These old Apple computers are worth up to $905,000—and you might have one sitting in your basement
Bonhams placed a rare Apple-1 computer for auction in New York in 2014. Estimated to go for between $300,000 and $500,000, it ended up selling for a whopping $905,000.
Six years later, that’s still the highest known price anyone has ever paid for a vintage Apple computer, according to the auction house. (In 2016, an Apple-1 prototype came close when it sold for $815,000.)
The Apple-1, which was launched in July 1976, was Apple’s first-line desktop computer. It was also the year Apple was founded from Steve Jobs’ parent’s garage. Steve Wozniak assembled 200 models. The Apple-1 that sold for $905,000 was the “first batch of 50 machines,” Cassandra Hatton (an ex-director at Bonhams) tells CNBC Make It.
Corey Cohen, a computer historian who was recruited to examine the Apple-1, noted that it was in “superb overall condition” — with the motherboard having “no apparent modifications performed or removed.” Most significantly, it was still working.
Valuable vintage Apple products
An old Apple computer may not seem all that interesting to the average person. In fact, an unknown woman reportedly dropped off an Apple-1 at a recycling center in 2015 after cleaning out her garage, apparently unaware of what she had, according to NBC Bay Area.
Hatton is a senior specialist at Sotheby’s and vice president of Vintage Computers.
These are some vintage Apple products you might have sitting in your basement.
CNBCMake It reports that “it’s unlikely that one of these will go for as high as the Bonhams auctioned in 2014,” Lonnie Moms, a computer enthusiast and founder of the Computer Museum of America, Roswell, Georgia tells CNBC Make It. He estimates that the rarest models can still be purchased for between $175,000 to $475,000 due to their rarity.
In 2013, Christie’s auctioned off a Wozniak-signed Apple-1 for $387,750. And last year, it sold one that came with a built-in keyboard and the original instruction manuals for just over $470,000.
Apple-1, which sold for just under $470,000Credit to Christie’s, apple 1
You can sell or buy Apple-1 replicas, or kits for building them, regardless of whether you are looking to purchase. Jonathan Zufi is a hardware expert who tells CNBC Make It that these replicas, which were created by Apple Innovation enthusiasts, are worth close to $1,000.
He adds that some sellers will claim their machines are signed by Jobs. There are many counterfeits, so be cautious about making such claims.
An Apple-1 could come with a Jobs-signed receipt. However, Apple founder Steve Jobs was not involved in the actual building of the machines and so it is unlikely that Jobs would have signed one. Dan Kottke was a computer engineer who was one of Apple’s original employees.
As Kottke, who tells CNBC Make It that he assembled many of the Apple-1 computers himself, recalls: “Steve was mostly in the kitchen making phone calls,” while Wozniak, who designed the Apple-1, “oversaw assembly,” but did not always build the devices.
2. Apple II
Introduced in 1977, the Apple II is best known for making Apple a driving force in a new industry. It was a commercial success and went on to sell between five and six million units by the time it was discontinued in 1993.
Although an Apple II’s value is significantly lower than its predecessor, some Apple IIs have been sold for several thousand dollars. An Apple II in “fine condition”, valued at $1.5 million, was sold for $12,000 in 2015.Auction at Nate D. Sanders: $4,687.The motherboard was completely intact beneath the computer base. According to Los Angeles-based auction house.
Zufi also explains that the very first Apple II machines didn’t have vents and were therefore prone to overheating. He says that the design flaw was quickly fixed and makes the few machines not equipped with vents even more valuable — possibly up to $10,000.
3. Apple Lisa
Introduced in 1983, the Lisa was a huge product flop. Poor sales resulted from the high price of the early model, which was $9,995. The unreliable floppy drives, slow read speeds, and high error rates.
Due to its rarity, an original Lisa can be very valuable with its two 5.25-inch double-sided floppy disk drives. Auction Team Breker sold it for $50,300 in 2017.
”[The Lisa] is significant in being the first computer to include many of the features we still use today; overlapping windows, drag-and-drop, pull-down menus and the recycle bin,” a spokesperson for the auction house told The Daily Mail. Breker estimates that only 30 to 100 of these machines still exist today.
Apple Lisa sold for $31,250Credit to Bonhams
Another Lisa 1 was sold at Bonhams for $31,250 in 2018. It included the original keyboard and mouse, Apple Profile Hard Drive, Apple Dot Matrix Printer, and collection software and manuals.
Mimms says that older Lisa models can be sold in great condition for between $2,000 to $4,000 while a nonworking machine (or just its internal parts) can still be worth a few hundred dollars.
4. Macintosh 128K
The Macintosh 128K was Apple’s first Macintosh computer. It debuted in the iconic “1984” commercial, which aired during Super Bowl XVII. It was priced at $2,500 and featured a nine-inch black-and-white screen, two serial ports, and a 3.5-inch slot for floppy disks.
Zufi estimates that an original 1984 Mac will sell for between $1,500 to $2,000, even though some have sold for more than $2,500.
Original 1984 Macintosh 128KCredit: Jonathan Zufi
Even if you don’t own the machine itself, the original accessories can make you hundreds of dollars richer. In 2002, Wired reported that an empty, well-maintained Macintosh 128K box, which featured artwork by Picasso, sold for more than $500 on eBay.
Original box for Macintosh 128K that featured Picasso artwork. Credit: Jonathan Zufi
Adam Rosen, the founder of The Vintage Mac Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, says that those who have the original boxed travel bag can be sold for $100.
5. Apple products from the past
Apple defines its “vintage” products as anything that has not “been manufactured for more than five and less than seven years ago.” So don’t be quick to toss out any old and unused Apple devices. Experts believe that the rarer and older the device, the more you will be able to sell it for.
Even Macintosh models dating back to the 1990s can have a lot of value. The Mac Color Classic II, for example, was released in 1993 in Canada, Asia, and Europe, but never in the US — making it even harder to find today. Zufi purchased one for $2,000.
Jonathan Zufi purchased a Macintosh Color Classic II for $2,000Credit to Jonathan Zufi
Early Apple mobile devices can be surprisingly expensive depending on their condition and when they were released. Zufi says that some have sold for thousands of dollars on eBay. They can be valued at $5,000 and more if they are sealed in their original boxes.
In 2017, MarketWatch reported that a retired business owner named Bob Kraft “received an offer of $11,000 for an unopened 2007 iPhone that came in a factory gift box from Apple with a red ribbon.” Kraft, whose original asking price was $15,000, turned it down. “It was tempting,” he told MarketWatch. “But I am not in a rush to sell it.”
What should you do if your Apple product is valuable?
Check it to make sure it is working. A running device will cost you much more. If it does not work, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Experts recommend that components should be only replaced with the original parts.
Next, search online (eBay is an excellent place to start) for information about the prices of similar items. Remember, however, that just simply because a seller asks for a high price doesn’t necessarily mean buyers are willing and able to pay that price.
Your item will be rarer and therefore more valuable if there are fewer listings. Mimms says, “If you don’t find one, that’s the worst-case scenario.” He suggests that you contact an auction house if you are looking for truly valuable products such as an Apple-1, Lisa 1, or other Apple-1.
You’re probably right if you think all this sounds too tedious, not to mention the time spent digging through old belongings. Hatton says that while most of us have old technology in our garages or basements, very few people have valuable items.
She adds that she has sold three Apple-1 computers and all of them came from people who had it in their basement for years.