Bidding for rare Mac prototype starts at 99 cents


Hap Plain
This early backlit Mac laptop sold on eBay for more than $16,000.
Photo: Hap Plain

A rare Macintosh prototype that was once rescued from the trash recently sold for more than $10,000 on eBay.

But the winning bidder backed out and now, the clear-plastic Macintosh Portable M5126 laptop is back on the auction site. Bidding started at 99 cents with no reserve.

It initially sold for $10,154.52 after 96 bids on Feb. 28.

The owner, Hap Plain, is well known through vintage tech circles for having one of the most comprehensive collections of Apple prototypes. His collection includes two rare prototypes of the first iPhone, each with a different OS, that were likely handled by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and other well-known company figures.

Plain purchased the early laptop from an engineer who had worked on the development team for the laptop that hit the market in 1991. As a colleague of his was leaving the company, he tossed the prototype in the trash. The engineer retrieved it and kept it for more than 25 years until he sold it to Plain.

The M5126, which went live on eBay Thursday evening, is backlit and fully functional. It’s missing its serial number and one of the tabs holding down the top was broke off. This is in a class of collectibles called clear shots, named for the clear plastic chassis that reveals a device’s internal components.

Plain said it is one of four known to exist and he has two of them, which is why this one is for sale.

Hap Plain
No touch bar on this old pro.
Photo: Hap Plain

“I can use the money to help purchase other prototypes which I don’t have duplicates of,” Plain told Cult of Mac. He also owns a non-backlit M5126.

Plain also has an iPod prototype with a red motherboard listed on eBay, that had 30 bids for $560 with six days remaining as of Tuesday afternoon.

There are maybe 20 members in the subculture of Apple prototype collectors, the often crude, unfinished test models to work out glitches before a device goes to market.

Plain says prototype collectors are constantly looking for what is not known to exist.

“It’s interesting to think about what hasn’t been found yet,” Plain said. “There’s always a story that goes with the prototypes and the stores are even cooler than the machines themselves.”

You can peek in on Plains collection at his website here.