Apple founding contract for sale

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A bit more than a year after an Apple-1 sold at an Christie’s of London auction for $213,600, another irreplaceable piece of Apple history will be up for bid. Next week, you’ll have the opportunity to bid on the contract that established Apple as a legitimate business entity.

Sotheby’s "Fine Books & Manuscripts" auction (N08811) occurs on Tuesday, December 13, 2011, at 10:00 AM EST in New York and consists of personal and autographed items belonging to the likes of Cole Porter, Joseph Heller, and Giacomo. Lot #241 of 353, listed as being the "property of various owners", has the title "APPLE COMPUTER CONTRACT AND DISSOLUTION OF CONTRACT SIGNED BY JOBS, WOZNIAK AND WAYNE (3 DOCUMENTS)" and is described as follows:

Two typed documents signed by "Stephen G. Wozniak", "steven p. jobs", "Ronald G.. Wayne": Apple Computer Company Partnership Agreement, dated 1April 1976, 3 pages (8 ½ x 11 in; 216 x 279 mm) with small staple holes and crease in upper left corners; With: Amendment dated 12 April 1976, 1 page, with erasure and minor corrections to text; And with: Registrant’s Copy of County of Santa Clara Statement of Withdrawal signed by "Ronald G Wayne," 1 page.

This document founded the company in 1976, but it was invalidated and succeeded a year later when Apple was incorporated. The estimated value is between $100,000 and $150,000 USD, with bids being accepted both in-person and online.

Apple's founding contract (zoomed in)

These John Hancocks can be yours — if the price is right.

What I find to be the most striking aspect of this auction is not the future bidding that will occur, but the trail this piece of paper must’ve travelled to arrive at this auction. How and why did the document leave the possession of Woz, Jobs, and Wayne? Was it sold, stolen, or misplaced? Have the current owner(s) approach Apple Inc. to attempt a direct sale? Is there any legal basis for this contract to be in the possession of a third party and not returned to its original owners? IANAL and do not have the answers to these questions. But I look forward to more information being revealed as its sale approaches and more publicity is garnered.

UPDATE: The contract sold for $1,350,500 to Eduardo Cisneros, chief executive officer of Cisneros Corp. Here’s a video of the auction’s closing moments, and also see Ron Wayne’s document cache.

(Hat tip to Gregg Keizer)