An Apple-1 computer prototype from the 1970s recently sold at auction for nearly $700,000. According to a spokesperson at Boston-based RR Auction, the bidder from the Bay Area paid $677,196 for the rare computer board but wishes to remain anonymous.
How Many Apple 1 Computers Were Made?
What makes the Apple-1 prototype so special, is its place in history. The Apple-1 board is not only the first Apple computer, but it’s also one of the world’s first personal computers. Only 200 Apple-1 boards were ever made. The units had a meager 4 KB of RAM and sold for $666.66.
How Many Apple-1 Computers Still Exist Today?
Experts think that only about 60 Apple-1 computers still exist today. That puts anyone who owns an Apple-1 or Apple-1 prototype in a very exclusive club.
How Rare Are Apple-1 Prototype Computers?
The Apple-1 board was designed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. But before sending the Apple-1 computer into mass production, Wozniak experimented on the prototypes making sure everything from the heatsink to the capacitors and power supply components worked properly.
Steve Jobs then used several of these prototypes for sales demonstrations to everyone from investors to computer store owners.
“There is no Apple-1 without this board,” said Bobby Livingston, RR Auction’s executive vice president. “It’s the holy grail of Steve Jobs and Apple memorabilia.”
Apple 1 Computer For Sale?
Although the final bid in this auction of $677,196 is a staggering amount of money, it’s less than what other collectors have paid before to own an Apple-1.
In 2016, a couple paid $815,000 for the very first Apple-1 prototype. But even the first prototype model of the Apple-1 couldn’t beat what collectors paid for a still functional Apple-1 computer in 2014. At $905,000, it’s the most expensive Apple computer ever sold.
Either the Apple 1 computer value is in decline, or our poor economy is impacting vintage computer sales.
Experts Used Old Polaroid Photos To Authenticate This Apple-1 For Auction
One of the demos of the Apple-1 that Steve Jobs gave in 1976 was to Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop computer store in Mountain View, California. Terrell was so impressed that he gave Apple their first order, thus making The Byte Shop the first computer retail store to sell an Apple computer.
During the demo, Terrell took several Polaroid photographs. These photographs, which show the prototype in use, were used by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen to authenticate the Apple-1 unit being sold at auction. Cohen’s notarized 13-page report accompanied the sale of the prototype.
NERD NOTE: Paul Terrell’s early support of Apple earned him an important role in the history of the company. Steve Wozniak even referred to Terrell as the “fourth Apple founder,” after himself, Jobs and the company’s first major investor, Ron Wayne.
Where Has This Apple-1 Prototype Been All Of These Years?
The prototype Apple-1 that sold in auction was first created in 1976. So, where has it been the past 46 years?
According to the seller, it was likely assembled in the garage of Steve Jobs’ childhood home at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California, just outside of Cupertino, where Apple headquarters is currently located. Jobs later gave this rare Apple-1 unit to the seller in the early 1990s.
Although the Apple Garage wasn’t actually used for mass production, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak would hang out there and work on projects like prototypes in the early days of Apple.
Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.