Early Apple Computer Sells for $375,000 at Sotheby’s

Apple I Computer, 1976. (Courtesy Sotheby’s)

This morning, Sotheby’s New York sold an Apple Computer for $374,500—more than twice its high estimate of $180,000—in its Fine Books & Manuscripts sale. The computer, a 1976 Apple I, one of the first compact model computer that could be used by non-experts to type on a keyboard and operate basic programs, ushered in the era of personal computing.

Two bidders apparently battled for the device, a gem created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of which there are only a handful in working use in existence. One bidder competed over the phone, while the other was an “order bid,” with the house acting on behalf of an absent bidder. The computer went to the phone bidder.

Who would buy a computer capable of only basic programming? As one friend put it coyly over dinner when the sale of the computer was first announced, “What happens when you get tired of putting your friends’ names in alphabetical order?” Alas, for now, we don’t know. The winning bidder was anonymous.