In October of 2014, a rare Apple 1 motherboard, thought to be one of the first 50 built by Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs’ family home, was sold by Bohnams at auction for $US905,000 ($1,203,922). Today, you can own a small piece of that Silicon Valley artefact, but it comes attached to a customised iPhone 12 Pro or Max with questionable design aesthetics.
If you’re an Apple ‘obsessee’, there’s probably no collectible or piece of memorabilia more sought after than the original Apple 1 computer that not only help launch the company, but also create the Silicon Valley mythos about giant corporations tracing their roots back to donated space in someone’s parent’s garage. According to Bonhams, the Apple 1 motherboard that sold at auction back in 2014 was part of an initial run of around 200, with this particular example being among the first 50 to be completed. At the time of the auction, there were only 64 of these known to have survived since 1976, and according to experts, it was in remarkably good shape.
That’s why this rare collectible being offered by Caviar is somewhat upsetting. The $US9,990 ($13,290) iPhone 12 Pro (with 128GB of storage) or the $US10,530 ($14,008) iPhone 12 Pro Max (also with 128GB, but you can opt for more capacious models if you’re willing to spend even more) feature a customised design on the back reminiscent of the fully-assembled original Apple personal computers, complete with a real wood grain finish, a recreation of the original hand-drawn Apple logo, a faux CRT screen made from glossy titanium, and a small piece of that Apple 1 motherboard embedded below that.
For these iPhones to exist, that rare piece of Silicon Valley’s history had to die.
According to the Caviar website you can customise the appearance of your iPhone 12 Pro/Max if you’re not digging their standard retro design, but only nine copies of the collectible will be produced. Crunch the numbers and that doesn’t quite add up to what the motherboard was sold at auction for back in 2014, so Caviar presumably only got its hands on a very small part of that original Apple PC. It’s unfortunate its final resting place isn’t a public museum, or even in a private collection where it can be properly cared for. Instead, it’s ending up on a smartphone that will probably be upgraded when the next iPhones arrive in a year because anyone who can afford ten grand for a phone undoubtedly doesn’t want to be seen using last year’s model.