Apple-1 Computer Sells at Auction for $213,600

Apple-1, Apple's first computer, sold for around $213,600 at a Christie's auction Nov. 23. Someone really wanted a piece of tech history.

Back in 1976, the Apple-1 sold for $666.66. It featured 8k RAM and a cassette board connector, pitiful in comparison to the hardware and power of descendants like the iMac. But thanks to the Apple-1's place in Apple history, one of the machines sold for the equivalent of $213,600 at a Nov. 23 auction at Christie's in London.

Marco Boglione, described the Associated Press as an "Italian businessman and private collector," reportedly made the winning bid by phone. This particular Apple-1 came with an undated typed letter signed by one Steven Jobs, deemed by Christie's as "commercially rare."

Apple co-founder Steve "Woz" Wozniak also made an appearance at the auction. "Today my heart went out as I got to see things auctioned off like the Turing documents and the Enigma machine-and the Apple-1," he said after the auction, according to AP. "It really was an important step, [even though] I didn't feel that way when I designed it."

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. Christie's had originally estimated bidding for the Apple-1 at between $161,000 and $242,000.

The auctioned Apple-1 came in its original shipping box, with the shipping label and invoice listing Electric City Radio Supply, Great Falls, Mont. A letter from Apple Technical Support addresses Frank Anderson, who, Christie's suggested in its pre-auction materials, could have been Electric City Radio Supply's original owner. The machine included a heat sink, keyboard interface, three capacitors, and a 6502 microprocessor.

"Because the motherboard was completely preassembled, it represented a major step forward in comparison with the competing self-assembly kits of the day," read Christie's note. "The first Apple-1s were dispatched from the garage of Steve Jobs' parents' house-the return address on the original packing present here."

The Apple-1's marketplace presence was short lived. In April 1977, nine months after the computer's release, Apple introduced the Apple II-which, befitting its position as a next-generation machine, came in an actual plastic case and featured a keyboard.

Factoring in 34 years' worth of inflation, the Apple-1's $666.66 sticker price translates to $2,593.96 today. That would buy you three top-of-the-line iPads. For what Boglione spent to acquire the device, you could purchase 257 of them. For some collectors, though, the chance to own a small part of tech history is (nearly) priceless.