I've been on the fence multiple times about getting a vintage mac, I thought it would be cool to toy around with and stuff, but I always think about if it's worth buying. Usually, good condition macs I see are around $100.00+. And sometimes I wonder if I'll actually use it long term. (Not like buying it, being happy for a month, then get bored.) Not only that, in order to do stuff, you need to hunt down vintage software as well which may fetch $50 from what I've seen. Should or should I not get a vintage mac?
If you have to torture yourself to find an answer, then you probably do not want to buy one.
If you have a genuine interest in learning about the Mac, then get one.
Before you make your decision, go up to the different Mac sites and read about them.
Don't choose one because it "Looks Cool".
Read about the different types and makes of Mac's and make an informed decision.
Mac's can be had from anywhere between $50.00 all the way to $1,000.00. (Sometimes more, sometimes less)
Depending on what your interests are.
Then , as you said, you will have to find software.
If you want accessories, you'll have to get those too.
If all of this seems too much... see the first sentence.
By the way...
Do not be afraid to ask for help from folks up here if you have questions on a particular Mac that you are thinking about.
No, not at ridiculous prices. There is some person here on this site who regularly sells these old Macs for ridiculous prices, like $123462345345 for some 10 years old G5, or $7654745674567 for some obsolete Mac Plus.
Old Macs are worse than old Apple II's, as far as maintenance goes. There are just so many more parts that will fail. The hard drive, for example, or the PRAM battery goes dead. Or the capacitors leak.
I've got loads of broken Macs like these, but I don't mind so much because they were all give-aways and I didn't spend any money on them. They were working when I got them, but now it's 5 or 10 years later and they're all worn out. Just imagine how upset I'd be if I actually did spend a lot.
Steven gave you the best advice in his first sentence. As far as prices/buying/selling goes, an asking price is only outrageous if no one is willing to pay it.
Look for a working compact mac and decide what you are willing to spend. Bid that amount and don't go higher. It really is that simple. Saw a working SE/30 just sell today for about $60 including shipping. The HDD either is not working or needs to be reformatted but the only known issue was the system looking for a bootable disk.
My point is that for maybe $100 you could have a working system. System floppies are abundant on ebay right now and while some have high asking prices (some full system 7 sets asking 199.00) don't pay any attention to them. System 6 and early 7 sets have gone for less than $40 (one right now at 29.99)
ADB keyboards can ask 40-60 dollars but several have just sold for 15-20 dollars. This assuming you don't have anything at all to start with.
Craigslist has the best prices but is often the most hassle. Ebay is what it is, a place with prices all over the map and as much junk (if not more) than quality. Just like every other flea market on the planet, only this one is online and let's you buy almost anywhere on the planet!
If you decide to get something let me know, I can send you copies of several different Mac system versions (800k or 1.44 depending on the machine you get) and will only be the cost of the floppies and shipping. I have quite a bit of software on 3.5" disks, much of which I could send you. I sell stuff on ebay to make money, I sell stuff occasionally on here to perpetuate the addiction!
I'll defer to the previous posts for the answers you seek.
However, if you do decide to go ahead and get something, I have a Mac Plus that you could have for $65 plus shipping. It would need a keyboard and mouse, but those can be had for relatively little if you look hard enough.
Polygon, Zan, and CC,
My personal favorites for the original series are the SE and the Mac Classic.
No particular reason other than they have a hard drive and are easy to work with.
When it comes to the II Series, I have a couple of IIcx units that I like to play with.
For Power PC units I have a couple of 6100/66s with the audio package.
Now, I also have a couple of Color Classic units, but I have set them off to the side for now as getting parts to make them work correctly can be a bear. lol
The KISS method is the best method.
No doubt CC and Zan can attest to this.
Funny, I have never owned nor really looked at the Classic machines because to me they were "classic" in design only, coming after the other macs started appearing.
I just recently sold the SE I bought for my wife long before she was my wife! Had a Radius Accelerator 16 in it and 4mb memory. The HDD had died when the computer was retired (long story involving me, the computer, an errant floppy disk and a butter knife.....don't ask!) When I took it out of storage last month she fired right up so I put a 2gb drive in it formatted with my old Spirit Utilities driver and damn was it quick (till you tried to do anything with it of course!) Boot up in 17 seconds - 20 seconds max and restart in 7-9 seconds. Hated to part with it but it was time to move on.
Next up is my old SE/30 I used at home and for work. Just took it apart this past week and started the cleaning/testing process.
Been hanging my hat on my old Apple IIs the past few months but could not resist taking out the old Macs which are as near and dear to my heart as the AII. Grew up with them and grew into them as they came out. Never thought I would get into refurbishing/selling them but it has been so much fun playing with them and deciding what to keep and what to move. (wife wants more sold than kept, but that is another story!)
Did you track one down in the end Polygon?? anything vintage I am interested in, nothing like a good fiddle in something from another age! haha. I'm actually on a couple of other forums which deal exclusivley with vintage machinery. If you are still interested, I can post some of the relevant threads on here for you to have a gander about. I'm sure there is someone there who might be able to help you. Like souls. I was recommended this iLove iPhone App here, on one of those forum and from there met my my current girlfriend. The App matches up your passions, not just your looks, and because both of us had a passion for retro techno, the connection was soon made.
It depends what you want to do with the "vintage" Mac?
I've considered acquiring a PowerPC laptop that has LocalTalk as a way to use old LocalTalk devices: a LocalTalk-only printer, a LocalTalk network, a Newton. I sometimes see these "vintage" laptops for sale here on AppleFritter.