Working Apple 1 tops $370,000 at auction, Jobs memo pulls in $27,500

As we reported last month, Sotheby’s held an auction today for two pieces of rare Apple memorabilia, a functional Apple 1 computer and a memo written by departed CEO Steve Jobs during his stint at Atari. All told, the two items raised a total of $402,000 — $374,500 for the computer and $27,500 for the memo.

The Apple 1, which was sold as a bare motherboard, is one of about 50 in existence. The precise number of those still functioning is a mystery, but the item sold by Sotheby’s is one of the “very few” that does work as originally intended. Though the auction house estimated that the Apple 1 would attract as much as $180,000 from prospective buyers, the motherboard blew right past that figure, earning over twice as much on the auction block. In case you’re curious as to why a bare motherboard would be so highly prized, it should be noted that the Apple 1 was Apple’s first computer. Each of the roughly 200 Apple 1’s were designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, and were priced at $666.66 on release in 1976. Though it seems odd to sell a motherboard, this was how Apple originally offered the system, so it’s perfectly fitting for the machine to be auctioned as such.

As for the memo, the BBC reports that it was written by a 19-year-old Steve Jobs and “consists of four pages detailing the late Steve Jobs’ thoughts on how to improve [Atari’s] arcade football game World Cup.” The hand-written notes “include circuit drawings and diagrams showing how the paddle-based game could be made more fun to play,” as well as Jobs’ home address and a Buddhist mantra that roughly translates to “Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha.” As a memento of Jobs’ life and beliefs, that seems quite fitting.

If these figures seem astronomical to you, that’s unfortunate as early Apple items have made a habit of utterly blowing past auctioneer expectations in the recent past. Last December we reported on another Sotheby’s auction at which the original contract used to found Apple was purchased for $1.6 million. Sotheby’s original estimate for the document? A mere $150,000.

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