Incredibly rare and historic 1976 Apple Computer check signed by Jobs and Woz—a payment to Kierulff Electronics for Apple-1 parts
Excessively rare and absolutely historic Apple Computer Company check, 6 x 3, filled out and signed by Steve Jobs, "steven jobs," and countersigned by Steve Wozniak, "Steve Wozniak," payable to Kierulff Electronics for $3430, July 15, 1976. Headed "Apple Computer Company," the check uses Apple's first official address at "770 Welch Rd., Ste. 154, Palo Alto"-the location of an answering service and mail drop that they used while still operating out of the famous Jobs family garage. In very fine condition. Encapsulated in a PSA/DNA authentication holder.
This extraordinary check comes from the foundational moment of Apple Computer, today the most valuable company in the world. Three months earlier, on April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne signed the company's original partnership agreement, which assigned 45% of the company to each of the Steves, and 10% to Wayne. It also required any expenditure over $100 to be approved by two of the partners-perhaps the reason that both Jobs and Woz signed this check. Because of the legal structure of the partnership, all three could be held personally liable for any of the company's debts. Jobs and Woz were effectively penniless-Jobs sold his beloved Volkswagen Bus and Woz sold his prized HP-65 pocket calculator to raise about $1,300 in operating capital. Wayne, on the other hand, was older and more experienced in the business world. He had assets to protect, and sold back his share in the partnership for the meager sum of $800 just days later. Jobs and Woz were on their own to finance the development, production, and sales of the Apple-1.
Shortly thereafter, Wozniak first demonstrated the Apple-1 prototype at a meeting of Palo Alto's Homebrew Computer Club. Upon seeing interest amidst the membership, he and Jobs pooled their resources to have the printed circuit boards produced. Like most hobbyist computers of the time, they conceived the Apple-1 as a kit to be soldered together by the end user. They originally hoped to sell 50 boards at $40 apiece to recover their initial $1,000 outlay. However, seeking a larger audience, Jobs approached Paul Terrell, owner of The Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, one of the first personal computer stores in the world. Terrell offered to buy 50 of the computers-at a wholesale price of $500 a piece, to retail at $666.66-but only if they came fully assembled. With this request, Terrell aimed to elevate the computer from the domain of the hobbyist/enthusiast to the realm of the mainstream consumer. Wozniak later placed Terrell's purchase order in perspective: 'That was the biggest single episode in all of the company's history. Nothing in subsequent years was so great and so unexpected.'
However, Jobs and Woz weren't prepared to fill such a massive order-what began as a $1,000 investment in PCBs grew to over $20,000 in expected material costs, and they had already sold off their most valuable possessions. Banks found it easy to refuse loans to 'a couple of hippy kids,' and most electronics vendors were skeptical. Jobs caught a break when he met with Bob Newton, the division manager of Kierulff Electronics in Palo Alto. The episode is discussed in Return to the Little Kingdom: Steve Jobs and the Creation of Apple by Michael Mortiz: 'Newton…met Jobs and examined both him and the prototype. 'He was just an aggressive little kid who didn't present himself very professionally.' Nevertheless, Newton agreed to sell Jobs $20,000 worth of parts and explained that if the bill was paid within thirty days Jobs would not be charged interest. Jobs, unfamiliar with accounting rubric, recalled: 'We didn't know what 'net thirty days' was.''
The components now successfully secured, Jobs and Wozniak spent ten days putting together, soldering, and testing the Apple-1 units before delivering them to The Byte Shop. Thus, the Apple-1 was one of the first completely assembled 'personal' computers that simply worked out of the box with a few accessories that could be purchased from a local electronics store (a power supply, case, keyboard, and monitor were not included). All together, over a span of ten months or so, Jobs and Wozniak produced about 200 Apple-1 computers and sold 175 of them.
Based on the date of this check, it likely represents a payment for parts used in putting together the second batch of Apple-1 Computers. As a document signed by Apple's famed co-founders in the year of the company's origin, and directly connected with the production of the Apple-1 Computer, this is an unparalleled, museum-quality piece. Few Apple autographs of such great significance have ever come to auction: this check might be rivaled only by the original partnership agreement, which achieved a $1.5 million result in 2011.