The Apple 1 is sufficiently rare for news of one coming up for auction to cause a stir of anticipation. Online auction house, Breker is including one in its forthcoming sale of "Office Antiques, Science & Technology, Fine Toys & Automata" to be held on May, 20, 2017. So why so much interest in 40-year old technology?
Auction Team Breker's recent newsletter reports:
Our May auction features the best-preserved example of an Apple-1 computer to have appeared on the market. Not only does this Apple-1 (serial-no. 01-0073) come direct from its original owner, a computer engineer from Berkeley, California, it is accompanied by an archive of original documents, including the preliminary operation manual, circuit diagrams and even notes of telephone calls with Steve Wozniak in 1977. This computer is logged as No. 14 in Willegal’s Apple I Registry.
In view of its condition and pedigree the estimate of € 180,000 – 300,000 equivalent to US$ 190,000 – 320,000 seems low until you notice that there is no mention of it being in "working condition" or "functioning", which would make it very rare as there are reckoned to be only around eight such models extant, which is an increase on the six that we previously quoted.
The Breker home page still includes one of them, billed as "Original Apple 1 Computer, 1976" as the centrepiece of its examples of recent sales. This is for a model it sold on May 25th 2013 setting a world record price, see our report Apple 1 Sold For Record Price of $668K. Not only was this in fully working condition, its motherboard also has "Woz" written on it, presumably by Steve Wozniak himself.
The previous top price for an Apple 1 was also in a Breker auction and was $640,000 in November 2014, again for a working model.
Currently the record is held by Bonhams that sold another functioning version for $905,000 in New York.
Even if the Apple 1 in the forthcoming sale isn't in a functioning condition it is still rare and collectible. In total 66 Apple 1s are listed on the Apple 1 Registry maintained by Mike Willegal but this isn't a definitive figure as this quote from the site shows:
How Many Apple 1s Exist?
Besides those listed here, I have heard through the grapevine of several more. It is also probable that the first 4 units on the list (and possibly more) have been lost. There are undoubtedly a number that are still not known to me or or my friends. It is very possible that some of the poorer documented units on this list could be duplicates.
It would be rather surprising if as many as 66 are still around. There were only two production runs of Apple 1s which resulted in only 200 being built. Of these 175 were sold before Apple dropped the model from price list in October 1997 in order to sell the Apple II. The number of models in circulation could have been further limited as Apple 1 owners were offered trade-in deals to upgrade. It had been thought that Apple destroyed the returned Apple 1s, but this comment on Andrew Cunningham's news item on Ars Technica about the upcoming auction suggests this may not have been deliberate:
The Apple I systems that were traded in for Apple IIs were all stored in a room at Apple's HQ in Cupertino (in the Mariani I building as I recall) and largely forgotten. Some years later, Apple decided to start a small museum of company products, and staff went to that room to get one for display.
But the room was now used for something completely different and there were no sign of the Apple I systems. Nobody knew where they had gone, and nobody owned up to having removed them or to ordering the room to be cleaned out. That's why Apple I systems are so scarce. The company actually had to purchase an Apple I for the museum.
With the Apple 1 reaching its 40th anniversary next month, we are now keen to preserve its history. An early prototype, the "Celebration" Apple1 was expected to raise $1 million at an online auction organised by Charitybuzz was expected to raise $1 million, but the winning bid was only $815,000 and new owners, co-founders of the cosmetics company Glamglow Glenn and Shannon Dellimore see the board that they purchased as a museum peice or work of art and were quoted in our report, Unique Apple I Sold At Auction, as saying:
"Talking to historians and museums and auction houses, this particular Apple-1 in 10 to 15 years, could be worth as much as a Monet or Picasso."