Rare Apple I might fetch $300,000 at auction

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The machine comes with an archive of original documents.
The machine comes with an archive of original documents.
Photo: Auction Team Breker

An Apple I may not be much use to you these days, but its significance in Apple history makes it one of the most valuable pieces of old technology.

Another rare Apple I, complete with an archive of original documents including the machine’s original user manual, will go to auction in Germany this May — and it’s expected to fetch up to $320,000.

Auction Team Breker, which is hosting the “Auction of Firsts” on May 20, calls this “the best-preserved example of an Apple-1 computer to have appeared on the market.” It comes direct from its original owner, a computer engineer in Berkeley, California.

In addition to the Apple I, the winning bidder will receive the original user manual, circuit diagrams of the Apple I board, and notes of telephone calls between the machine’s owner and Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder who designed the company’s first computer.

The machine is logged as number 14 in Willegal’s Apple I registry, and Auction Team Breker expects it to fetch between $190,000 and $320,000.

That’s a considerable sum of money for a piece of technology that was sold in 1976, originally priced at $666.66. What makes it so valuable is that it was Apple’s first ever computer, and only 200 were ever made, making it incredibly rare today.

But $320,000 could be considered cheap compared to previous Apple I auctions, which have fetched as much as $900,000.

“Prices have definitely come down in the years since Jobs passed away,” explains Adam Rosen, who runs the Vintage Mac Museum. “Peak price was in the $900k range, but the past few to come to market haven’t sold for nearly that much.”

Nevertheless, Apple I units are so rare that there’s even a market for replicas. Rosen tells us that hobbyists are building their own boards that are either compatible with or direct copies of Wozniak’s original design.