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Antique Apple-1 sold out of Jobs' garage goes on sale next month

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 4, 2014
Christie's will auction off a working Apple-1 with a history so unique it spawned a book.

Apple-1 for auction
Christie's will auction this vintage Apple-1 next month, a lot that includes a canceled check made out to 'Apple Computer' in July 1976 for the $600 purchase price. Credit: Christie's

A 38-year-old Apple-1 that was sold directly to a buyer out of Steve Jobs' garage -- rather than through the iconic Byte Shop -- will hit the auction block next month.

The vintage Apple-1 -- the first personal computer designed, built and sold by Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs -- will be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Dec. 11. Christie's has estimated the computer will go for between $400,000 and $600,000.

Other recent auctions of Apple-1 computers have sold for more than those estimates, including $671,000 for one in May 2013 and more recently, a record $905,000 paid two weeks ago by The Henry Ford, a museum in Dearborn, Mich.

"I'm still amazed at these prices," said Mike Willegal, an engineer with a major technology company who has identified and indexed more than 60 Apple-1 computers. "A lot has to do with the success Apple Computer's had over the years."

In fact, the Apple-1 that Christie's will auction next month has an even stronger tie to Apple and its founders than most survivors, said Bob Luther, the computer's seller.

Included with the Apple-1 is a canceled check from the original owner, Charles Ricketts, made out for $600 to Apple Computer in July 1976. After digging through the papers Jobs donated to Stanford University, Luther was able to find only one record of a direct-to-a-customer sale of an Apple-1: The sale to Ricketts.

While most of the known Apple-1s have had multiple owners -- Willegal said that collectors have been trading and acquiring the computers for decades, and "a lot of them have moved through different hands" -- Luther's account of how he got his Apple-1, and more importantly, the back story of the computer, were unusual.

So unusual that Luther, who described himself as "definitely not a techie," wrote a book about the years he spent investigating the history of the circuit board-cum-computer he acquired. Luther's book, The First Apple was published in 2013.

After seeing a classified advertisement in the Washington Post in 2004, and even though he "didn't know what an Apple-1 was," Luther purchased the computer at a sheriff's sale of items seized from dot-com-era entrepreneur Bruce Waldack after Waldack fled the country. Previously, Waldack had tried, but failed, to sell the Apple-1 on eBay.

Luther, who paid $7,600 for the Apple-1 in 2004, was so intrigued by the story of the machine that he spent years interviewing people who were at the beginnings of Apple Computer, or who had somehow been involved with his specific computer.

 

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