Apple-1 Computer Could Auction for Almost $250,000

Apple-1, Apple's first computer, could auction for up to $242,000 at Christie's later in November. Is that price-tag worth it for something designed by Wozniak?

Apple's new MacBook Air starts at $999. Its 12-core Mac Pro will set you back $4,999. And the 64 GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity? A cool $829.99.

Dirt cheap, all of them. At least when compared to the Apple-1 PC due on Christie's block later in November. The storied auction house estimates bidding for Apple's first PC at between $161,600 and $242,000.

The winning bidder will receive "an Apple-1 motherboard, number 82 ... with a few slightly later additions including a 6502 microprocessor." Other features include 8k RAM, cassette board connector, keyboard interface, heat sink and three capacitors. The machine comes in its original shipping box, with an undated typed letter signed by Steven Jobs.

Christie's refers to the letter as "commercially rare" although most of the blogosphere knows that if you send a 3 a.m. e-mail to the Apple CEO, chances are small but not impossible that you could receive a few choice words in return.

The box's shipping label and invoice address lists Electric City Radio Supply, Great Falls, Montana. A letter from Apple Technical Support addresses Frank Anderson, who, Christie's suggests, could be Electric City Radio Supply's original owner.

Jobs and company shipped the Apple-1 without a casing, keyboard, power supply or monitor. "However, because the motherboard was completely preassembled, it represented a major step forward in comparison with the competing self-assembly kits of the day," reads Christie's auction note. "Priced at $666.66, the first Apple-1s were dispatched from the garage of Steve Jobs' parents' house-the return address on the original packaging present here."

In April 1977, nine months after the Apple-1 hit the marketplace, Apple introduced the Apple II. That next-generation device actually came in a plastic case, and featured a keyboard.

Christie's Apple-1 is Lot 65, Sale 7882. Those who've scrounged enough change from beneath their couch cushions can place their absentee bid here. The auction is scheduled for Nov. 23.

Steve Wozniak designed the Apple-1, and Apple produced roughly 200 units. Sellam Ismail, the Software Collections manager for the Computer History Museum, estimated in 2005 that fewer than 50 of the devices still exist. At the time, Ismail suggested the Apple-1 would fetch $20,000 at auction.

With 34 years' worth of inflation factored in, the Apple-1's original $666.66 sticker price would be the equivalent of $2,593.96 today. That's enough to buy you three top-shelf iPads, with a lot more than 8k RAM.