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Someone shelled out $470,000 for an Apple-1 housed in a leather briefcase

Apple products are known for their priciness, but the kind of sums that its first computers continue to fetch at auction is something else altogether.

The latest bidding event involving an Apple-1 computer — the machine that effectively marked the birth of the Apple empire — was organized this month by Christie’s of London.

The super-basic PC, which was built by Apple c0founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the Palo Alto garage of Jobs’ family home in 1976, went under the hammer last week for a hefty 371,260 British pounds (around $470,000). The buyer’s identity hasn’t been revealed.

The original Apple-1 computers, of which around 200 were built, comprised little more than a motherboard. In other words, there was no casing, keyboard, or monitor. The one at the recent Christie’s auction was a little different, however, as a previous owner had housed it inside a leather briefcase, giving it the look of an early laptop. Well, sort of.

The Apple-1 originally sold for $666.66, the odd price tag apparently the idea of Wozniak who had a thing about repeating digits, though it also offered a half-decent markup on the $500 wholesale price.

The Apple-1 wasn’t around for long, though. By the end of 1977, the more advanced Apple II hit the market, ending sales of the debut edition.

“After Jobs and Wozniak officially discontinued the Apple-1 in October 1977, they offered discounts and trade-ins to encourage all Apple-1 owners to return their machines,” Christie’s said in its auction notes. While many of these were destroyed, the Apple-1 Registry website suggests that just short of 70 Apple-1 computers still exist.

Christie’s added: “What had begun as the attempt by two techie friends to design and build a microprocessor became the first personal computer and launched Apple Computer Company, later Apple Inc., the perennially pioneering company that defined and redefined its industry — and changed the lives of its millions of customers — to become one of the world’s largest corporations.”

This month’s lot also included an Apple photo slide of the original Apple logo created and drawn by Apple co-founder Ronald Wayne after Apple was incorporated in 1977, a Panasonic RQ-309DS cassette recorder, documents linked to Apple’s early days, and original magazine articles about the Apple-1.

Before last week’s auction, Christie’s predicted the Apple-1 would sell for as much as $630,000, so it was a little off with its estimate. While $470,000 is still a significant amount, it’s far less than the $905,000 that the Henry Ford organization shelled out for another Apple-1 in a 2014 auction.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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