Crazy Xserve G5 valuations

I’ve been using eBay for 25 years, selling personal items and often buying new, used and hard to find items. A lot of this is pretty normal, items sell for expected market prices. Every once in a while I have an unusual transaction, maybe I get a great deal, or maybe I have something which fetches a nice price. An out of print children’s book which has become a collector’s item, or a 200 year old watercolor paint set which has a bidding war between museum conservators.

Possibly the most odd thing I’ve seen for technology is Xserve G5 values (although some HP calculators have had unusual prices in the past). If you look up the going price for a G5 tower, regardless of how loaded it is, maybe you’re looking at $100-200, pretty normal for a 20 year old desktop computer. If you look up the going price for an Xserve rack mount G5, you’re looking at 10x that price. I stumbled upon this anomaly while browsing for used Mac laptops, one was recommended and the price was unusual. Looking deeper, all Xserve G5s go for unusual prices given their age. There aren’t a lot of them being sold, but the ones that do go for anywhere from $500 to $2000 depending on condition – $500 for a water damaged Xserve?

Well, as luck would have it I got to really see this in action. I happened upon a lot of 80 rack mount servers for sale at an auction, mostly really old Dell and HP servers, mostly scrap condition. They had been picked over by the seller and were largely non-functional in some way. However, there were 15 Xserves, a few G4s, a couple Xeons, and 10 G5’s which looked original. With my valuable knowledge in hand I paid more for the lot than the Dells and HPs were worth – but a lot less than what the G5s were worth. I took a bit of a risk as the G5s might have been Xeon’s with FireWire ports on the front, but they weren’t, and then off to eBay!

Ultimately the best G5, a dual processor unit which powered on sold for $1599, and a non-functional dual processor unit which had seen better days before a mouse got inside and turned it into a bathroom sold for $510, with the rest averaging this out. Amazing. There is a small set of bidders on this item, many of them were sold to the same bidders. But why are these machines valuable? Is there some single company or government agency out there maintaining a G5 server room and desperately need parts? Who knows!

What did I do with the 70 other servers … and the 3000 dead hard drives that also came along with the lot? Well that’s the next post.