Wednesday, 24 November 2010 09:04

Apple-1 sells at auction


Christie's estimate of the price an Apple-1 would fetch at auction turned out to be right on the money.

The listing of a 1976 Apple-1 computer in a Christie's sale caused quite a stir - especially over the estimated price of £100,000 - £150,000 ($US160,300 - $US240,450, and pretty much the same in $A).

The Apple 1 was, as its name suggests, the original Apple computer designed by Steve Wozniak. Unlike its successor the Apple II, it didn't come with a case but it was supplied assembled rather than in kit form like the Altair and other home computers of the time.

The significance of the particular example auctioned by Christie's was that it included a number of associated items including the all-important (to collectors, at least) cardboard box, plus the manual, original invoice, and a typed letter signed Steven Jobs.

The inclusion of these and other items helps explain the expectation of a high price, despite the fact that the computer wasn't in original condition. According to Christie's, the device included "a few slightly later additions" and some "later soldering".

Scarcity is also a consideration. The Apple-1 offered for sale was number 87 of a production run of perhaps 200, of which as few as 50 are thought to survive.

What price was achieved for the Apple-1? Find out on page 2.

Interestingly, the Apple-1 was included in a sale of 'valuable printed books and manuscripts' at Christie's on November 23, possibly due to the presence of other IT-related lots, including 'The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer with special reference to the EDSAC and the use of a library of subroutines' (a first edition of the first book on programming), the patent specification for the EDSAC computer and associated devices, 'Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing instrument' by Von Neumann, Burks and Goldstine, 'A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator by the Staff of the Computation Laboratory' by Aiken and Hopper, a collection of Turing's offprints, and the only other hardware item, a three-rotor Enigma cipher machine from the Second World War.

In the event, the Apple-1 sold for £133,250 ($US213,600), including the buyer's premium. This was just inside the middle third of the estimated range.

But the highest price achieved on the day went to Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae - the first half of a 7th century encyclopedia - sold for £421,250 ($US675,264), considerably higher than the expected £100,000 - £150,000 ($US160,300 - $US240,450).

It appears that a number of lots failed to reach their reserve prices, including the Turing offprints. Efforts were being made to secure them for the Bletchley Park, where Turing worked during WW2.

A full list of the sale results can be found here.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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