Steve Jobs memorabilia: the most valuable items ever sold
Steve Jobs built Apple from his parents' garage into a global empire, redefining the role technology plays in our modern lives along the way.
Since his death in 2011, memorabilia relating to Steve Jobs' life and career has soared in value. Here are some of the most valuable items sold at auction in recent years.
In May 2015, a trio of Steve Jobs' business cards spanning his career at three different companies were sold at a high school charity auction in California.
The Marin School, a 70-student school in San Rafael, offered them as part of its annual gala and fundraising auction which aimed to raise $10,000 for equipment and resources.
Listed as "3 vintage Steve Jobs business cards - caressed and carried by the man himself", the cards were donated to the sale by the parents of a former pupil, caterers who had worked for Jobs on dozens of events over the years.
The cards covered Jobs' time as the president of NeXT, and his roles as chairman of the board at both Apple and Pixar.
In total they received 47 bids, and sold for a combined total of $10,050 – helping the school achieve its target in one go.
The cards raised more than double the amount of the next highest-selling lot - a luxury vacation in Hawaii.
They were bought by Tim Knowles, CEO and co-founder of Stacks, an Australia-based startup that created an iPhone app for sharing digital business cards.
High School yearbook
Here's a copy of Steve Jobs' high school senior yearbook in 1972, offered for sale on eBay in March 2015.
Whilst at the school Jobs became friends with Bill Fernandez, who in turn introduced him to his neighbour Steve Wozniak.
The trio shared a passion for electronics which would later spawn an international empire, although at the time it seems Jobs was equally concerned about having awesome hair.
According to the seller of the yearbook, who took an electronics class with the future Apple head honcho, "Jobs didn’t seem serious about the class and would clown around a lot."
And according to his FBI file, released in 2012, his high school grade point average was 2.65, meaning he was far from a straight 'A' student.
Later on Jobs even dropped out of college after six months, only sneaking back in to take free calligraphy classes.
But it seems the kind of smarts you need to excel in school aren't necessarily the same ones you need to build a $450 billion company.
The online auction saw 17 people competing for the piece of Apple history – with the winning bidder paying $12,322 for a picture of Steve in all his youthful glory.
After dropping out of Reed College in 1972, Jobs found himself working at Atari in Los Gatos, California, pulling night shifts to improve game designs and generally getting on the nerves of other employees.
"He was very often the smartest guy in the room, and he would let people know that" said Atari's co-founder Nolan Bushnell.
Jobs had an intuitive understanding of what made Atari games popular – their simplicity.
According to his biographer Walter Isaacson, he knew the games "needed to be uncomplicated enough that a stoned freshman could figure them out." And as a former acid-dropping student himself, Steve was on a similar wavelength to their potential customers.
Jobs' first stint at Atari lasted only a few months, before he headed off in late 1974 to travel through India in search of spiritual enlightenment.
But whilst he was there he worked on the classic arcade game World Cup Football, a successor to Pong, and helped improve its functionality and playability.
This memo concerning the game's development was written by Jobs to his supervisor on the project Stephen Bristow.
It bears Jobs' stamp at the bottom, "All-One Farm Design", named after a commune he was spending time at, along with the Buddhist mantra "gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi svahdl".
This rare piece of memorabilia from Job's first foray into the computer industry sold at Sotheby's in 2012 for $27,500.
1978 business document
During his six months at Reed College, Jobs became firm friends with student body president Robert Friedland.
The pair shared an interest in Eastern spirituality and dropping acid, and in fact Friedland's fondness for LSD had just seen him released from a two-year stretch in federal prison.
Friedland served as the caretaker for his wealthy uncle's apple farm near Portland, and turned it into a Hare Krishna commune called All One Farm.
Jobs and his future business partner Steve Wozniak both spent time working on the farm, and were allegedly inspired by their experience to name their fledgling company Apple.
Having launched the Apple-1 in 1976, the company then introduced its successor the Apple-II in August 1978. At the same time, it seems Jobs was cooking up a new business plan with his former tripping partner Friedland.
This eight-page document, signed by both men, details the plans for a business based at a 170-acre property in Oregon. It suggests they were looking to get involved in real estate investment, although to this day it's unclear exactly what venture the pair worked on together.
Jobs went on to turn Apple into one of the world's biggest companies, and Friedland made his billions in the mining industry.
All that remains of the intriguing business partnership is the signed document, which was sold by RR Auction in December 2013 for $40,045.
In 1984 renowned photographer Richard Sheef took photographs of the team at Apple Inc., following the release of the Apple Macintosh.
He later recalled the shoot in an interview with the iPhone Savior blog, describing them as "a commune, very different than what you'd expect in a corporation... [with] a tremendous sense of family, a tremendous sense of shared innovative thinking."
Having shot the group, Sheff then set about taking photos of Jobs himself, who had only briefly appeared on the fringes of the group photos.
“We drove over to his house and we sat in that large unfurnished living room and we were just in conversation.
He was so inspired in that moment and said ‘I’ll be right back’ and he ran out of the room and he came running back in with the new Mac and he just plopped on the floor.
So we didn’t think of an idea, we just had a moment. What was encapsulated in that box was his baby."
The photograph became one of the most iconic portraits of Steve Jobs ever captured, and another image from the same shoot appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine, in a tribute issue following Jobs' death in 2011.
In 2016 the very watch worn in the photograph was offered at auction from the collection of Mark Sheff, an organic cook who managed Jobs' estate during the 1980s.
The simple timepiece came with an estimate of $800 - $1,200, but sold for an impressive $42,500, surely making it the world's ultimate Apple Watch.
Perhaps inspired by the sale, Seiko even rereleased a limited-edition version of the Chariot watch as a tribute to Jobs in 2017.
Black leather jacket
Having grown from a garage into one of the world's biggest computer companies, Apple raised the bar once more when it launched the Apple Macintosh.
In the winter of 1983 the Apple publicity machine went into overdrive, and a number of high profile magazines included an 18-page brochure advertising the new computer.
In December that year, Jobs and his team took a trip to New York to visit the office of Newsweek, to speak about the launch of the Apple Mac and a possible cover feature.
As they passed by the offices of IBM, Apple's biggest competitor for the home computer market, they snapped this now-iconic photo of Jobs flipping the bird to his rivals.
To many, this single image captures the rivalry between Macs and PCs which has endured to this day.
In the photograph, which was taken by the "wild French jet setter" Jean Pigozzi, Jobs wore a brown leather bomber jacket.
More than 30 years later, that same jacket hit the auction block at Julien's in Beverly Hills, where it sold for $22,400.
Signed magazine cover
Steve Jobs famously hated signing autographs, and the few items bearing his signature to hit the market in recent years have achieved huge prices.
Having resigned from Apple in 1985, Jobs went on to establish NeXT, a computer and software company aimed at the business and higher education markets.
The company launched its first computer in 1988, with Jobs appearing on the cover of numerous magazines including this copy of Newsweek
He also gave talks to numerous talks to tech companies to sell them on the project, and it was during one of these events at the Lotus Development Corporation that a lucky employee snagged his signature.
"I was a senior buyer @ Lotus working in the manufacturing facility at the time and had somewhat of a school girls crush on Jobs' genius and entrepreneurial spirit.
"After an elaborate fan fare unveiling people were standing and clapping. Steve walked off stage, came down into the front row and plopped himself on a table next to me. I froze. I showed him a pile of magazines and asked him to pick one to autograph for me.
"He hesitated and said 'I don't do autographs' at which point I stepped closer, locked eyes and said 'then write something from your heart.' He smiled from ear to ear, picked the Newsweek and jotted the words: I love manufacturing and then signed it!"
The magazine remained in her possession for almost 30 years, before it appeared for sale at RR Auction in October 2017, where it sold for $50,587.
After months of delays due to testing, the first NeXT computer finally hit the market in 1989. When asked by a reporter if he was upset about the late release, Jobs replied "Late? This computer is five years ahead of its time!"
First Apple, Inc. business contract
On April 1, 1976 three men signed a contract and one of the world's biggest companies was born.
Along with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Apple's third original shareholder and founder was Ron Wayne, who had worked with Jobs at Atari and provided inspiration for the then 19-year-old to set out on his own. "Ron was an amazing guy. He started companies. I had never met anyone like that," Jobs later said in his biography.
However, the three-way partnership was to be short-lived. Just 12 days later Wayne apparently got cold feet, perhaps based on his own experiences with starting a new computer company.
He filed a statement of withdrawal with the County of Santa Clara, and Jobs and Wozniak agreed to pay him $800 "In consideration of the relinquishment of Wayne's former percentage of ownership."
Wayne later received another $1,500 for his 10% share of the company – which would today be billions. But despite a decision which would have haunted many to their graves, Wayne remained philosophical years later:
"I've never regretted pulling out. I'm as enamoured of money as anyone else, but I knew that it was going to be a considerable strain ... I was getting too old and those two were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail and I couldn't keep up with these guys."
After working for various electronics companies, Wayne later retired from the industry to sell rare stamps and coins in Pahrump, Nevada.
He didn't own an Apple product until 2011, when he was gifted an iPad 2 at a conference in the UK.
Wayne's original copy of the first-ever Apple partnership agreement, bearing the signatures of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak along with his own, crossed the auction block at Sotheby's in 2011.
It was expected to sell for around $150,000, but brought an incredible price of $1,594,500.
The most important piece of Steve Jobs memorabilia is undoubtedly an original Apple-1 computer, although he had little to do with its actual design.
Steve Wozniak was the genius behind the technology; Jobs was the genius who sold it.
To fund the project, Wozniak sold his treasured HP-65 calculator and Jobs parted with his beloved VW Microbus.
Once completed, the first Apple computer made its public debut at a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in May 1976.
Jobs then won a $25,000 order from local computer store The Bytes Shop for 50 machines, and ordered the parts to build them. They had thirty days to deliver, and pay off their $20,000 bill.
The pair used the Jobs family garage as their base of operations, and built enough computers to fulfil their order with the Byte Shop with the help of friends and family.
They eventually produced around 200 Apple-1 computers, with the rest sold privately to enthusiasts, although some of those were later returned for conversion into Apple IIs.
According to the official Apple-1 register, there are less than 70 original examples known to exist, and just eight that remain in working order.
This completely unmodified Apple-1 was one of the first 50 built to fulfil the Byte Shop order.
It was originally owned by Apple enthusiast John Anderson, founder and first President of the Cincinnati AppleSiders. He instantly understood its historical importance and stored it inside a custom display case from the late 1980s onwards.
It sold at Bonhams in New York in 2014 for $905,000, setting a record that is yet to be broken.
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