A large white room filled with row upon row of just about every Apple computer you can imagine, all in pristine condition. On the walls are framed copies of Apple’s black-and-white “Think Different” ads. Sunlight streams through the large windows, giving everything a warm glow.
Is this heaven? The world’s greatest Apple Store? Nope, it’s Dubai, actually. Home to Jimmy Grewal, a collector of vintage Apple computers and one of the most impressive collections you’re likely to find anywhere.
Grewal joins a handful of amateur collectors who have built impressive mini-museums of Apple gear in their homes. We’ve previously covered a number of them — from rare prototype collectors to the dearly missed former Cult of Mac contributor Adam Rosen, whose collection was recently donated to to the American Computer and Robotics Museum in Bozeman, Montana. Jimmy Grewal’s is right up there with the best, though.
“Dubai is not exactly the hotbed of vintage Apple collecting,” Grewal told Cult of Mac. “Although Apple computers were sold and used here from the early 80s, a lot of those old computers are not [around any more.] The dealers who used to sell them have gotten rid of their inventory and their spare parts. What I don’t already have, I have to import.”
Fortunately, Dubai’s geographical location makes this reasonably easy. Grewal has sourced computers from everywhere from the U.S. to Australia and Europe. He scours eBay and Facebook Marketplace, and relies on word-of-mouth to clue him on possible deals.
The best Apple collection in Dubai
Grewal grew up in the UAE, but later moved to the U.S. He graduated from Duke University, the same alma mater as Tim Cook. (They were not there at the same time.) Then he took a job in software — working for none other than Microsoft. During this time, he interacted with Apple engineers on projects such as the introduction of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, on which he was program manager. (Check out his fascinating Twitter thread of memories here.) Today he lives and works back in Dubai.
Grewal’s collection started, modestly, in university. Then when he began working he bought Apple stock, because he was a fan of the company. “The proceeds of that Apple stock is what has funded this collection,” he said. “If I didn’t have that source of funding, the collection certainly wouldn’t be the way that it is today.”
Grewal’s Dubai Apple collection is, well, it’s pretty impressive. There are around 75 computers in all, plus Newton MessagePads and Apple printers. It includes just about every major Mac ever made, along with multiple Apple II models, and machines like the Lisa and the ultra-rare Apple-1.
In all, they tell the story of Apple’s rise from the early days through 2001, when the collection ends. (There is an iPod, first-gen iPhone, and first-gen iPad, but nothing beyond that.)
Building a great collection
As daunting as the collection is, Grewal notes that just about anyone with sufficient passion could do the same thing.
“One or two items in my collection are the ones that drive the value so high,” he said. “But the vast majority is in reach of most people, so long as the cost of transporting the items is not prohibitive. You need to have a lot of interest to devote the money and time to make it worthwhile. It’s also important to be selective; to start with some goal to focus on. That could be an era or a product line. It will help you achieve a degree of satisfaction, making you feel like you’ve achieved something. Once you get there, you can decide if you want to expand further.”
Grewal plans to eventually display them publicly. But he’s still looking for the right place. Until then, they’re beautifully arranged in his office — where he’s lucky enough to have the luxury of space to do so.
“It was only in the middle of last year that I put in the effort to create a presentable place to display them,” he said. “Previously a lot of the computers were in boxes or under desks. It looked like what you might have in your mind if you imagined a vintage Apple collector, verging on horder. I got tired of looking at it like that. I felt that there was no point in having these things if they weren’t being appreciated.”
Seeing his beautifully laid-out collection, it’s tough to disagree.