Collectibles

Historically important computer memorabilia heading to auction

Historically important compute...
This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)
This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
This issue of Macworld #1 was signed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and was officially estimated by RR Auction to sell for $50,000+. We predicted it would fetch $80,000+. It smashed all expectations when it fetched $201,021
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This issue of Macworld #1 was signed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and was officially estimated by RR Auction to sell for $50,000+. We predicted it would fetch $80,000+. It smashed all expectations when it fetched $201,021
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)
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This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
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Recognizing historical significance was once the domain of librarians and museum curators, but with the meteoric rise of the memorabilia industry, a little foresight and patience can make you a lot of money these days. Returns of x10 and x100 are no longer just the domain of the roulette wheel as across the world at present, people who know their particular collectibles domain really well are cashing in bigtime. Hence, we figure that we should alert our esteemed readership to an RR Auction heading for conclusion later this month.

We've been harping on for two decades about how undervalued scientific and computer memorabilia is, and although the prices have been rising slowly, the prices of most culturally important memorabilia are rising even quicker. Heading this auction in terms of value is an Apple-I computer, which clearly elucidates how undervalued computer memorabilia is.

The Apple-I computer was the first personal computer sold with a fully assembled motherboard and was the product that catalyzed the formation of Apple Computer, one of the pioneers of the computer revolution and a company that has directly changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. It’s hence natural that the computer that started it all should be a sought-after item, being massively historically significant by almost any measure.

Only 200 Apple-I units (plus a few in pre-production) were ever made and around 85 are thought to still exist: 58 verified, 20 almost verified plus up to 10 others which might exist according to the Apple I registry. With such limited supply, it is not surprising that the price of the original Apple-I has skyrocketed over the last two decades, though it seems that almost no-one saw it coming because 20 years ago an Apple-I could be procured for less than US$10,000.

The record price for an Apple I computer at auction is $905,000, set by Bonhams in October, 2014, with Charitybuzz since selling two Apple I computers at undisclosed prices in the same price bracket - one sale known to have been $815,000 in 2016, and another in June, 2018 for an undisclosed price. In 2019, only one Apple I went to auction, fetching $470,189 at Christie’s in May 2019, and in 2020, two Apple I computers went to market, one at RR Auction in March for $458,711, and an Apple-I computer sold for $736,863 at RR Auction on December 18, 2020. It could easily have sold for more, having its original box and being signed by Steve Wozniak. This RR Auction Apple-I is the first to reach auction in 2021, though there's an Apple-I on eBay with an asking price of $1.5 million that has been there for six months with no takers.

Let's compare that with a couple of other memorabilia genres.

The most valuable comic in the world is Action Comics #1, which sold for 10 cents when it was released in 1938, and is highly sought-after because it was the first appearance of Superman. The comic is culturally significant because beyond just Superman, the success of the comic's sales kickstarted the entire superhero genre. That first issue had a print run of 200,000 copies though the frailty of paper and 83-years of attrition has whittled the number still in existence to around 100 copies.

Action Comics #1 became the first comic to sell for more than $1 million in February 2010 and the record price was set at $3.25 million in April of this year (2021) in a private transaction brokered by online auction and consignment company, ComicConnect.com. That price bettered the previous record of another copy of the same comic, set in 2014 for $3,207,852. Indeed, there are several different comics that have sold for more than $1 million, with Marvel Comics #1 (the first appearance of the Human Torch and the beginning of the Marvel franchise), Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman), Batman #1 (Batman's first stand-alone comic) and Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spiderman) all having sold above that mark, and the record for Captain America #1 is $915,000 and it is generally regarded to be just a matter of time before that goes over the $1 million mark.

What's more, there are thousands of copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 out there, with condition dictating the prices fetched at auction. Batman #1 is another with a known census in excess of 250 copies, and a copy sold for more than $2 million earlier this year.

So that's one collectibles marketplace that places the value of a comicbook at far more than the world's first personal computer, and there are more than a dozen sports cards valued well beyond the Apple-I. In the last 18 months, more than 40 sports cards have fetched more than $1 million at auction and the world's best known sports card, the 1909-11 T206 card of Honus Wagner, set a new record recently at $3,751,500. There are 60 examples of the Honus Wagner T206 card known to exist. Three sports cards have sold for more than $5 million each in the last 12 months.

So think carefully about the lots we have profiled below. Our opinion is that with a few years and a tad of historical perspective, they will all be worth considerably more than they're likely to go for at auction this time around.

Steve Wozniak Signed Apple IIe Computer Manual

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7023
Estimate: $200+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Many of today's most successful entrepreneurs and computer wizards cut their digital teeth on an Apple II. It was the first mass-produced Apple computer, and it forged the way for the Apple Macintosh, iPod and iPhone, all computers that have changed the world. This Apple II owners manual is signed by Apple co-founder, and the designer of the computer, Steve Wozniak. We're still close enough in time to the events of the 1970s for historical perspective to have not yet focused. There will only be one computer revolution, Woz was one of the giants of the age, and a 1,000 years from now, school children will know his name. $200 might prove to be a fortuitous investment for your children's children.

Steve Wozniak Signed Apple-I manual

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7027
Estimate: $400+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Apple-I computers have been selling for more than a house for a decade, and will pass the million dollar mark in the foreseeable future. An Apple-I operation manual (almost guaranteed to have never been touched by human hands - RTFM), is much cheaper than an Apple-I, and will likely appreciate in value at a much greater rate than the Apple-I. Remember, this is the operating manual for the world's first computer. There aren't all that many of them, and they will become very valuable over time.

Apple Newton MessagePad 120

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7017
Estimate: $400+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
I was working on an Apple magazine at the time the Newton came out and while many people didn't get it, those who worked on the magazine worshipped the idea. The Newton was way ahead of its time, and can rightfully claim to be a forebear of the iPhone. This is a working model still in the box. BUY!!!!!

Steve Wozniak Signed Apple-I Schematic

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7024
Estimate: $400+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
You probably weren't around when the wheel was invented, and there were very few inventions between the wheel and the computer to have had such a profound effect on mankind as those book-ends. This is a schematic of the very first computer signed by its designer. If you can buy this for $400, put it in a bank vault and maybe buy a lottery ticket on the same day. Pure GOLD!!!!

Four Apple iPod Promotional Posters

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7030
Estimate: $600+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Many early adopters had portable digital music players prior to the iPod, but the iPod was the one that drove mass adoption and it did so with some very clever iconography. Four of the original posters in pristine condition for an invention that changed the world seems too good to be true. Investments that you can look at every day are the best kind, though if I managed to get my hands on this lot, I'd make a digital copy for the wall, and put the originals in the safe. Will be priceless one day.

Ted Nelson Signed 'Literary Machines' Book

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7033
Estimate: $800+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
For those unfamiliar with the name, Ted Nelson invented hypertext, which is the concept behind hyperlinks on your web page, and he influenced the developers of the internet, most notably Tim Berners-Lee. Many of the founders of the computer age (including Nelson) are still alive. He's now 84 years of age and there won't be many more copies of one of the most important books in history being signed.

Edward Snowden Signed Book

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7035
Estimate: $800+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
The book written and signed by one of the most important whistleblowers in history. If this book means something to you then it is an investment of passion you will cherish that will arguably be valuable even if the surveillance wars are never over. The word "hero" gets applied very freely these days but the true heroes are those who know and understand the sacrifice they make for others, and do it anyway. Snowden's sacrifice is little understood, but it is gargantuan.

Steve Jobs Apple Business Card

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7007
Estimate: $4,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
There seems little doubt that Steve Jobs is computing's rock star. He changed the world a half dozen times with his marketing genius and he enjoyed the limelight, as distinct from his digitally more talented but relatively shy partner, Steve Wozniak. Like all the auction-block superstars (major exceptions being Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton), he died before his time, ensuring that the supply of his memorabilia was forever fixed, at the same time as enhancing demand with the void his massive presence and star power had left. The sale of his partially-completed resume recently for $343,000 is but one example.
Jobs' business cards have previously sold for $10,000 (for three cards), $6,260 in 2018, $5,375 in 2019 and $4,813 in 2020. He doesn't hand them out any more and his name associates with brand values such as genius, maverick, fearless and world-changing. He led the most important revolution in history. If we haven't exterminated ourselves 10,000 years from now, his name will be in the history books.

Apple II Computer, Monitor, and Peripherals

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7014
Estimate: $4,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Apple's first mainstream computer was crucial in kickstarting the company's revenue when it was launched in the spring of 1977. In Apple’s 1980 IPO prospectus, the company described its progress: The Apple II built upon the Apple-I to become an even more capable, more consumer-ready machine. Based entirely on the Apple II, Apple Computer’s annual revenue grew from $774,000 in 1977 to $118 million in 1980. The Apple II is one of the great success stories of Silicon Valley, and this computer is from the personal collection of Apple software pioneer Roger Wagner, functions fully in every respect and comes with genuine peripherals, software, manuals ... and a degree of authenticity and provenance not normally available in buying a 45-year-old computer.

Apple Lisa Computer

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7013
Estimate: $25,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
The Apple Lisa computer is one of Apple's least successful ventures, selling just 10,000 units before being discontinued in 1985. The Lisa is significant because it was the first computer to use a mouse and have a Graphical User Interface, but its main competition came from the Macintosh which was faster and much cheaper and was released just a year after the Lisa. This computer is fully functional and would be an ideal display in any computer or information history museum.

Steve Jobs signed Apple II Manual

This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)
This Apple II Manual signed by Steve Jobs was estimated to sell for $25,000+ when it went to auction at RR Auction on 17 August 2021. It sold for $787,484 (including Buyers Premium)

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7001
Estimate: $25,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Collectibles guru Paul Fraser tracks the value of autographs at auction with his PFC40 Autograph Index, and he rates the value of Jobs' autograph at $55,600 (£40,000), ranking him as having the most valuable "deceased" autograph (£10,000 ahead of Stephen Hawking) and the best performing autograph in the world over the last 20 years, with an annual appreciation of 24 percent per annum. Fraser knows his stuff better than just about anybody, and if he rates the autograph alone at $55,600 and appreciating at 24 percent per annum ... well, do the math. Throw in a quote that is so inspirational and typical in his own handwriting in addition to the signature, this item might get to six figures. This item will stand up well to the test of time.

Steve Jobs's Personally-Owned and -Worn Leather Bomber Jacket

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7008
Estimate: $25,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
Believe it or not, there's a very relevant precedent for this sale. In 2016, Albert Einstein's "putrid" (they obviously don't recognize the smell of genius) leather jacket that had been worn on the cover of Time magazine went to auction with an estimate of £40,000 to £60,000, selling for £110,500 (US$145,974). The jacket was purchased by Levi Strauss (the manufacturer of the jacket) and the 1930s design was reissued as a limited edition of 500 only at $1,200 per jacket. The inside story of the jacket being purchased makes excellent reading on the Levi Strauss blog.
There's an even more relevant precedent in that this jacket went to auction once before at Julien's auctions in 2016 when it fetched $24,640 (inc buyers premium). Made by luxury clothing manufacturer Wilkes Bashford, it would make sense for them to buy the jacket and do just as Levi Strauss did, issuing a Steve Jobs' limited edition jacket.
Regardless, the Julien's auction did not highlight that the jacket had been worn by Jobs in one of his most famous photos. The famous image of Jobs surfaced in 2011, when it was posted online by Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Macintosh development team. He recalled: 'In December 1983, a few weeks before the Mac launch, we made a quick trip to New York City to meet with Newsweek, who was considering doing a cover story on the Mac. The photo was taken spontaneously as we walked around Manhattan by Jean Pigozzi, a wild French jet setter who was hanging out with us at the time.'

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak Signed Issue of Macworld #1

This issue of Macworld #1 was signed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and was officially estimated by RR Auction to sell for $50,000+. We predicted it would fetch $80,000+. It smashed all expectations when it fetched $201,021
This issue of Macworld #1 was signed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and was officially estimated by RR Auction to sell for $50,000+. We predicted it would fetch $80,000+. It smashed all expectations when it fetched $201,021

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7004
Estimate: $50,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
The vendor of this magazine once valued it at $1,000,000 but it appears that he's prepared to cop $50,000 now. It's quite likely he'll get at least that amount, as a previous copy of the same issue signed only by Jobs sold for $47,775 in 2018, a Mac OS X technical manual signed by Jobs in 2001 sold for $41,807 in 2018, and a signed copy of NewsWeek with Jobs on the cover fetched $50,588 in 2017. A Macintosh System Tools Version 6.0 floppy disk signed by Jobs fetched $84,115 in 2019, so our best guess is that this magazine will fetch $80,000 plus as it is not dedicated to anyone in particular as the previous $47,775 copy was.

Douglas Engelbart's Three-Button 'X-Y' Mouse…

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7019
Estimate: $50,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
The computer mouse is one of history's most important inventions, enabling the simplification of the Computer-Human-Interface (CHI) to such a degree that computer adoption became possible for everyone. In 1968, Douglas Engelbart caused a sensation when he and 17 other researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute made a 90-minute presentation for about 1,000 computer scientists. At this meeting, Engelbart and company introduced a raft of computer features, including video conferencing, teleconferencing, screen sharing, email, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, a collaborative real-time editor ... and the first mouse.
We were so amazed when a prototype of Engelbart's original computer mouse went to auction last year that we did a feature article on it's significance, explaining that the estimated price of $800 was a massive bargain. It sold for $34,479, and this time there are two historically significant computer mice in the one lot so be prepared to pay more, maybe a lot more – there were only 10 prototypes made of the first ever computer mouse and this is museum material and there is little chance the estimate won't be met.

Apple-I Computer

Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection
Computer memorabilia from the Michael Brewer Collection

RR Auction | August 19, 2021 | Lot 7012
Estimate: $450,000+
Auction description and Hi-res Images
We've already covered the significance of this computer in the history of information in the introduction to this article. At $450,000, this is a gold-plated bargain!

View gallery - 15 images
3 comments
3 comments
los_kiosk
I would have thought that the Nascom 1, Science of Cambridge MK14 , Acorn Atom or Sinclair ZX80 would be far more influential. The Apple range was always far too expensive. Most people in the UK, if they didn't buy one of the above, might have stretched to a Tandy TRS80 or Commodore Pet. So perhaps the above round-up is too US-centric.
Paul
Catweazle
I still have my Apple ][ - a lovely machine to use, infinitely superior to the CP/M stuff that was most common at the time - also an MK14, ZX81 and two Spectrums, a 48K and a 128K.
I also had a MedFly (apparently so named because medflies eat apples), which had both a 6502 and Z80 CPUs, was supposed to emulate both Apple and CP/M and didn't work, plus an Apple III, nicely made but not a patch on the ][.
Ah, those were the days!
guzmanchinky
Amazing stuff! One of my favorite places is the computer museum in Silicone Valley.