Apple’s Original Contract Is Up For $150,000 At Auction


Ronald Wayne, Apple's Third Founder
Ronald Wayne, Apple's Third Founder

Here’s a cautionary tale that should turn you into a hoarder: a contract of a nearly bankrupt tech company in the mid-1990s is now headed for the auction block with a $150,000 price tag. The company is Apple and the document is the tech giant’s founding contract with signatures of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne — who must be kicking himself at this very moment.

Wayne is considered Apple’s Pete Best, the Beatles’s original drummer. Like Best, Wayne is little remembered for his role in bringing together the two Steves, but will long be known as the man who sold for just a couple thousand dollars stock in the Cupertino, Calif. firm now worth $2 billion. In December, Sotheby’s will put to auction the three-page contract that formally created Apple Computer Co. at an estimated $100,000 to $150,000.

The contract with Jobs’s, Wozniak’s and Wayne’s signatures is described by the auction house as a “foundational document” in financial, social and technology history. Wayne received 10 percent of Apple for getting Wozniak to join Jobs’s new undertaking. Just 11 days after, Wayne withdrew, receiving $800 for his part of Apple, later getting another $1,500.

Wayne sold the document to a manuscript dealer who then sold it during the mid-1990s, a tumultuous time for Apple. “It was right before Jobs rejoined Apple,” Sotheby’s Richard Austin told Bloomberg. Also, the period was marked by a common belief the company was headed for bankruptcy.

Oh, how times have changed. Apple is now regularly worth more than Exxon and Jobs was described as this age’s Edison upon his Oct. 5 death. As for Wayne, Apple’s third founder, he’s 77 and has published an autobiography. Royalties from the book likely won’t amount to the $2 billion lost because of the bone-headed move.

  • Sean Brassman

    It’s not fair to call it boneheaded move. The man had a mortgage and kids headed to college to be concerned with. The Steves were carefree twenty-somethings with no such concerns. Ronald Wayne is just one of many thirty-somethings who weren’t at liberty to pursue the opportunities their younger counter parts could. Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ makes a good argument for how much access and timing plays into success.

  • Bill Wimsatt

    @Sean Yep. Totally agree. The ole 20/20 hind sight. The company was something very different in the first days of inception. Having started several companies, I understand the anxiety of the over-20-year-old-with-a-family predicament. Apple makes great products, but look at the first Apple product and try to see the company 30 years later based on that.

  • MacAdvisor

    Wayne wasn’t the only one to sell off all his stock. Except for one share, Jobs also sold off all of his stock when he was fired in 1985. While he did considerably better than Wayne, he only received $100 million, almost all of which he sunk into NeXt and Pixar. 

  • Allan Robertson

    “Royalties from the book likely won’t amount to the $2 billion lost because of the bone-headed move.”

    Hey that’s a bit harsh. You might want to tone it down a bit.

  • GH

    Ron has said more than once that he has no regrets. Why do you guys always say he must regret or be kicking himself in the ass?  ….

  • Andrew_X_Thomas

    @ Gillan: Have to agree with you on this.. and with Allan’s comments below. Perhaps a little more research on the part of the writer before creating an inflammatory blog post like this would be advisable.