If they’ve got the Apple brand, even used paper commands a premium in marketplace. Some $1.6 million.
Of course, these aren’t just any papers, and this isn’t just any moment in time.
The papers in question comprise the contract which formed Apple Computer Company on April 12, 1976, and are signed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, the Pete Best of the computer revolution who got cold feet and bailed on the company before it got off the ground. And the timing could not be better: The recent passing of Jobs and the elevation of Apple to one of the most valuable companies in the world makes these particular documents quite something just now.
Sotheby’s had put a pre-auction estimate of up to $150,000 on the lot, and tweeted the result of what was said to be a sparsely attended auction. Bidding started at $70,000 but crested at $1 million after only 10 minutes, CNN Money reported. The winning bid was $1.35 million and, with the auction fee, the total is just shy of $1.6 million. The winning bid came from an unidentified telephone buyer.
The documents record one of the strangest — and briefest — episodes in computing history. Wayne was recruited by the two Steves to provide some adult supervision, and was given 10 percent of the nascent company to 45 percent each for Jobs and Wozniak. This stake gave him the power to broker every decision the boys disagreed on, enormous leverage to have shaped the early direction of Apple.
Alas, it was not to be. Wayne was so afraid of the Steves’ lack of business experience and personal assets that he feared creditors would go after him when, he assumed, things inevitably went bad. So Wayne got himself out of the deal less than two weeks later, for $2,300. If he had been able to keep that stake all these years (and didn’t make some horrible early decisions) it would be worth just south of $40 billion, making him as wealthy as Larry Ellison — the world’s fifth richest person last year, according to Forbes.
Cashing out on Apple was a big mistake by Wayne, of course. But buying these documents for so much might turn out to be a relatively small one: Only time will tell if this investment proves to be a better one than acquiring the more than 4,000 shares of Apple stock the winning bidder could have bought instead.