In 1976, you would have paid several hundred dollars for a brand-new Apple-1 computer, the first line of personal computers designed and hand-built by Apple founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. But if you have an Apple-1 computer today, chances are it's worth quite a bit more.
Just ask auction house Christie's, which recently auctioned off a 1976 Apple-1 for nearly half-a-million dollars in London. The computer, which is still in working condition, sold at auction for just over $470,000 to an anonymous buyer, according to Christie's.
Because the original Apple-1 computers were not sold with a case, the one auctioned by Christie's comes in a leather briefcase mounted by a previous owner, the auction house says. The computer also includes a built-in keyboard and it comes with an original operation manual for the Apple-1, as well as a user manual for writing the computer programming language, BASIC.
Launched in July 1976, the Apple-1 was the first desktop computer released by Apple in the same year the company was founded out of Jobs' parents' garage. Wozniak hand-built all 200 of the Apple-1 computers the company made, which sold for $666.66 apiece (Wozniak reportedly had a preference for repeating digits).
In 1977, Apple released an updated version of its desktop computer, the Apple-II, discontinuing the Apple-1 after only manufacturing a couple of hundred of the computers. (And, later, many of those 200 computers are believed to have been destroyed.) The Apple-II would go on to become the first commercially successful personal computer on the market, selling between five and six million computers over more than a decade.
But, because of the small number of Apple-1's in existence, the computers are rarely found on the open market, especially in working condition, and that makes them pretty valuable to anyone looking for a piece of tech history. There are 15 Apple-1's in public collections, including museums like the Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., according to Christie's.
In 2013, Christie's sold an early Apple-1 signed by Wozniak at auction for $387,750, while other Apple-1 sales have fetched even more. In 2014, the Henry Ford Museum paid $905,000 for one Apple-1, while the co-founders of cosmetics firm Glamglow paid $815,000 for a rare Apple-1 prototype built by Jobs and Wozniak in 2016.
The Apple-1 sold by Christie's this past week was previously owned by a computer enthusiast named Rick Conte, who bought it in 1977 to learn BASIC and later donated it to the Maine Personal Computer Museum in 2009. From that point on, the computer was sold to various private owners before landing at Christie's for auction, the auction house says.
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