With working specimens of the original 1976 model routinely selling at auction for as much as $905,000, chances are, even the most die-hard Apple fans will never be able to own a vintage Apple 1 for themselves.
But don’t despair: If you have the know-how, you can build one yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Just weeks after a rare Apple-1 computer sold for record numbers at auction, another operational unit of Apple’s first ever computer is set to go under the gavel.
Christie’s is expecting the machine to fetch more than $500,000 at auction in December, which doesn’t seem unrealistic when you consider that the previous Apple-1 mentioned fetched a whopping $905,000.
A working motherboard for the Apple I, one of the rarest personal computers ever made. Photo: Bonhams
An ultra-rare working 1976 Apple-1 computer — thought to be one of the first 50 ever produced — has sold at auction for an incredible $905,000, between twice and three times the expected asking price.
The computer was part of Bonhams History of Science auction in New York City. It sold to the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, a museum dedicated to showcasing the ingenuity and innovation that helped shape America.
“It’s very rare to be able to collect the beginning of something, but the Apple-1 is exactly that,” Henry Ford curator Kristen Gallerneaux told Cult of Mac, speaking after being onsite at the auction earlier today.
In addition to all the new products of 2013, the past year was a whir of activity in the vintage Apple space. Apple may be content to only move forward and deny existence of any products older than seven years – what do you mean my first generation MacBook Pro is vintage??? – but the public has not forgotten them.
The biggest retro news of the year was probably the ascendancy of the Apple 1 on the auction block. In May, an Apple 1 fetched a record price of $671,000 at an auction in Germany – until just recently the highest price ever paid for a personal computer. Other Apple 1s sold this year in the $300,000 range, so if you are lucky enough to have one of these oldies-but-goodies in your attic, dig it out now!
Have you ever looked around your garage or spare bedroom and thought: “There’s enough Apple stuff here to start a museum?”
That’s pretty much what happened to Adam Rosen, who runs the Vintage Mac Museum, a private collection of all working machines, out of his Boston-area home. (Take a peek at his prized pieces in the gallery in this edition.)
The certified Apple consultant and Cult of Mac contributor on all things vintage gave us the skinny on what to do with your burgeoning collection: what to toss, what to hunt for on eBay and what to beg your significant other to let you keep.
Cult of Mac: Since 2009 when the Apple 1s started resurfacing the prices have gone from under $20,000 between private collectors to over $300,000 at Christie’s – any thoughts on whether this is having any effects on the general market for Apple collectibles?
Adam Rosen: Apple 1 prices have been unreal, they’ve sold as high as $670k! This has definitely had an effect on the size of the market for Apple collectibles, expanding it significantly. The effect on value is more variable.
For rare items and prototypes, value has definitely gone up. If you have a prototype clear case Macintosh SE, yeah, that’s gonna interest people. But there were a lot of Apple IIs and Macs manufactured. With so many more people aware of the prices of rare Apple systems the market gets flooded with common models. A Mac Plus today is only worth about $100, even if it’s been in the attic for 20 years.
CoM: A few years back, you said the size of a collection depends on what the person you live with will tolerate – does that still stand? Is there stuff you’ve decided to sell or give away that you were previously holding on to?
AR: That definitely still stands. I’ve been contacted more than once by fellow collectors whose significant other has decided that it is Time for Things to Go, and they are willing to offer me a good deal!
I’m currently single – which lessens pressure from others to shed possessions – but it’s still necessary to purge occasionally in order to reclaim living space.
CoM: You have also said that the original 128K Macintosh is always desirable, does that still stand?
AR: That is still true, and the value has increased. A working 128k Mac is currently worth $750-1,000, one with an original box and packaging can command double that. Vintage Mac prices spiked after Steve Jobs passed away, they’ve come down since but the first model will always be desirable.
CoM: If taking up space with old computers is a problem – what smaller collectibles are worth having?
AR: Funny you should ask that, as my collection has expanded I’ve become more interested in smaller promotional and marketing items. They cost less and look nice next to other equipment. Few are investment worthy yet, but collectively they have some value.
Original Apple marketing schwag is always desirable – posters, pins, buttons. Store display banners are prized, though these can be large. “Think Different” posters are nice but still fairly common – buy a set and hold on to those. Items signed by Steve Jobs are highly valuable; things by Woz not as much, since he has signed so much. Apple clothing, manuals and stationary don’t really command much value.
CoM: What’s the most prized piece in your collection and why? How has that changed over the years?
AR: This has definitely changed over the years. I have a Mac Plus where the back and one side have been replaced with plexiglass to show off an internal hard drive upgrade. This isn’t a translucent prototype, more like a working “cutaway drawing” of the Macintosh. It’s a very unique piece.
I recently bought a 128k Mac with original packaging, I’ve wanted one of those for some time. It’s a must-have for any serious Mac collector.
I’m also a big fan of the Picasso-style artwork. Last year I bought one of those lighted Macintosh logo dealer signs which Apple supplied for the Mac’s introduction. These are gorgeous, I love turning it on and looking at the light reflect inside the engraved glass.
CoM: Any thoughts or advice on finding or buying prototypes? That last Christie’s auction also had that clear cased SE, for example…
AR: eBay is probably the most likely place to find prototypes, it’s the biggest worldwide marketplace. Craigslist can also be a good place to find old tech, especially in the larger cities. Of course, knowing people who once worked at Apple never hurts!
Prototypes of products nobody cared about may not be worth anything. For example, nobody is looking for a developmental Apple III system. But if you can find an unshipped Apple tablet prototype from the 1980s or 90s, grab it.
By the time things show up at Christie’s you know you’re not going to be getting a bargain! I don’t know how much that clear SE actually sold for, I think the last bid I saw was $5,000. That’s still a lot more than a standard SE, which sells in the $100 range.
Working Apple 1 from the November 2013 Breker auction.
On Saturday Cult of Mac reported that a working Apple 1 failed to sell at auction in Germany, a notable result in the growing market for vintage Apple collectibles. It turns out that result was premature: the Apple 1 did sell for €246,000 ($330,000), after bidding on the item had closed.
Another Apple 1 and a Twiggy Macintosh were recently up for auction
UPDATE: Cult of Mac has learned that the Apple 1 did sell after the auction closed. Read more here. —–
Markets rise and markets fall – that’s true for stocks, real estate, tulips, etc. That’s also true with vintage computers – though even in a down market there’s still some money to be made.
At an auction in Germany held on Saturday November 16, a working Apple 1 – from the first batch of 50 units made – did not receive any bids. Nor did a restored Lisa 1, with dual Twiggy floppy disk drives. But a prototype Twiggy Mac, one of only two known working units, sold for €25,000 ($33,725), quite possibly the highest price ever paid for a vintage Macintosh.
The Twiggy Macintosh running early MacPaint software (photo: Auction Team Breker)
Auctions for rare Apple equipment have attracted a lot of attention the past few years, with prices for the Apple 1 going as high as an astounding $671,000! Another Apple 1 is going up for auction in Germany next month on November 16, but in addition a very different rare Apple item will be on the same auction block. One of only two known working Twiggy Macs in the world is going up for sale.
Twiggy Macs were prototype versions of the original Macintosh and used a proprietary 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, instead of the 3.5-inch disk which ultimately shipped with the system in 1984. All Twiggy prototypes were ordered destroyed by Steve Jobs – and long thought lost – but the last couple of years have seen an eventful rediscovery of this piece of Macintosh history. Now one can be yours – if the price is right.
Here’s something pretty incredible. This newly surfaced photo shows the original batch of Apple I computers as they are about to be sent out to customers. The photo is believed to have been taken by Steve Jobs himself, in his bedroom.
There’s a couple of things I really love about this photo. For one, note how similar the packaging on the original Apple I is to the white box packaging of, say, a MacBook Air. Things haven’t changed much, have they? Second, with Apple I’s now going for over $676,000 at auction, that’s quite the nest egg Steve is sitting on back in 1976, isn’t it?
Speculating in vintage computers isn’t exactly the same as putting money into a blue chip. Here’s the proof: a rare Apple I being sold at auction at Christie’s has just failed to make its minimum bid of 50,000 British pounds (or about $80,000), despite the fact that a similar machine sold for $374,500 in June.