Selling to Pawn Stars

March 3rd, 2011 11:10 AM
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Finding an Apple II for sale is not hard; one need only look on eBay, Craiglist, or any number of other online classifieds. Less common are in-person sales, and though they do occur at places like KansasFest, they rarely receive the publicity that an Apple IIGS did on a recent episode of Pawn Stars.

This show, a product of the History Channel, is a reality television series in which Las Vegas pawn brokers assess personal property and broker various transactions for people hoping to strike it rich in the city of Lost Wages. It's sort of an edgier take on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. I've never seen either show but was alerted to the Pawn Stars's Feb. 14 episode, "Wise Guys", described as follows:

The Pawn Stars take a mission briefing when presented with a fully functional 1941 M3 Armored Scout Truck from World War II. Will the gang head to battle for this bulletproof piece of military history or will an auto ambush force them to retreat? Then, Rick and Corey meet a man hoping to sell a check signed by notorious mobster Carlo Gambino. Will Rick make him an offer he can't refuse or will this deal sleep with the fishes? And later, Rick and Chumlee check out a 1987 Apple II GS Computer. Will they boot up some cash for this classic piece of technology or is the deal bound to crash?

I watched as a woman in her thirties tried to sell an Apple IIGS with boxes, manuals, and duplicated floppies. I was annoyed by the broker who said that he'd "sell it to someone who would turn it into an aquarium." His disregard and contempt for our favorite retrocomputer was palpable. I mentioned this to Emily Kahm, the vocal talent of the Open Apple podcast and the person who first pointed me to this episode. A regular viewer of the show, Kahm provided some context:

Rick is a shrewd businessman, and his whole business is buy low, sell high. Even when he thinks things are very, very cool, he always points out the flaws and the trouble to the seller so that he has more room to talk down the price. (and seriously, as a regular watcher, I've seen him go from the "interview" portion raving about the utter rare-ness of the coin/document/autograph/toy and saying there's nothing else like it in the world to telling the seller that it's just not worth that much because he would need to get it graded/refurbished/verified/whatever and that he doesn't have a great market for it…all true statements, but he selectively shares them with the seller). If you have any doubts about whether or not he was really interested in the Apple II, you need to watch the last minute of the episode :-)

Indeed, the background to the closing credits almost redeemed the show's star. The lot's television debut was briefly available for free streaming from the History Channel's Web site. The episode has since migrated to a $1.99 purchase from the iTunes Store.

But that's not the end of the story! As seen in this episode, the Apple's seller didn't get her original asking price. The show's hosts graciously allowed her to renege on her handshake in favor of a better deal on eBay:

This is the Apple IIGS (2 GS, ][GS) from the Pawn Stars episode “Wise Guys” (Season 4, Episode 10) – not just one LIKE the IIGS on Pawn Stars, but this is the ACTUAL COMPUTER FEATURED ON THE SHOW!!

So, you may ask, "Didn't you sell that computer to the pawn shop?" Well, I had agreed to sell it during the taping, but immediately afterwards regretted letting it go for only $100. So they said it was no big deal – I could keep my computer, and they could keep their money.

So why sell it now? Well, I've been out of work for quite a while. I've also recently moved into a smaller home, so I don't have the room to keep it set up anymore, and it's taking up a lot of room in storage.

And finally, "How do I know it's the same one from the show?" Well, in the listing I'm including a picture of myself with the computer – check it against the episode, it's me! Also, the F1 Racer disk (the one shown being played in the episode), is autographed by Chum Lee! In addition, the game Rick was playing at the end of the show (Thexder) is in the stash also.

The auction closed on Feb. 27 for $315, plus $175 shipping for the many disks and peripherals listed in the auction description. What do you think — a fair deal? Worth the trouble of selling online vs. a quick trip to the local pawn shop? How much did the televised publicity contribute to the ultimate price tag?

(Hat tip to EddieDX4)

Nuclear Apple

October 4th, 2010 11:05 AM
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On Mar. 29, 1955, the United States' Los Alamos National Laboratory detonated a 14-kiloton nuclear bomb in Nye County of southern Nevada, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Codenamed "Apple", this test was the the eighth of 18 nuclear tests the government would conduct that calendar year.

Five weeks later, on May 5, 1955, another bomb was detonated in the same space. Unlike the previous low-yield weapon, this one measured in the intermediate range at 29 kilotons. It used its predecessor's naming convention for the codename: "Apple-2".

Apple-2 nuclear test.

As Apple II historian Steve Weyhrich wrote, "[I] never realized what a hot commodity we've been dealing with over the past 30 years."

That groaner aside, it's a fascinating to know the coincidental history of the Apple II name. Although the weapon of mass destruction presumably did not inspire the personal microcomputer (nor, obviously, vice versa), nuclear warfare would ultimately have a bearing on the development of the platform. The USA's first-ever nuclear weapon test, conducted on July 16, 1945, was codenamed "Trinity", which became the name of Infocom's post-apocalyptic text adventure, whose feelie was a comic book entitled The Illustrated Story of the Atom Bomb.

Two years later, in 1988, the Apple II revisited the horror of nuclear armageddon with Electronic Arts' role-playing game, Wasteland, the spiritual origin for the extremely popular modern-day RPG series, Fallout.

The Apple II and the nuclear bomb: both incredibly powerful tools — one for creation, the other for destruction — yet sharing the same name. A brilliant team of well-funded scientists can change the world as much as a lone genius in a garage. If only all creations left as positive a legacy as Steve Wozniak's.

(Hat tip to David Gewirtz)