Is the HP 33s the next hot HP collectible ?


With all the hoopla about the HP 15c LE commanding premium prices on the secondary market, it seems like there's another now discontinued HP calculator that is also selling at a premium. When I bought my HP 33s 3 years ago for under $40, which is $20 less than the 35s retail price, I never dreamed that I'd see it now selling at such lofty prices now that HP has seen fit to discontinue them. New units in their unopened blister packs are selling for 400% over list price and even clean used units are selling for well over $100. Meanwhile, the 35s is being heavily discounted.

Personally, I think that the 33s was a great calculator that in many ways was better than the 35s, and HP was foolish to have discontinued it. Early production had a display problem with a nearly invisible decimal point, but this was fixed in later production. It basically was a rational upgrade to the very good 32SII with much more memory, faster processor and a two-line display, while retaining all the nice features of the 32SII such as direct rectangular-polar coordinate conversion and separate primary keys for store and recall. It also was tapered at the bottom with soft side grips for comfortable handheld use. Finally, it had decent battery life, and the batteries are still good in mine nearly 3 years later. All these good features and more were lost with the 35s, and I've stopped using mine after going through three sets of batteries. Meanwhile, I use my 33s a lot to do simple calculations and run simple programs, and am very happy to have gotten one when they were still available at a normal price.


Surveying/civil engineering I think, may have something to do with it?, someone writes (or rather ports) a program for a particular device and then it has extra demand from young surveyors... so savvy retailers can charge what they want within reason.

And that HP model has surveying interest attached to it. (Google "HP33s surveying")

There was a Casio pocket computer which held the roost for a good number of years - because it was the preferred device for these surveying calculations.

I'm not in surveying, but I remember the Casio one, mainly because I wanted one of the Pocket computers (FX880P or FX850 if I remember rightly?)

Edited: 28 Oct 2013, 2:32 p.m.


I think all those surveying packs work equally well with the 35s, so I doubt that's the reason for the high demand for the 33s. Both models are used/approved for the NCEES and other exams, and the 33s sold for less than the 35s when both models were available.


Whilst we're on the subject of the 15LE, what on earth happened to the price on that !!

When I bought mine, very early on , I saw a few just over the £100 mark if I remember - then ended up paying £90, then 6 months later all I can find is close to £200 !!

Did HP put the price up on later production? , or did reselling people jump on it and push it to where it is now ?
Are they trying to sell them at that because HP have stopped it now?
and why on earth did they stop !, what's wrong with them ! lol

Edited: 28 Oct 2013, 3:04 p.m.


During the brief period that HP had them for sale from their own online store the price never changed from $99.99 USD. I bought several from HP with discount coupons as well as some third party resellers and never paid over $100 USD including any shipping fees or sales tax. When HP introduced them as a "Limited Edition" it was quite clear that the prices would soar once production ended. Once it became apparent that there were some serious quality issues with the 15c LE, HP probably breathed a sigh of relief when they stopped making them.


Hi Michael,

I'm interested - what are the quality issues with the HP-15 LE?

Thanks Daniel


Hi Daniel, to start with...



In addition, I've experienced very bad key bounce (repeating) on the two HP 15c LEs that I've been using regularly for the past couple of years. They are from two completely different production batches, so the problem appears to be inherent in the design.


Repeating happens to me as well. Has led to inadvertant repeat lines in programs. In calculate mode, the 3 key is most prone to repeating.


I suspect Hp designs and makes a calculator with a 5 year life expectancy. As Mike Morrow has stated, Hp of old didn't always make a lifetime product either. The early 35, 45, 55, 65 and 67 were lifetime products. Not so much after that until the Hp 41C arrived. Then the voyager series, probably the last calculators offered with the intent to last for a decade or more with the ability to open and repair (Hp never bothered, but they could). Then the Pioneers were introduced (with no possibility of formal repair, welded shut). However, their build quality was also phenomenal.

Now for my speculation: Then Hp bean counters or cost analysis kicked in and somewhere, somehow, Hp calculators were deemed too expensive to make at Hp's current quality level, because there were NO follow up sales and or they couldn't compete with Ti with their current prices. To stand pat (status quo) was to lose.

To change was Hp's only chance. So Hp changed by reducing manufacturing costs and offering calculators like the fancy FHBB Hp 49G and dark blue Hp 39G. Well, that didn't work, so Hp returned to a click key for the Hp 39G and Hp 49G+ (still keeping with wild colors though) and somewhere in there, releasing the Chevron Hp 33s.

All of these new calculators released after 1995 or so all seem to be designed to last through a 4 year college education and be worn out at the end so that Hp could make that 2nd and 3rd calculator sale vs the Hp of old might not get that 2nd calculator sale, EVER!

My own thinking is (for what it is worth ie zero) that Hp should have resigned itself to looking at the calculator division as a small offshoot of the company with a small offering of high end calculators that would sell to calculator nuts who demanded the best and be a promotional product to represent the company ie demonstrate a quality product. The calculator line probably should have stayed with the instrument group, but that is to late to correct.

The calculators selection would be a high end Hp 42s with I/O, an Hp 17Bii with I/O (same frame as Hp 42s), a lower end Hp 12c (and Hp15c as they are physically the same)(while were at it, include two overlays and sell in same box with a calculator selection feature). Last, an Hp 50G.

Price structure:
Hp 12&15: $60
Hp 17&42: $90
Hp 50G:$120

Hp Prime ????
To early to tell and it may well re-establish Hp's name in the calculator business.

Manufacturing is limited to three calculator lines plus the Hp Prime. All three lines produce a popular product that can survive on its own. The Hp 15c should be able to replace the Hp 35s for an NCEES calculator while offering the Hp 42s for a real Hp RPN power calc (which the Hp 35s really isn't). Three lines, dump the oversized Hp 35s as it is closer to the size of most graphing calculators and not nearly the pocket calculator the Hp 15c is.

Anybody going to recommend me for the Hp Board of directors???

Edited: 29 Oct 2013, 8:15 a.m.


a lower end Hp 12c (and Hp15c as they are physically the same)(while were at it, include two overlays and sell in same box with a calculator selection feature)

I like


The keyboard design is what let the 33S down.

Also, my experience on battery life is different. Whenever I try and use it, I have to replace the batteries first. I admit, I only try and use it once a year. But with the 15C you never ever need to replace the batteries (unless you use it every day for 10 years) and the 32S is also much better on battery life.
Also build quality is much better on those...


The keyboard design is what let the 33S down.

... plus the bug(s) it shares with the 35s (the lockup-bug comes to mind, there might be others). It's a pity this bug hasn't been encountered before the 35s firmware was ordered by HP.

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