updated 02:01 pm EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Functioning status dramatically boosts value
A working Apple I computer has sold for $374,500 at a Friday Sotheby's auction, the BBC reports. The figure is over twice Sotheby's high estimate, and is the largest ever for an Apple I. Sotheby's commented that two parties ended up battling for the item: one through the auctioneer, acting on behalf of the absent collector, while the victor was a telephone bidder. Neither party has been identified publicly.
The selling price of the computer can be attributed to its rarity. Only 200 were ever made, hand-assembled by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Of these, just 50 or so still exist, and an even smaller number -- just six -- are known to be still functional. The unit sold today moreover includes the original manuals.
Also sold at today's auction was a memo written by Apple's other main co-founder, Steve Jobs, in his brief time working at Atari. Despite just being a a four-page handwritten note, the memo sold for $27,500, a full $12,500 more than Sotheby's original estimate. Jobs was 19 at the time, and peppered the memo with circuit images suggesting how a game called World Cup could be made more entertaining.
Sotheby's adds that "at least three bidders" aimed for the memo. Jobs stamped the document with his home address in Los Altos, and a Buddhist mantra which translates into "Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha." Jobs was at least at one point a Zen Buddhist, though he talked very little about religion in his later years.