Starting a Collection

by Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz Ph.D.


After reading some of these articles about calculator history, you might decide to start your own collection. This article deals with two questions. 1. Why collect calculators? 2. How to start a collection?

Why, indeed, collect calculators? A few people who collect them run a museum, or a club library, or write books about them, and NEED such a collection. Some people collect them as an investment - but collecting ANYTHING as an investment is dangerous - once the investors outnumber the collectors, the market usually collapses, as has happened with stamps and antique paintings, for example.

Most people collect things because they have inherited the collecting bug, or instinct. But then, why calculators? Well, to compare them with some other things people collect, they smell better than cheese labels, they take up less space than lawnmowers, and they are more exotic than stamps! Besides, if you are a member of HPCC then you already have an interest in HP calculators, and are well placed to collect them. In the long run, though, collecting calculators is likely to be just a hobby, and it might become an expensive one, so think carefully before you decide to collect them.

How do you start a collection? DATAFILE readers might well have a collection already - many of us have older HP calculators which we have replaced with newer ones, but which we have never sold or given away. If you have a bunch of old calculators at home, this can form the basis of your collection, and it can determine the sort of collection you decide to set up. Deciding what sort of collection you want is important - you should not begin with the aim of getting every single HP calculator ever made - you would be unlikely to succeed, and the effort might bankrupt you! You could for example decide to specialise, collecting items related to one particular model, or one family of calculators. My suggestion is that a budding collector should begin with handheld calculators only, and try to get one calculator from each family.

This means you would ignore the computers, the printing calculators, and the watches. That cuts things down to a manageable level. Now, try to get just one model from the Classic family (HP-35, 45, 55, 65, 67, 70, 80). Similarly, try to get one model from the Woodstock family (HP-21, 22, 25, 25C, 27, 29C). The same goes for the Spice/Spike family (31E, 32E, 33E, 33C, 34C, 37E, 38E, 38C), the Woodstock family (HP-10C, 11C, 12C, 15C, 16C), the Champion family (HP-18B, 19B, 19BII, 28C, 28S) and the Pioneer family (HP10B, 14B, 17B, 17BII, 20S, 21S, 22S, 27S, 32S, 32SII, 42S). The three HP-41 models (HP-41C, 41CV, 41CX) also make up a family, as do the four HP-48 models (HP48S, 48SX, 48G, 48GX). You might like to add an HP-71B, since it is both a computer and a calculator, and you can get one for less than #20 from Tuscan Consultants at the moment.

That's a minimum of nine! If this is too many, you could choose to collect only older models, say ones with LED displays (the ones with shining red numbers). If even this seems a bit much, you might decide the whole thing is a bad idea. Don't give up at once though; you might be able to swap calculators you already have for others, or pick up some old ones from friends or local secondhand dealers. I'll make more suggestions on collecting in future articles.


This article is part of the WMJARTS file. This file contains a series of articles written by Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz and published in DATAFILE, the journal of the HPCC. The article was reproduced with permission of the author.

Copyright Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz Ph.D.