This Apple-1 Is the Most Expensive Apple Computer Ever

An example of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs' first computer breaks a record at a Cologne, Germany auction.

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Paul Terrell

$671,400. It seems like rather a lot of money for any personal computer — and especially for one that is too out of date to run the latest software.

Except that the computer in question is an Apple-1, the bare-bones machine that Steve Wozniak designed and Steve Jobs marketed in 1976, shortly before they devised the groundbreaking and wildly popular Apple II. As the New York Times’ Steve Lohr reports, an auction house in Cologne, Germany, sold it today to an anonymous entrepreneur from the Far East.

The Apple-1 is a rare computer, no doubt: Wozniak and Jobs sold only a few hundred of them at most in the first place, at the famous list price of $666.66. But when I wrote an article on collectible PCs in 2007, the going rate for an Apple-1 was a relatively affordable $15,000 to $25,000. It’ll be interesting to see if the system’s current value — the same auction house sold another machine for $640,000 last November — is the new normal, or whether the Apple-1 bubble eventually bursts.

The Apple-1 in the above photo, incidentally, isn’t the $671,400 Apple-1. It’s the one that Paul Terrell, owner of the pioneering Byte Shop computer store of Mountain View, Calif. — the first retailer of Apple computers — snapped with his Polaroid camera back in 1976. I wrote about it, and shared two other snapshots, last November.

At least I don’t think it’s the same Apple-1 — but it would be kind of cool if it were.

[Update: another Times piece by Lohr says that the auctioned Apple-1 originally belonged to a resident of New Orleans. Sounds like it’s not a Terrell machine.]