Inside Wealth

Vintage Apple computer sells for $387,750

Christie's is auctioning off an original Apple-1 computer owned by Ted Perry as part of its First Bytes: Iconic Technology from the Twentieth Century, an online auction of vintage tech products.
Source: Christie's

The Apple-1 personal computer carried a retail price of $666.66 in 1976, when it was built by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Today, Christie's auctioned off an early Apple-1 signed by Wozniak for $387,750. It was sold through an online auction and is now the highest-priced item ever to be sold through Christie's new online-only platform. Bidding came from 96 countries.

The price marks a huge increase from its 1976 sale price—about $2,800 in today's dollars—and shows how rare, highly prized vintage electronics are quickly joining art, wine and cars as a new class of collectibles.

Still, the Apple-1 sale marked a slight disappointment from earlier sale prices—and from Christie's own top estimate. The Apple-1 was estimated to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000. And two previous sales of Apple-1 computers both fetched more than $600,000.

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An Apple-1 sold in May went for $671,400, while another sold in November 2012 went for $640,000.

It's unclear why the latest sale price was so much lower. The broader auction markets—for art, wine and cars— have remained fairly strong in recent months, despite the recent wobbles in the stock market and slowing growth in China, Latin America and other wealth-producing countries.

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There's also the possibility that the public's craving for all things Apple is waning, along with Apple's stock price and cool-factor. Or perhaps this particular Apple-1 had different provenance or condition compared to the other two.

Either way, the Apple-1 is still considered the Ferrari of vintage, collectible computers.

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.