This is the first entry since I decided to focus the blog on the Apple III, so naturally it’s about the Lisa. Figures, right? Anyway, I got an email this morning from my Juiced.GS editor asking if I might know why this particular Apple Lisa 1 eBay auction went for $15,000. Here’s my thoughts on this.
There was a discussion about the auction recently over on Low End Mac’s LisaList. Initially, the bidding jumped up to $25,100 but either the seller canceled the high bids, or a potential buyer backed out and the price dropped back to $7,500 before doubling up to the closing price. At first blush, that seems a little high, but honestly I’m not all that shocked. Working Lisa 1’s that I’ve seen on eBay over the last year have gone for at least $5,000.
My guess is that this one got as high as it did due to the seller’s story about his brother having been on the Lisa development team and the possibility that this is a prototype model. Who knows if it’s true or not, but those kind of details tend to drive up the price, as I’m sure anyone who browses eBay’s vintage computer listings has seen.
Additionally, it has the original Twiggy drives (though the seller does state he doesn’t know if they work or not). Recall that those drives had a high failure rate and users often replaced them with more reliable third-party drives, making the Twiggy’s rather rare. When the Lisa 2 shipped, it came with a single 3.5″ Sony 800K drive and Apple offered an upgrade to Lisa 1 owners which included replacement of the Twiggys.
This unit is also clean and appears to have at least one expansion card in it, though I don’t know enough about the Lisa to be able to identify which one. It boots all the way to whatever version of the Lisa System software is installed and the screen (including the anti-glare screen) is in good shape.
There’s another Lisa 1 listed that’s not in as nice shape, and doesn’t have the apparent history, and as of this writing, is over $3,000:
Update: this auction ended with a final bid of $9,433.34. The machine doesn’t power up, has motherboard damage from leaking batteries and doesn’t include a keyboard, mouse, software or other accessories.
So, considering all that, $15,000 doesn’t feel excessive. Now, actually having the kind of money you would need to be able to spend $5,000 above the original 1983 retail price on a 28-year old computer is another thing entirely.
The other question that came up in our email exchange was why the mainstream press hadn’t picked up on this like it did with the Apple-1 that recently sold for a king’s ransom at Christie’s of London.
My bet would be that price would have to reach six figures for an outlet like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal to become interested. The $213,000 sale price and the fact that it was sold by Christie’s, which doesn’t normally handle such auctions, are probably the only reasons the Apple-1 received as much press as it did. For an item that has so few models still in existence, Apple-1’s have appeared on eBay on a surprisingly regular basis over the years. That may change now, though; it only takes one person with more dollars than brains to spoil it for the other kids.
Lisa 2s are fairly common and typically don’t break $1,000 unless there’s something really special about them. It’s the Lisa 1 that gets collectors salivating. Many were upgraded to Lisa 2s for free by Apple and the thousands more were buried in a Utah landfill, so they have that rarity thing going for them, although again, they do show up on eBay frequently. I find myself wondering how rare they really are. No way to tell, I suppose.
A lot of this is may be generated by the zeitgeist Apple has been enjoying lately, too. Hard to say. There’s some speculation that both of these machines were purchased by the same collector. After all, how many technology museums with a focus on vintage Apple computers could there be in Italy?
Interested in the Apple’s second failure? Read David T. Craig’s excellent article analyzing Lisa’s legacy.