What Can We Learn from the Holland (MI) Public Schools Apple Gear Sell-off?

By 9:30 last night, buyers were lined up at Holland (MI) High School in hopes of buying one or more iMacs, MacBooks, or iPads. There were so many that they began the sale this morning at 7:00 AM, and within an hour everything was gone.

White MacBookWhile most school systems collect old gear and eventually sell it to a recycler, Holland Public Schools had almost 800 Apple devices and thought of a way to turn equipment it was replacing into cash.

That’s $75,500 generated in one hour of sales, money that can be used to buy more new technology.

Why did they go so quickly? Because the school system allowed buyers to acquire 5 MacBooks, 5 iPads, and 1 iMac, which provided a way for some people to score equipment at great prices and turn around to sell it on eBay or Craigslist. It’s even possible some local used Apple dealers sent their employees to pick up some of this gear.

What can we learn from the school system’s success?

The Biggest Lesson

As I’ve maintained since before I launched Low End Mac in April 1997, there’s good value in older Macs. Most users do not need the latest and greatest and most expensive. Macs have a productive life that sometimes spans a decade or more. Old Macs have value and sell for a lot more on the used market than second-hand PCs.

The school took the time to wipe hard drives and reset these devices to their factory original state. Way to go, Holland Public Schools!

The MacBooks and iPads can all run the current version of their OS – and the next one coming later this year. They are anything but dead end, obsolete equipment. Sure, technology marches on, but they have plenty of power for most users – at least after upgrading the MacBook’s system memory to 4-8 GB.

White flat panel iMacEven that 2006 Core Duo iMac can be a very useful machine. Although OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is almost 5 versions behind with OS X 10.11 El Diablo right around the corner, it can run fairly up-to-date browsers and has an iSight webcam so it can be used with FaceTime. Not a bad trick for a 9-year-old machine!

Buyers obviously agreed, some standing in line for hours for a chance to get some of this older tech.

The Price Is Right – Or Is It?

Honestly, anyone could pick up one of these and turn around to sell it at a profit in eBay or Craigslist. I think Holland Public Schools could have increased the price 25-40% and still sold out as quickly.

If anything, I think allowing buyers to walk out with up to 11 devices was a mistake. That’s going to appeal to the kind of people looking to make a profit, not parents picking up an iPad or MacBook for their student. Perhaps a limit of one of each per customer or one device per family plus one per enrolled student would have put this gear in the hands of more families looking for a tablet or laptop for their student(s) to use.

Will Others Follow Holland’s Lead?

I hope other school systems – and perhaps also some businesses – will learn from this blow-out sale on old gear. People are eager to get useful Apple gear on the cheap, and even those aging Windows PCs could probably find a market.

How schools and other organizations sell their old equipment depends on their goal. If they just want to move it out, do like Holland and set the prices low. If they want to maximize return, look at used prices on eBay, Amazon.com, and online Apple dealers. If they want to do what they can to get them to students, figure out a way of restricting the number of units sold per buyer. Nobody needs 5 iPads, 5 MacBooks, and an iMac.

Most of all, let’s do what we can to keep viable technology accessible rather than destroyed.

Kudos to Holland Public Schools for finding new users for nearly 800 older Apple devices!

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