Today in Apple history: Rare Apple-1 sells for crazy money

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The Apple-1 sold for what was then the largest amount a personal computer ever earned at auction.
The Apple-1 sold for what was then the largest amount a personal computer had sold for at auction.
Photo: Christie's

November 23: Today in Apple history: Rare Apple-1 computer sells for $210,000 at auction November 23, 2010: An early Apple-1 computer, complete with its original packaging and a letter signed by Steve Jobs, sells for $210,000.

At the time, it ranks as the most expensive personal computer ever sold at auction. However, it’s a rare find. The working Apple-1 is thought to be one of only around 50 thought to still exist.

Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione bought the Apple-1 in question. Sportswear company owner Boglione possessed an extensive archive of personal computers, including other rare Apple models.

“I’m a guy that has been dealing with these machines, let me say loving these machines, and really being attached to these machines, since I was a kid,” Boglione told The Seattle Times in an interview shortly after the auction.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, on hand for the Apple-1 auction, vouched for the machine’s good working order. Boglione announced that the Apple-1 would go on display in Italy’s Museum of the Information Technology Revolution, in his hometown.

Apple-1 auction: A price worth paying

At the time, observers couldn’t stop talking about the amount of money Boglione paid for the Apple-1.

2010 marked the end of Steve Jobs’ innovative string of hardware hits. That year, the iPad joined the iMac, iBook, iPod and iPhone — products that defined Jobs’ legendary second stint running Apple. (Jobs died in 2011.)

The $210,000 sum paid for the Apple-1 dwarfed the computer’s original $666.66 selling price in July 1976. (It was also around 10 times more than you might have paid for an Apple-1 during Cupertino’s bad old days in the 1990s).

However, it now looks like something of a bargain. Just four years later, in 2014, another Apple-1 computer sold at auction for an incredible $905,000, between two and three times the expected asking price of $300,000 to $500,000. While that remains the most ever spent on an Apple-1 — a computer with just 8KB of RAM and an inexpensive, 8-bit 6502 microprocessor — it certainly suggests that Boglione got a good deal.

Apple only built around 200 Apple-1 units in total. And the number still around today is significantly smaller than that, due to both age and the fact that Apple offered a trade-in deal for the significantly upgraded Apple II when it launched in 1977.

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