Rare Apple I computer fails to sell at auction

It had been expected to equal the record, but a rare Apple I computer has failed to sell at an auction this week as bidders refused to meet its reserve price.

The Apple I, as the name suggests, was the first Apple computer and each one was handbuilt by company co-founder Steve Wozniak and sold by Steve Jobs. Launched in July 1976, it came without a casing, power cable or monitor and cost $666.66. Records show that 200 were sold and it is estimated that 50 still exist today.

When the lot came up for auction at Christie's in London, it had been expected to fetch between $80,000 and $120,000 based on prices for similar computers at recent auctions. For example, in June 2012 an Apple I sold for $374,500 at Sotheby's and in November 2010 one went under the hammer at Christie's for $212,267. There is also a strong market for them on eBay with models often changing hands for more than $20,000.

Christie's believed that the chance to own such a seminal piece of technological history -- the Apple I was the first personal computer -- would drive the bidding, but the fact that it had such a high reserve price of $80,000 is likely to have dampened enthusiasm. The highest bid was £32,000 ($50,000).