Computer-Related Literature Bringing Big Bucks

An original binding of a lecture series given at the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering in 1946 sold last week on eBay for $1728. The price is understandable when you consider that the lecturers included Howard Aiken, designer of the Harvard Mark I, and J. Presper Eckert, designer of the ENIAC and UNIVAC.

Eckert’s presentation came shortly after the ENIAC was announced, so this historically significant document represents one of the first public descriptions of the project.

Less understandable is the sale of the January and February 1975 issues of Popular Electronics earlier this year. These were the issues that contained the 2-part series on building the MITS Altair 8800. Copies of the January issue had typically sold for $200-$300, and the February issue, which did not have the Altair on the cover, typically sold for under $100. In fact, the latest eBay sale price for the January issue was $172, and for the February issue the price was $63.

Clearly, several bidders decided they had to have that particular pair of issues and drove up the price. These issues, while in demand by collectors, are not particularly rare.

When a truly rare and important document like the Moore School lecture series goes on the market, you have to expect to pay whatever your desire and wallet allows. For items like the two issues of Popular Electronics, a little patience will be rewarded.

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