An original Apple computer, hand-built by company founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak 45 years ago, goes under the hammer in the United States on Tuesday.
The functioning Apple-1, the great-great-grandfather of today’s sleek chrome-and-glass Macbooks, is expected to fetch up to $600,000 at an auction in California.
The so-called “Chaffey College” Apple-1 is one of only 200 made by Jobs and Wozniak at the very start of the company’s odyssey from garage start-up to megalith worth $2 trillion.
What makes it even rare is that the computer is encased in koa wood — a richly patinated wood native to Hawaii. Only a handful of the original 200 was made in this way.
Jobs and Wozniak mostly sold Apple-1s as parts. The auction house said that one computer shop that took delivery of around 50 units decided to encase some of them in wood.
“This is kind of the holy grail for vintage electronics and computer tech collectors,” Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen told the Los Angeles Times. “That makes it exciting for a lot of people.”
Auction house John Moran Auctioneers says the device, which comes with a 1986 Panasonic video monitor, has only ever had two owners.
“It was originally purchased by an electronics professor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California, who then sold it to his student in 1977,” a listing on the auction house’s website says.
The Los Angeles Times reported the student — who has not been named — paid just $650 for it at the time. That student now stands to make a pretty penny: a working Apple-1 that came to the market in 2014 was sold by Bonhams for more than $900,000.
“A lot of people just want to know what kind of a person collects Apple-1 computers, and it’s not just people in the tech industry,” Cohen said.
Apple raced to success in the late 1970s and early 1980s but foundered after the departure of Jobs and Wozniak.
The company was reinvigorated in the late 1990s, and Jobs was brought back into the fold as the chief executive.
He oversaw the launch of the iPod, and later the world-changing iPhone, before his death in 2011.