↑ Return to What’s My Chip Worth?

Chip Rarity

How rare is your chip. The quick answer is nobody knows. The extended answer is far for complicated, but I can provide some guidance. 

How many chips are left? – Part 1

To figure out how many chips are left, you would figure we would start with how many were made. This is not as simple as you might think. Coin collectors have it easy. Governments published records of exact coin mintage figures. The production records of chip companies were, and are, not published. Companies did not want to provide this information except in very vague terms. The purpose of with holding this information is reduce competitor’s intelligence on their operations. Unfortunately, this makes it tough for collectors.  The only production numbers produced were by industry trade publications, but these numbers are not of much use to collectors. The numbers would indicate the only total number of chips by generic numbers such the total of Intel 8080’s, not broken out by CerDIPs, ceramics, plastics, dash versions, or letter versions. Chip companies may have had this kind of records by assembly line and plant, but few of these records exist today. So, for the purposes of collectors … no one knows how many were made.

How many chips are left? – Part 2

The general thing we know about chip manufacturing is that production starts small and ramps up as manufacturing processes are tuned and enhanced. As chip companies get their manufacturing lines up to volume its often possible to offer better quality chips that have increased speed capabilities or operate in extended temperature ranges. These new chips were marketed at a high price as “dash” or “letter” version of the original chip. Once again the early quantities would be smaller and then ramp up.

Also, because chip package types exist for different technical and market reasons, we can make statements about the quantities made. CerDIP, Ceramic, and Plastic varied greatly in price. CerDIP were built for the most demanding applications and were the most costly. Ceramics, which eventually replaced CerDIPs completely, were the next most capable and were lower in cost. The plastic chips were the least expensive and were somewhat limited, but had some advantages such as weight. CerDIP were in significantly lower production than ceramics and ceramics less than plastics.

How many chips are left? – Part 3

Chips were made and were intended to be used. This should not be a shocking revelation. Even though thousands of chips were made they quickly disappeared from inventories into boards for computers and other applications. These early chips became obsolete within 5 years or less. Over time the vast majority of these early chips were discarded and destroyed. Those that escaped destruction due to obsolescence, faced another hurdle.  The vast majority of early chip packages used gold somewhere it them. These early gold boards and chips met their end during the 1980’s when gold peaked at $800 an ounce. Many chips that have survived are in inventories of chip surplus companies,  surplus inventories of the government, boards from old equipment, and the collections of early collectors. The chips salvaged from old boards are either pulls or desolders, and their functional and physical condition varies dramatically. The inventories of chip surplus companies are sometimes new-old-stock, but also can be refurbished chips. The functional condition is usually guaranteed by once again the physical quality can vary dramatically. The best chips come from these early collectors, who often worked for some of chip companies. These chips are unique from all other sources in that they were selected for collecting purposes, so there are functional and there physical condition is very good.

How many chips are left? – Part 4

So what can we conclude about the rarity of the chips. Here are some general statements about rarity that be used.

1. The earlier the manufacturing date code the more rare the chip

2. CerDIP packages are rarer than ceramic packages and ceramics are more rare than plastic packages

3. Gold chips are rarer than tin chips

There are always exception to rule, but you will find these three rules to be very useful.