Early Apple-1 computer sells for US$905,000

23 Oct 2014

The Apple-1 computer in Bonhams auction house. Image via Bonhams

This week, someone walked away with one of Apple’s most treasured pieces of history, the hand-built Apple-1 computer put together by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, after winning it at an auction for US$905,000.

Held at Bonhams auction house in New York, the sale makes the computer the world’s most expensive piece of historical consumer tech. It is believed a representative from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, won the auction for the Apple-1, after having gone toe-to-toe with an anonymous bidder on the phone.

The Apple-1 was first released in 1976 when Apple co-founders Jobs and Wozniak decided they wanted to build their own computer and began putting together the rudimentary machine for the consumer market.

The computer was quite advanced for its time, with its 4KB of memory, and the advantage it had over its competitors was that it could be plugged into almost all TV sets, giving it more mass market appeal.

The Apple-1 initially cost US$666.66, believed to be because Wozniak liked repeating numerals, and because it represented a mark-up of one-third on the US$500 build price.

As of last year, there were only 61 Apple-1s left in the world. The previous sale record of an Apple-1 reached €246,000, because it was believed to have been sold in The Byte Shop in San Francisco, California, the first store to stock the Apple-1.

This recent sale of the Apple-1 motherboard included a keyboard with pre-7400 series military spec chips, a Sanyo monitor, a custom power supply in a wooden box, as well as two vintage tape decks.

“The provenance on the Apple-1 is excellent and the condition is outstanding, so it was not surprising that it did so well,” said Cassandra Hatton, senior specialist in charge of the auction.

“We are thrilled to have broken the world record for its sale, and are even more thrilled that it is going to a wonderful new home at the Henry Ford Museum.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic