Rare Apple I thought to be built by Steve Jobs passes $500,000 at auction

A particularly unusual Apple I computer that's up for auction on Thursday may have been assembled by the late Apple co-founder.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

This Apple I will fetch at least $500,000 at auction. (Image: CharityBuzz)

Bids for a rare Apple I computer have passed $500,000 after word spread that the machine was likely one of the first to be made by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Bidding may have got off to a slow start after the machine was listed for $255,000 in July, but on Sunday, two days after the auction was reported by Recode, dozens of bids flowed in, taking the price to $500,000. By Monday, bids had reached $505,000, just under half of what the auction hopes to raise by its close on Thursday.

According to Recode, this particular Apple I is likely one of the earliest machines, built by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at his parents' house in the 1970s. The unit comes with original manuals, a cassette tape with a BASIC programming environment on it, and other accessories.

Apple expert Corey Cohen told Recode that Jobs likely hand-finished the machine, though it may also have been finished by Dan Kottke, one of Apple's earliest employees.

Cohen, who authenticated the 'Celebration' Apple-I for the auction, believes the machine could be powered up with minor restoration, though he advised against doing so, in order to preserve it.

Apple I machines fetch mind-boggling prices due to their rarity. There are believed to be only around 60 Apple Is in existence today, out of the 200 that were made by Jobs and fellow Apple founder Steve Wozniak. However, according to Wozniak, this particular model is a rarity among those machines.

"The 'Celebration' Apple I is extremely rare not only because of the scarcity of Apple I computers, but according to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, no known PCB boards of this type were ever sold to the public," the auction states.

"At this time, this is the only known Apple I to show the signs of starting out as a blank original-run board and not part of the two known production runs, so this board appears to be unique from all other known Apple I boards."

The machine was acquired by the current owner in 2000 for $18,000, according to Recode. The original owner is thought to be an Apple employee.

Apple I computers easily fetch over $100,000 these days. A recycling company last year offered an unknown woman $100,000 -- roughly half the machine's value -- for an Apple I computer that she had dropped off as e-waste.

The most an Apple I has ever sold for was $905,000 at an auction at Bonhams in 2014, far exceeding the expected $300,000 to $500,000.

Whatever the final offer lands at, 10 percent of the sum will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Arizona.

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