Vintage Apple-1 computer sells for a record $905,000

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A 38-year-old working Apple-1 personal computer sold Wednesday at auction for a record $905,000, almost double the auctioneer’s high-end estimate.

The aged Apple-1—the first pre-assembled personal computer, although it lacked such amenities as power supply, keyboard or display—was sold by auction house Bonhams in New York to The Ford Foundation, which will put it on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

The final gavel price was $750,000, but including Bonhams’ commission of $175,000 and taxes, the total was $905,000. That easily beat the record of $671,000 for another working Apple-1, set in May 2013.

Bonhams had pegged the pre-auction estimate at between $300,000 and $500,000.

The Apple-1, essentially a stand-alone circuit board, was hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976, and may have been one of the first lot of 50, according to Bonhams, which had brought in a pair of antique computer specialists to evaluate the computer. One said it was in “ superb overall condition ... with no apparent modifications performed or removed.”

That first batch of computers was bought from Wozniak and co-founder Steve Jobs by the owner of the Byte Shop of Mountain View, Calif. in 1976. The computers were sold for $666.66 each. Approximately 200 were produced overall, but Mike Willegas, who maintains the Apple 1 Registry, has tracked only about 60 survivors. As few as 15, including the one sold Wednesday, are known to be in working condition.

Bonhams’, now Ford’s, Apple-1 came with a keyboard, a power supply in a small wooden case, two vintage cassette tape decks—the storage system of its day—an old monitor and various documents.

According to the auction house, the Apple-1 had been owned by John Anderson, the founder of the AppleSiders of Cincinnati user group, which still meets. Anderson acquired the computer in 1980.

Other Apple-1 computers that have sold at auction in the past two years went for prices ranging from $374,500 (in June 2012) to $640,000 (November 2012).

But even the Ford Foundation’s check did not come close to the record for Apple memorabilia: In 2011, a Miami executive paid $1.6 million for the original contract that marked Apple’s founding.

This story, "Vintage Apple-1 computer sells for a record $905,000" was originally published by Computerworld.

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