Today in Apple history: Unique Apple-1 computer sells for big money
August 25, 2016: An ultra-rare Apple-1 computer raises $815,000 in a charity auction, one of the highest prices ever paid for one of the machines. Bidding actually reaches $1.2 million in the auction’s final minutes. However, that bid gets pulled seconds before a winner is announced.
The reason for the super-high price? This “Celebration” Apple-1 boasts a feature that did not appear on any production models of the computer.
Apple-1: Apple’s first computer
The Apple-1 was Apple’s first computer. It launched in July 1976, a year before the better-known, vastly superior Apple II. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak started working on the Apple-1 as a hobby, with no goal beyond showing it off to the people at the local Homebrew Computer Club, which he attended.
“I did this computer … to show the people at Homebrew that it was possible to build a very affordable computer — a real computer you could program for the price of the Altair — with just a few chips,” Wozniak recalled in his autobiography, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon.
Steve Jobs convinced Woz they should build and sell the Apple-1 rather than giving away the designs. Then Jobs approached Paul Terrell, owner of the nearby Byte Shop, one of the first personal computer stores. Jobs sold Terrell on buying 50 Apple-1 computers for $500 each. Terrell then marked up the computers to $666.66, or the equivalent of $2,800 today.
‘Celebration’ Apple-1 is worth celebrating
In the end, they built only 175 Apple-1 computers. Only around 60 remain in existence.
The Celebration Apple-1 featured a blank “green” PCB board that was never sold to the public, and wasn’t part of the production run. That makes the model extra-valuable.
The computer in the auction also came with unique accessories, such as a period-correct power supply, an original Apple-1 ACI cassette board, early Apple-1 BASIC cassettes, and the most-complete documentation set of any of the known Apple-1 boards.
While it didn’t quite reach the $1 million mark, this auction marked the second-highest amount ever paid for an Apple-1 (despite probably being the most desirable of the remaining units in existence).
The current record price for an Apple-1 was set in 2014 at a Bonhams History of Science auction in New York City. That computer fetched a whopping $910,000, despite early estimates predicting it would go for between $300,000 and $500,000.
A full 10 percent of the proceeds from Charitybuzz’s “Celebration” Apple-1 auction went to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
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