t mention whether your husband still uses the Ipods to play music and video games or whether he is betting that the prices will increase as the devices become scarce! But you have to respect his love affair with this device. Perhaps it’s the remembrance of those dancing silhouettes! In many ways, not just financial ones, these vintage ipods have value.
Beware… Swiss Army Knives
Like your husband, I see a need for these devices, or similar ones. Today’s smartphones are Swiss Army Knives and that’s all good, until it is not (for example, taking them on airplanes)! Phone features range from picture-taking to the digital measuring tape. That’s useful, particularly if you have small pockets but we all need a degree of separation. For young kids getting online I advocate a provisional phone- one that has stripped down features so that they do not spend excess time on it and shun other activities. As for adults, it’s still a good idea to keep a flashlight in your car, a notebook by your bed table, and a clip-on pedometer for exercise.
If you don’t seek out this degree of separation, you will not be able to turn your phone off, literally. It’s now a throwback to watch a yoga routine or listen to an album without extra technology. Or, take a long hike. The presence of a phone is a constant reminder that we are interruptible.
But, here is the etcetera. For your husband, it might be an appreciation for Apple technology and how far it has come. Steve Jobs wanted the Ipod, which he introduced in 2001, to propel his company in two ways. He needed to sell computers. Microsoft had a 90 percent market share but they did not have music. Customers wanted a MacIntosh computer to browse the music library, create a playlist and transfer songs. Meanwhile, Apple was already working on the smartphone, and the architecture for it evolved from the polished, well packaged, pocket-sized IPod.
If your husband is collecting Ipods because he is sentimental about the technology, there are fans that plan to keep the technology alive and move it one-step further. They swap out the hard drives and use a Sim card to load more music. And, yes, vintage Ipods are collectibles. As of today, there were several posted on Ebay in the four to five hundred dollar range, and one brand new 5GB first generation model with a $23,000 sticker!
More Value Propositions…
But, if your husband is either a lawyer, or a musician, perhaps there is a different reason for his collection. The Ipod upended the music industry, much as the Beatles upended 60’s music. When the Ipod began subscribers could download a single song for 99 cents, or they could copy it from elsewhere. The commercial slogan approved by Steve Jobs “Rip, Mix, Burn” –seemed to endorse the free, pirating of music. What personally struck me is how the iPod changed music connoisseurship, in the name of portability. Before the device, afficiendos preferred the expansive, refined sound-quality of hand-hone speakers, not small, tinny ones.
Today, music fans might listen over Apple’s smart speakers. And, many subscribe to a subscription service, like Spotify, instead of buying individual tracks from the Apple store. On the road, they use the smartphone, linking it to Apple CarPlay. The music has changed but it has not stopped. Perhaps the et cetera you mention is indeed that vintage Ipods have $$ value. Or, it might be nostalgia for how we used to download our playlists, an appreciation for functional purity, as well as the bet that this tiny device is a big collectible.