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Functioning Apple I computer fetches over £400K in Germany

If you thought a coffee date with Apple CEO Tim Cook was expensive, vintage Apple hardware will set you back even more – though only just.

An original version of the Apple I computer – signed by co-founder Steve Wozniak – fetched a staggeringly high price at a recent auction in Germany. The final price of $671,000 (£444,000) was more than £130,000 higher than auctioneer Uwe Breker estimated as the highest possible price that Apple's first-ever computer might generate.

The system, originally owned by electrical engineer Fred Hatfield, is one of 46 known units still in existence out of an original lot of 200 systems crafted by Wozniak and late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The auctioned-off system even came with a letter from Jobs himself, offering Hatfield all of $400 (£265) if he would trade in his Apple I for an upgraded Apple II.

Hatfield seems to have (wisely) declined.

The massive final bid was all of $31,000 (£20,000) higher than the last Apple I unit sold by the same auction house last November. Previously, Apple I systems have set sales records of around $375,000 (£248,000) when auctioned; the market for original Apple devices has certainly ballooned since that point.

The aforementioned Apple I computer was originally set at a minimum sales price of $116,000 (£77,000). However, the price inflation could be attributed to the simple fact that the Apple I remains a core part of the company's history – "the physical artifact that traces this incredible success to its origins," said Computer History Museum curator Dag Spicer in an interview with the New York Times.

And, we note, the fact that the system itself seems to function without issue.

It's not as if previous Apple I systems have always managed to sell high at auctions. According to the Times, a non-working Apple I computer didn't even manage to meet its reserve price of £50,000 when auctioned last year in London. Hatfield's system is functional – helping it to draw a higher price, in addition to the colourful story behind the system itself.

It's unknown who purchased this Apple I system, apart from the fact that he's apparently some kind of "wealthy entrepreneur from the Far East," reports United Press International. The system's seller is similarly mysterious; a "young American who works for a software company," who brought the system to the auction cloaked in a blanket, reports the Times.