So I spent about 1/2 hour on the phone with AppleCare. Gave them the serial number off the auction site; no good. Okay...change the S to a 5, add a zero...OH yes that's a 2009 iMac (someone had fat fingered the serial #).
Me: Is it possible, then, to just walk into an Apple store and buy a complete OSX? Like El Capitan? There is NOTHING on the hard drive currently, so I can't download anything.
AC: Yes, you can purchase an OSX install disk at any Apple store, no problem. Just use the disk to install instead of downloading it online.
Me: Cool. Any idea how much El Capitan is? $1000? (New iMacs are $1200 plus...trying to see how much money I can save. Or waste.)
AC: Oh no, nothing like that.
Me: $500? (Calculating the risk vs savings in my head...)
AC: My system shows El Capitan OSX install disks are $20.
AC: Yes, I'm sorry.
Me: Don't be sorry - omg, only $20? So I can potentially get a working iMac - albeit used - for about $150? (DONE).
I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow. :-)
1966 Restomod/track car, 1973 Q-code Mach 1, 1989 GT, 1997 F250 diesel, 2005 retired OSP Crown Vic, 2015 Focus ST-2