Photo: Aegon Boucicault
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If you're due for a new phone, do you think you'll have what it takes to remove it from its sealed box once you get it?
Yeah, sure, laugh it up. A sealed iPhone 14 will never be worth the big bucks! That's the rational line of thought, and it's almost certainly true. But when you see see sealed and slabbed iPod Shuffles and iPod Nanos starting to sell for thousands of dollars, it's enough to make you think twice.
The spectrum of Apple collectibles is filling in nicely across values, as evidenced by results from last week's Apple, Jobs, and Computer Hardware event at RR Auction. Among the lots were some of the first auction offerings of CAS-slabbed, sealed Apple products. The results were jarring.
And we couldn't relegate this one to a pedestrian bullet point: a sealed, first generation Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset sold for $1,059. A Bluetooth headset!! One thousand bucks!
The hype around sealed, first generation iPhones has officially spawned a gold rush in derivative products, and CAS in particular has staked its claim to providing picks and shovels, however reliable or sturdy they may be. Their archival services of the product are relatively new, and there's little information available to support the credibility of the seal verification. That's not to say it isn't credible, only that making the determination isn't easy with publicly available information.
Regardless, bidders needed little nudging to vie for this emerging class of Apple collectibles. Results trounced their estimates on average by 2.6X. The track record for these assets is minimal, even thinner once encapsulated. There's effectively no track record at the prices realized, but the ingredients here hadn't previously come together either: recognized auction house, veritable lineup of other Apple memorabilia in the event, and the archival services provided by CAS.
While the products themselves lack the pedigree of true, first gen iPhones or iPods, they have a valuable factor working in their favor: nostalgia. Not everyone was an early adopter of those OG products, but they do remember their positive experiences with Minis and Nanos and Shuffles. That makes them easier sells as collectibles, though many will argue a sealed version isn't necessary to scratch that nostalgic itch. Of course, that's true of effectively all collectibles, but sealed versions price multiples higher nonetheless.
The higher end of Apple memorabilia continues to flourish. RR sold a sealed first generation iPhone in the same event, commanding a sizable $56k sum, which, while not a record, falls in line with recent expectations. Whether the category can sustain those levels as examples continue to find their way to the block remains to be seen.
Not everything Apple-related is going up. For example, a Jobs-signed Apple 5-Year Service Award sold for $13,589 after a similar example (albeit with more detailed, colorful provenance) sold for $24,079 in March of 2022.
Still, Steve Jobs artifacts mostly remain highly-coveted. The more interaction he had with them and the earlier, the more valuable. A Jobs hand-written advertisement draft for the Apple-1, complete with annotated Polaroids, sold for $176k, almost 6x its $30k estimate. A very early Apple Computer check, signed by both Jobs and Woz and made out to a PCB maker called Ramlor, sold for $135k versus an estimate of $50k.
Items like those have been coveted for years now, but there was little desirable inventory to offer Apple enthusiasts at lower price tiers outside of perhaps some Jobs business cards and less notable memorabilia. Now, speculators turn their attention to products that sustained the success of innovations like the iPhone and iPod.
We're left to wonder if it can turn out any worse than Stewie's iPod commercial...
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