These kinds of blog posts have a way of coming back and biting me, but I’ll write it anyway. Are old Tandy computers worth anything? The answer, of course, is they are. But how much they are worth depends on what the computer is, whether it works, and how complete it is.
What was a Tandy computer?
If you find an old Tandy computer in a basement or attic, some context may help. Tandy was Radio Shack’s parent company. In the 1970s and 1980s, Radio Shack was the largest chain of electronics retailers in the United States, with a sizeable presence in other countries as well.
The first computers sold at Radio Shack bore the TRS-80 moniker. TRS-80 referred to Tandy Radio Shack, and the 80 was supposed to refer to the CPU inside. This led to the nickname Trash-80, which Tandy executives hated. So they rebranded the computers under the Tandy name. Radio Shack had a lot of its own house brands, like Archer and Realistic. Using the Tandy name on computers instead of reusing those was probably a good move.
Why old Tandy computers might be worth something
From 1977 to around 1990, Tandy had a good run as one of the top three brands of computers in the United States. Prior to 1981, they sold more computers than anybody else. For people of a certain age, Tandy computers hold lot of nostalgia. The first computer I ever used in school was a Tandy Color Computer. And the Tandy 1000 was one of the first really popular IBM compatible computers. I think the TV show Young Sheldon increased the demand for Tandy 1000s, because they got a lot harder to find after making a cameo in that show.
Radio Shack had a rough transition into the 21st century, so anyone under 35 probably has poor memories of that store. But their old computers have a certain retro coolness to them, and for running 1980s games, a Tandy 1000 makes an ideal DOS gaming machine.
Which old Tandy computers are worth something
“Worth something” could be a misnomer here. There was a time when most old computers were junk, and sold for junk prices. As in, you paid by the pound. In 2010, I could count the number of computers that had any significant resale value on two hands. That’s changed in recent years. It’s a safe bet now that any old Tandy computer, working or not, would find a taker if you threw a fuzzy picture on Craigslist and priced it at $30.
Most could get you more than that. So let’s talk about the caveats.
A Tandy 1000 in nice shape is a nice find, especially if it works. If it doesn’t work, parts are hard to come by, so the value will decrease. The models with a separate detachable keyboard have a strong caveat. You can’t use a keyboard from a different PC with it, so the keyboard is worth about as much as the computer itself. The monitors are valuable too, but unlikely to survive shipment, so sell locally.
I’ve seen working Tandy 1000 setups with a monitor sell for more than $200. Having original boxes and paperwork will increase the value a bit more from there. If the system is incomplete or not working, someone will still want it, but now you’re talking more like $50-$100.
Tandy Color Computers
The Tandy Color Computer 3 is the most desirable of the Color Computer line because it’s the most versatile. Those systems sell for over $100. A Color Computer 1 is arguably the second most valuable because it was the first. A Color Computer 2 is the odd one out. It’s probably the most common of the three. I think I paid $35 for mine several years ago. A fair price today is probably closer to $50.
A TRS-80 Model 1, 2, 3 or 4 will also have some value. These early machines are hard to ship, so your best bet is to sell them locally. You may want to solicit an offer, because I don’t see them frequently enough to be able to give an estimate on their value. A Model 1 probably is worth more than a Tandy 1000. Later models may not be. They’re rarer, but also not as well known and don’t have nearly as large of a software library, so there isn’t as much demand for them.