The Tandy 1000 was an important early IBM compatible PC. It was by no means the first IBM PC compatible, nor was it the first successful one. But it was notable for being what the IBM PCjr should have been, and it was widely available at Radio Shack stores, making it one of the first mass market PCs. It has some cultural significance, and that cultural and historical significance drives its value.
Today, a Tandy 1000 is generally worth around $250 US. However, that amount does come with some caveats, including condition and whether the unit works.
$250? For a Tandy 1000!?
The $250 figure I attached is controversial. For a few years in the 1980s, the Tandy 1000 was probably the best choice for a home PC. It was readily available, the price was reasonable, and it had better graphics and sound capabilities than other PCs in its class. But by 1990 or so, it was outmoded. And for a number of years from about 1993 onward, you couldn’t give them away.
Increasing interest in vintage computing helped raise their prices a bit, but it was still possible to get a Tandy 1000 relatively inexpensively until around 2018.
Why prices fell
At first, Tandy was selling Tandy 1000s as quickly as they could make them. And for a few years, “serious” computing meant one of three companies: IBM, Apple, or Tandy.
Better standards for PC graphics and sounds started appearing around 1987 or 1988, and everyone adopted them. And once the mainstream processor moved on from the 8088 to the 286 and then the 386, and sound and graphics moved on, the Tandy 1000 was outmoded. It was still useful for a while. I know a number of St Louis area BBSs ran on old Tandy 1000, because they were cheap and didn’t take up much space. But by the time Microsoft Windows was mainstream, a Tandy 1000 was basically junk. And very commonly available junk at that.
In the early ’90s, any XT class machine was worth maybe $50 to $100, because they didn’t run the software everyone was interested in. They didn’t run Windows, and once the Internet was a household thing, they didn’t run Netscape. As the 90s wore on, the value decreased if anything. So people who remember getting one for $25 have trouble with the idea of them being worth ten times that now.
Tips for selling a Tandy 1000
The first thing to keep in mind when trying to sell a Tandy 1000 is disclosure. Does the system work? You should be able to connect it to a television and at least prove the machine generates a display.
Even if you don’t have a boot disk, if you can show it passing the memory test and asking for a boot disk. That demonstrates that the onboard electronics are okay. If you can prove the disk drive works, that’s a nice bonus, but replacing a disk drive is cheaper and easier than trying to figure out which chip on a motherboard failed and trying to track down a replacement. Not everyone has the equipment to do that. Suitable drives for a Tandy 1000 are also getting expensive, but at least they only require a screwdriver to replace.
When you list a vintage computer for sale, there is no such thing as too many pictures. Make sure you photograph each side, and if the unit works, show the unit still working. If it doesn’t work, show a picture of how it malfunctions if you can. Describe the fault if you can’t photograph it. If the system does absolutely nothing, that’s different than if it sounds a continuous tone. Mentioning the fault eliminates people assuming the worst.
It’s no problem if you don’t have a monitor anymore. You can connect it to a TV to at least demonstrate it works. The picture isn’t optimal but it’s good enough to show what signs of life the system has.
If you know what expansion cards are in it, be sure to mention that. If you have the ability to open the machine up to take a picture of the inside and get the machine back together, that can help.
The machine doesn’t have to be spotless, and a collector would probably rather clean the unit themselves than buy a damaged unit they have to restore from two aggressive cleaning, but giving the machine a once-over with a paper towel and some window cleaner will make it present better. Here’s how to give a more extensive cleaning safely. The machine will attract more interest if it looks fairly nice then if it looks like it’s fresh from a grimy garage or tool shed.
The keyboard controversy
If you have a model with a detachable keyboard, the unit is most valuable as a combination. Regular keyboards do not work with a Tandy 1000. And many collectors like their things to match. That said, if you don’t have the keyboard anymore, that’s not a showstopper. But you will get more if you have the full unit.
A lot of people separate the system unit from the keyboard and sell them separately. In theory you can get more money that way. In practice, sometimes you do, and sometimes it backfires. A completest would want the same keyboard and system unit that have been together for the better part of four decades to stay together. Some people will not bid on your auction if they see you have listed the two parts separately. So separating the two parts is a gamble.
Selling the monitor separately from the computer is a bit less of a faux pas. Monitors are difficult to ship. I’m perfectly willing to buy a system and have it shipped to me, but very hesitant to take a chance on a CRT monitor.
Selling locally is always an option, and more convenient then having to deal with packing and shipping. You will probably get somewhat less selling locally, but not having to track down a box and ship it and stand in line to send off the package is worth something. It is much easier to just load your gear into the back of your car and meet someone in a public place. You hand over the goods, they give you cash, and the deal is done. No shipping hassle, and no 15% fees.
The matching CRT monitor is valuable, so you don’t want to risk selling it for a lot of money, having it damaged in shipment, and then losing the money to a claim.
If you must ship, here are some tips for packing a monitor so it has a chance of survival:
Boxes and paperwork
If you have boxes and paperwork, that adds value, even if the boxes aren’t in the best condition. If the boxes are wet and moldy, of course, that’s not adding any value. Don’t try to sell a biohazard. But if the box is dry and mostly intact, a collector can certainly go to some effort to restore it and may appreciate the chance. Any manuals, disks, and other paperwork also add a bit of value to the machine.
Collectors like having original manuals and disks, and invoices or receipts can also add some interest. Not everyone kept them, but having some provenance is always nice. It won’t add a ton of value but it will decrease chances of lowball offers at the very least.
If you have any Tandy or Radio Shack branded accessories related to it, that also adds interest, especially to someone who intends to display the unit rather than rotate it in and out with other systems. If you’re selling locally and have a vintage computer desk, the person who buys the computer may be interested in the desk.
Why a Tandy 1000 has more value than a typical PC clone
Several things set a Tandy 1000 apart from other XT class machines, and drive its value today to once-unthinkable levels.
Blame Young Sheldon
The first is cultural significance. When someone with a following talks about an item, that can increase the collectible value of it. We see that when certain influential YouTubers make videos about things. Youtuber LGR has certainly increased the value of certain items by making videos about them. In the Tandy 1000’s case, the value shot up due to the TV sitcom Young Sheldon. After the character Sheldon declared that the Tandy 1000 was his computer of choice when he was a kid, demand for vintage examples shot up and pretty much stayed there.
There was a reason why they chose the Tandy 1000. There were lots of popular machines in the 1980s, but it’s not hard to make an argument why this specific line was a good buy. And it’s a relatable choice. Many of us who grew up in the ’80s had a Radio Shack close by, and would have seen a Tandy 1000 in the store, whether it was our preferred computer or not. And even though most of us did not own one at the time, most of us at least knew someone who did. The computer market was fragmented, so there are any number of classic machines that would have been our personal machine of choice. But the Tandy 1000 was a reasonable middle of the road option.
Nostalgia for those games that ran on a Tandy 1000 also drives the value. Yes, a 286 system with EGA graphics and an Ad Lib or early Sound Blaster gives better graphics and sound. But that was hardly a mainstream machine in 1985. For running pre-1990 software, a Tandy 1000 had the best combination of cost, sound, and graphics capability.
It definitely helped that the game company Sierra had invested a lot of money in producing software that would be compatible with the PCjr. Tandy wisely made the 1000 series compatible with the PCjr, but they also made it more compatible with the original PC. The most notable example being the graphics card. On the PCjr, software that talked to the video through the system BIOS was compatible. But on a hardware level, there were some incompatibilities. And game publishers frequently did talk directly to the hardware. Tandy made their graphics compatible at the hardware level, not just at the BIOS level.
But it definitely helped Tandy that a major game publisher had a library of titles it had developed for a quickly orphaned computer that just happened to also work on the Tandy 1000. That meant Tandy had dozens of titles they could sell in the store that took advantage of capabilities the Tandy 1000 had that every other PC did not.
Tandy may have kept Sierra from going out of business, and Sierra certainly made the Tandy 1000 much more compelling. Here was a PC that could play graphical adventure games with graphics and sound that rivaled a video game console, you could get one at Radio Shack, and the price was within $100 or so of a boring PC from the likes of Leading Edge.
Size is also a factor. A Tandy 1000 EX or HX machine doesn’t take up a lot of room. It has a small, all in one design that slides nicely under a monitor. It’s not as expandable as most of its competitors, but there’s enough room inside to add what you would want today, and the sound and graphics are already built into the motherboard. Most hobbyists have a limited amount of space to work with, so having a versatile XT class machine in such a small space is convenient.
If you go with the larger desktop form factor, they are still relatively compact XT class machines, no larger than a Leading Edge Model D or Epson Equity, and have expansion slots so you can add a network card and mass storage, and they are compatible with all those nostalgic Tandy and PCjr titles while also having a high degree of compatibility with any other XT software.
Tandy 1000 value: In conclusion
So that’s why a Tandy 1000 is more valuable than similar machines that are probably more rare. To get higher value, pretty much you have to go with true blue IBM, and even then, it’s the early and rarer examples. You could probably make a case for a Commodore or Atari PC clone being as valuable as a Tandy 1000, or maybe more, but that’s because those companies have followings in their own right, and the value of those clones is driven by the other things those companies made.