Auction house Bonhams has assembled an impressive collection of historically significant items related to science and technology for its October 22 History of Science auction in New York City. One of the highlights is a rather complete and working Apple 1 setup that includes the motherboard, keyboard, monitor, and power supply. With a pre-auction estimate of $300K to $500K, the Apple 1 is getting much of the attention for this auction, but it is just one of many important items to go on the block.
If the atomic era interests you, consider the 1,500-pound, 6-inch thick viewing window used in the Manhattan Project. This heavily leaded piece of glass protected staff from radiation when they viewed the plutonium production process. (Bonhams assures everyone that the window is itself not radioactive.) It comes with its own wooden rolling cart, which you will probably need considering its weight. The pre-auction sale estimate is $150K to $250K.
Also being offered is what is likely the world’s oldest sound synthesizer. The Helmholtz Sound Synthesizer was built by Max Kohl around 1905 using a design by Hermann von Helmholtz from the 19th Century. This is roughly 60 years before the Moog synthesizer. The Helmholtz design features a lot of brass metalwork–mostly in its resonators–and tuning forks mounted on a wooden platform. It also has a 10-key electric keyboard. The pre-sale estimate is $20K to $30K.
The only computer other than the Apple 1 in the auction is an Olivetti P-602 from 1971. More of a calculator designed to solve scientific, statistical, or technical math problems, the P-602 followed Olivetti’s better-known Programma 101. This unit appears in good cosmetic condition with one small crack in the back. It is unclear from the description if the unit is working. Pre-sale estimate is $2,000 to $3,000.
As for the Apple 1, I’m going to make a prediction that bidding will be closer to the low end of the estimate, perhaps not reaching it. In the last few years, several examples have sold, and while this one appears to be an above-average example, there are only so many collectors left with the desire to own one and the means to make it happen.