If you think today’s Macs are expensive, hold on to your butts: on May 20, Auction Team Breker will sell one of just eight known working Apple I computers in existence. Breker estimates that the computer will sell for between $190,000 and $320,000, which is in line with the sale prices of most Apple I computers in recent years—outliers include a prototype model that sold for $815,000 in August of last year and a model from early in the computer’s production run that sold for $905,000 in late 2014. Given the original $666.66 sale price (about $2,800 in today’s dollars), any of those prices would be a pretty solid return on your investment.
The auction listing (PDF) claims that the Apple I is “the best-preserved example of an Apple I computer to have appeared on the market” and that it’s coming directly from the collection of the Berkeley, California, resident who originally bought it. The auction includes not just the computer itself, but also instruction manuals, circuit board diagrams, and notes from a phone call with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.
The Apple I was the company’s very first product, originally manufactured by Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs’ garage—Wozniak has said that about 200 of the computers were built in total. Apple offered aggressive discounts on the Apple II for people who traded in their old Apple I computers, in part because Wozniak himself was the only person who could handle most support calls about it. Apple is said to have destroyed most of the boards that were traded in, making an already rare computer even rarer.
The computer was noteworthy in its day because all you needed to use it was a keyboard and a TV set to hook it to, making it a bit cheaper and easier to set up and use than competing PCs. The Apple I was sold from April of 1976 to September of 1977, at which point it was discontinued in favor of the slicker mass-produced Apple II that had launched in April 1977. The Apple II ultimately introduced more people to Apple’s products, but the Apple I remains an important part of the company’s early history.
Listing image by Auction Team Breker