Apple-1 sells for record-breaking $374K

June 18th, 2012 4:13 PM
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It started simply enough: three years ago, an Apple-1 was estimated to be worth around $15,000.

Shortly thereafter, an Apple-1 sold on eBay (auction #320451173813) for $50,000.

A year later, that same Apple-1 sold at Christie's of London for $213,000.

The latest Apple-1 to appear on the auction block, this one at Sotheby's in New York, had a more modest estimated value of $120,000 – $180,000. Yet it set a new record when it sold for $374,500.

Sotheby's Apple-1

And worth every penny!

Addressing that staggering price tag, Vintage Computer Festival East organizer Evan Koblentz made a brief appearance in this CNN.com story about the auction:

It's not surprising that mainstream media would attribute the auction's high fetching price to "the cult of Apple". But that inaccurately identifies a working Apple-1 as an illogical object of geek lust, instead of the rare and significant historical relic it is.

But even geeks sometimes buy into the hype. The CNN video recommends viewers hold onto their old iPod or first-generation iPad: "Some day, it might be a precious artifact." Although those devices were revolutionary (or at least evolutionary), they don't signify the humble beginnings of an empire like the Apple-1 does. More important, possibly no Apple product has ever been manufactured in as low a quantity as the Apple-1. As much as we may complain about the current going rates for an Apple II on eBay, the machine isn't exactly rare, despite the newest model being 19 years old. Given the proliferation of iOS devices, it is unlikely we will ever see them in the scarcity that now drives the Apple-1's auctions.

On the bright side, events such as this auction have the potential to bring attention to the value and significance of classic computing. Besides Koblentz, other familiar retrocomputing enthusiasts got some nice press as a result of this event: after appearing in my previous coverage of this topic, Mike Willegal was interviewed for the run-up to this auction.

(Hat tip to Christian)