Apple 1 Computer, Jobs Atari Note Auctioned for Big Bucks

The first Apple computer brings in $374,500 in a Sotheby's auction, while a note from Steve Jobs pulls in $27,500.

It€™s not just Apple€™s latest and most advanced products that are finding fans, with an original Apple computer, the Apple 1, selling for $374,500 at a Sotheby€™s auction on June 15 to an unidentified bidder who won the item over the phone. In a separate auction, a four-page note written by Apple founder Steve Jobs, who passed away last year, sold for $27,500 at the same auction event, held in New York.

The model that sold was operational, according to Sotheby€™s Website, and came with an operation manual with a tear along the fold, €œlight staining€ on the wrapper and on the bottom right corner, according to the item description. The lot also included a double-sided advertisement with an illustration for the Apple I and the Apple Cassette Interface, along with a manuscript note. Sotheby€™s had the estimated auction price well under the winning bid, projecting the computer would sell for between $120,000-$180,000.

"This was an unusual event,'' auctioneer Selby Kiffer told the San Jose Mercury News following the auction. "The bidding took off quickly between a couple of people. The winning bidder was placing bids almost before the competitor had finished theirs. The fact that it's in working order, with the monitor and keyboard included, let people see what it really would have looked like back in 1976. I think it's possible we'll see more of these remaining Apple-1s now come out of the woodwork.€

The typed manuscript concerns improvements to an arcade World Cup video game and is on an Atari embossed letterhead and includes three original circuit diagrams in pencil by Jobs (who was just 19 years old at the time), with one page on lined paper in black pen, signed "Steve Jobs€, and provides additional designs for the paddles and alignment of players defending a soccer goal, according to a Sotheby€™s description. Sotheby€™s had projected the Atari note would bring in between $10,000-$15,000.

The Apple 1 featured 8k RAM and a cassette board connector and the machine included a heat sink, keyboard interface, three capacitors, and a 6502 microprocessor. Back in 1976, the Apple 1 sold for $666.66. Apple produced roughly 200 Apple-1 units. Sellam Ismail, the Software Collections manager for the Computer History Museum, estimated in 2005 that fewer than 50 of them still exist. An Apple 1 sold for around $213,600 at a Christie's auction in November 2010 to an Italian businessman and private collector.

"My god, this is almost double what the guy in Italy paid -- and his came with a letter signed by Steve Jobs,'' Ismail told the San Jose Mercury News upon hearing of the auction. "I think we'll now see a lot of guys out there willing to part with their beloved Apple 1s saying to themselves, 'Holy smoke... I can retire now.'''