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Is the world going mad, asks the Sinclair Lair?

6,000 people turn up at Ikea at midnight and stampede over small children in their desperation to buy a sofa… Tony Blair goes on Richard and Judy and plays You Say We Pay… bloke pays nearly £54 for one Spectrum adventure game on eBay!

As one correspondent wrote in the popular World of Spectrum discussion forums, when it comes to Spectrum online auctions it's the silly season for bids. Far from being skint after a Christmas spending splurge, retro computing fans are splashing the cash like there's no tomorrow.

On 29 January 2005, four determined bidders sent the final price for HRH by 8th Day through the roof. The game, which is something of a rarity these days, went for a whopping £53.90.

This certainly raised a few eyebrows, as even Interface One ROM cartridges and much sought after Ultimate titles like Bubbler and Martianoids don't usually fetch this kind of money. The final price certainly surprised the seller - see our related article.

We've also noted other slightly obscure Spectrum adventure games fetching high prices in recent weeks, leaving less loaded collectors like The Lair frustrated in their attempts to boost their stash of software.

The seller of HRH made another tidy sum on 29 January, when The Raven by 8th Day raised £24 on the button. Then on 6 February, Confidential by Radar Games went for £18.44, while The Crystal Frog by Sentient went for nearly £19.

As a fan of adventures, The Lair can well understand the reason for these prices. These games were not everyone's cup of tea. As a result, releases never sold that well, especially those from small homegrown software houses operating from a residential address.

With minimal money for marketing, these companies relied on fanzine reviews, word of mouth and short plugs in Mike Gerrard's column in Your Sinclair to whip up business.

As a result, sales of their games tended to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Obviously as the years have passed, many of the sold will have stopped working or been thrown away, leaving very few working copies in existence.

There are a fair few serious Spectrum collectors out there at the present time, and when a very rare adventure game comes up for auction most of them seem prepared to have a good bash at obtaining it. And you can understand their reasoning; it may be several years before the title appears again on eBay again.

All that is needed is two or three determined collectors with money to spend and the price of a game can rocket. Add to this the guaranteed interest from the admirable Spectrum Preservation Team, which is seeking to create an archive of every Sinclair tape title ever released, and you have a recipe for a high finishing price.

But it's not just adventure games that have been raking in the reddies of late. Shadow of the Unicorn by Mikro-Gen made a very handy £40 on 5 February 2005. This final price is perhaps understandable given the neat and complete condition of this desirable title. Having said this, the Lair remembers an identical item fetching half this amount last year.

The Collected Works by Ultimate for the Spectrum +3 made £52 on 3 February and Advanced Spectrum Machine Language by Melbourne House, fetched a cool £27 on 9 February 2005, with three bidders scrabbling to bag this book.

But one auction item that really caught the Lair's eye was for a Sinclair MK14, the first computer from the Science of Cambridge company, which later became Sinclair Computers and then Sinclair Research.

It seems very few of these very early home computers have survived. Indeed, they are much harder to find these days than ZX80 machines, which have been known to fetch £100 and beyond on eBay.

Initial bidding for the MK14 sent the price rocketing beyond £100 and here at The Lair, we were expecting the final price to touch £300 or even £400. As it was, the last minute bidding frenzy didn't materialise and it went for £221.56. However, had one World of Spectrum forum contributor remembered to bid it could well have gone much higher, as they admitted later they had set aside £300.

Whether the current trend of high bidding will continue remains to be seen. But anyone who has been waiting for the right time to chuck some rare software or hardware onto eBay is advised to consider doing it right now.

Of course, there will always be the odd person who gets carried away. Last year The Lair ran an article about a hapless chap who thought his ZX81 was so rare, it warranted a starting price of £500.

Laugh? We nearly cried!

* Click here to check out the latest Spectrum items for sale on eBay.


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