Rare working Apple 1 computer sells for record $374,500

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A 36-year-old Apple-1 personal computer, one of just six thought to be in working condition, sold for a record $374,500 at a New York auction Friday.

Also sold by Sotheby’s Friday: A memo written by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs during his time at video game maker Atari.

The gavel price for the Apple 1, which included the buyer’s premium—the commission owed to auctioneer Sotheby’s—was nearly twice the top estimate of $180,000 and triple the low-ball prediction of $120,000.

It was a record for an Apple-1, the first computer from the company co-founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The previous record of $213,000 was set in late 2010 at an auction conducted by Christie’s in London.

Friday's price was 76 percent higher than the 2010 Apple-1 sale.

Sotheby’s did not reveal the name of the buyer of either the Apple 1 or the memo, and did not reply to questions Friday. The BBC, however, reported that a telephone bidder won the auction for the Apple 1.

The Apple-1, a circuit board hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, was made in 1976, and sold at the time for $666.66. About 200 units were produced, but by Sotheby’s estimate, only 50 survive. Six, including the one sold today, are known to be in working condition.

Included with the Apple 1 lot was an original cassette interface—cassette tapes were used to store programs and data—and several manuals, including a rare BASIC user’s manual.

The four-page Jobs-authored memo sold for $27,500, also significantly higher than the auction house’s preliminary estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

That memorandum and an accompanying one-page addendum were written by Jobs in 1974 during a short stint with game-maker Atari, and included his suggestions for improvements on World Cup, a coin arcade game of the time. The lot featured three original circuit diagrams drawn by Jobs in pencil and the one-page hand-written addendum.

Although both the Apple 1 and the memo sold for well above their estimates, neither came close to the $1.6 million paid by a Miami executive last year for the original contract that marked Apple’s founding. Jobs, who died in October 2011, Wozniak and the lesser-known Ron Wayne drew up the contract in April 1976.

Sotheby’s also handled the sale of the Apple contract.

This story, "Rare working Apple 1 computer sells for record $374,500" was originally published by Computerworld.

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