A working Apple-1 computer fetched $387,750 on Tuesday at auction, well off the record price of $671,400 paid in May for another of the rare personal computers.
The Christie's auction house hosted the online-only bidding, which opened June 24 and closed Tuesday.
The computer -- essentially a circuit board without a manufactured case, keyboard, monitor or even power supply -- was one of between 40 and 50 known to have survived from a limited run of about 200. According to a Christie's spokeswoman contacted last month, the Apple-1 was operational, making it even rarer: There are only a half dozen confirmed working Apple-1 computers in existence.
Just before the auction began, Christie's set an estimated sales range of $300,000 to $500,000. Although the Apple-1 ended within that estimate, the gavel came down at a price 42% below the all-time record set in May by Auction Team Breker of Cologne, Germany, which sold a different working Apple-1 to an unidentified buyer.
Even so, Christie's said the Apple-1 established a record for the auction house: "[It was] the highest-priced item to ever be sold through Christie's new online-only platform," the company said in a statement.
The Apple-1 had been owned by Ted Perry, a retired school psychologist who lives outside Sacramento, Calif., where he had reportedly stored the computer in a cardboard box. Perry had acquired the Apple-1 in 1979 or 1980, he told the Associated Press last month.
During the two-week online auction, the computer was displayed at the Computer History Museum of Mountain View, Calif. (San Francisco's KCBS Radio published a slideshow of the Apple-1 the day after it went on display at the museum.)
Prices for working Apple-1 computers have skyrocketed since the October 2011 death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. In November 2010, 11 months before Jobs died, Christie's sold one for $213,000. Less than two years later, Christie's was bested by rival Sotheby's, which set a sales record of $374,500. Breker then sold two, the first in November 2012, the second in May 2013, for more than $600,000 each.
All the Apple-1s were hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976 and were sold at the time for $666.66. In today's dollars, that would be approximately $2,724, or about the price of Apple's current top-of-the-line 15-in. MacBook Pro notebook.
Perry's Apple-1 had been signed by Wozniak prior to the sale.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.