A Christie’s online auction of rare and retro Apple products included this Apple-1--the first Apple computer, built by Steve Wozniak in Los Altos in 1967, complete with a signed poster of the Woz and Steve Jobs. It sold for $387,750.

The auction, titled First Bytes: Iconic Technology From the Twentieth Century, showcased pieces from two private collections, and spanned roughly 20 years in Apple’s design history.

The Translucent Macintosh, built in 1987, sold for $6,250 in the auction. It’s easy to see the Translucent Mac as an early harbinger of the iconic fruit-colored iMacs.

Some of the pieces are more sober nods to computer design, like the Twentieth Century Macintosh, which included a keyboard, wrist rests, a matching mouse, a remote control, and--most comical of all--a CD-ROM case. It sold for $2,500.

Christie’s intentionally included non-tech items at a more accessible price, like these software books and floppy discs from 1980.

The 1990 model of the Prototype Macintosh Portable Computer went for $2,500.

Apparently, not all items were worthy of collector status: this Apple Lisa Computer didn’t sell.

Surprisingly enough, the Lisa was one of the highest valued items, starting at $20,000.

Another item that didn’t fetch a buyer: A 1983 Apple Prototype Computer.

“We were especially keen to have a range of early Apple products, to tell a fuller story of the early history of the company’s production, and to have a wider range of estimates, to make accessible to a range of collectors,” says Christie’s specialist James Hyslop.

But this beige Apple system unit went for $1,375.

Despite scattered results for the auction, the array of products offers a glimpse into the build up of products we rely on every day. “The sleekness of design that still persists with the company is evident in each of these computers,” Hyslop says. “Even the architecture of the Apple-1 is wonderful.

Co.Design

Christie's Auctions Off Apple's Rare, Iconic Designs

Check out the treasure trove of Apple products--and what they fetched--at Christie’s "First Bytes: Iconic Technology from the Twentieth Century."

The origin story of the Apple computer is, by now, the stuff of design-geek legend: In 1976, from the Los Altos, California, garage belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Jobs, the young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple-1. They built 200 models, which sold for $666.66 a piece. The majority of Apple users today wouldn’t know what to do with the original; it was just a green motherboard that had no monitor and no keyboard. Wozniak built the actual thing, and Jobs had the good marketing sense to sell it to hobbyists at the Homebrew Computer Club (an early seedling of Silicon Valley tech culture), with the power supply, display, and keyboard sold separately.

The garage, the price tag, and even the near-cartoonish look of the circuit board form a humble creation story. And now, not even 40 years later, it fetched $387,750 in a Christie’s online art auction. "First Bytes: Iconic Technology From the Twentieth Century" closed today and featured a round up of vintage tech products, including relics like the Translucent Mac SE from 1987 and the 20th Anniversary Macintosh Computer from 1997. Amazingly enough, the artifacts are all functioning products.

The 1987 Translucent Macintosh sold for $6,250.

“The working condition of the pieces was of the utmost importance,” Christie’s specialist James Hyslop tells Co.Design. The material up for auction spans both history and commercial success, and Hyslop says the eclecticism was by design: “We were especially keen to have a range of early Apple products, to tell a fuller story of the early history of the company’s production, and to have a wider range of estimates, to make accessible to a range of collectors.”

All 10 items up for auction came from private collections. The Apple-1--including a manual and a signed photograph of Jobs and Wozniak--was expected to go for around $500,000 (based in part off another Apple-1 that sold in May for $546,000 at the Auction Team Breker in Germany), but the catalog also listed old-school software floppy disks that were estimated at $200.

The Apple-1, of which there were 200 models made, was auctioned off with a signed poster of Jobs and Wozniak for $387,750.

"First Bytes" is especially timely, given the much-ballyhooed upcoming Steve Jobs biopic. In that light, the items up for auction might just represent yet another way that we fetishize the tech giant’s history. But the auction also illuminates the evolution of Apple design, offering a historical backdrop to the very recent, much-dissected revamping of iOS 7 (to name but one example). Every single design or flat icon is an offshoot of what were once some very fundamental design principles.

“The sleekness of design that still persists with the company is evident in each of these computers,” Hyslop says. “Even the architecture of the Apple-1 is wonderful. Not only was it the first to come pre-assembled--a marketing innovation that would change the way we bought computers--but the motherboard with the capacitors and processors exposed is such an iconic image in computing history.”

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6 Comments

  • Startup Design

    Hi Margaret, sorry missed that though reading through with eyes wide open. I was reading Steve Job´s bio as many others and now seeing all these devices from early stages makes the whole story even more interesting. 

    I do not only adore the sleekness of design but of the operation manual as well. Nowadays you have to read through hundreds of pages for some Wordpress plugins....

    Again, thanks!
    Christoph  

  • DifferentStripes

    From the article, second paragraph: "Amazingly enough, the artifacts are all functioning products."

  • Faustino Forcén

    There was a "Traslucent" version of almost every Mac. It was used during development of the hardware to see the fitting of element into the case.

  • ericbrady

    Didn't see an email link or I would have used that. You have a typo in the date of the Apple-1 on the photo gallery. I doubt it was 1967, Steve Jobs would have been 12 years old and Woz was 16 or 17...