Investors like Warren Buffet have made billions by putting their money into Apple. Stock is one way to profit, but you can also invest in a vintage Mac.
Updated Apr 20, 2023
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They just don't make things like they used to. If collectibles had a motto, that'd be it.
It takes a special eye to admire the qualities of vintage tech. Electronics continuously advance and innovate, but many collectors of retro video games, vintage Macintosh computers, cell phones, and other devices actively seek out obsolete tech.
And they're willing to pay for it. The Apple I vintage Mac has increased in value by as much as 113,100% from 1976 to 2014, compared to the S&P 500's 6,314% increase over the same period.
Is investing in vintage Mac computers the upgrade your investment portfolio needs? We put together a list of Macs that have shown impressive value increases over time, plus what you need to know about what makes a vintage computer valuable.
Unlike wine or whisky, technology doesn't age well. But vintage computers hold a similar appeal to rare comic books or vintage Star Wars collectibles. Understanding what qualities collectors are looking for can help determine if one of the old Macs you're considering is a goldmine or a hunk of junk.
Similar to sports card investments, a rarer vintage Mac tends to be more desirable and valuable than one that's easy to find.
Nostalgia is driven by personal connections, and many impactful pieces of the past represent major moments. Electronics that changed the industry are collectible gems.
Drama, mystery, even epic fails—an entertaining backstory breathes life into relics of tech.
We gathered examples of vintage Macs that check these boxes and might make an electrifying addition to your portfolio.
Apple isn’t the largest company in the world by market cap for nothing. The iPhone maker has changed the world more than once. The first time, only the nerdiest computer nerds caught on. But the second time, the whole world tuned in.
When Apple introduced the original Apple computer back in 1976, no one really knew what they were looking at. In fact, most people today wouldn’t even know what they were looking at.
That’s because their first computer—the Apple I—wasn’t advertised with the sleek, cutting-edge designs modern Apple products are known for. It was no more than a motherboard.
The Apple I
And if you can find one of those motherboards today, be ready to put up some serious capital if you want to take it home. Not only was the Apple I the debut product of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of the most important computer company ever, but only 200 were made.
That already rare inventory became even scarcer when Apple released the Apple II, its first fully assembled computer, the following year. The company encouraged customers to trade in their Apple Is and destroyed them, leaving only 62 verified motherboards in existence.
The Apple I and a chart of similar asset sales from 2010 to 2021 on Rally
Between the scarcity and the historical significance, the Apple I comes with a six-figure price tag these days. In 2014, a working Apple I motherboard sold for $905,000 at auction, and a prototype sold for $815,000 in 2016.
Since then, several sales have achieved sums between $387,750 and $470,000. The Rally investment app has offered shares in an Apple I—fully operational with the motherboard, keyboard, and a vintage Sanyo monitor—valued at $346,500.
She may not look it from this side of the millennium, but the Apple Lisa proved herself a femme fatale of the Macintosh lineup. For all of the groundbreaking features Lisa offered, the computer was considered a flop. But the Lisa also led to some of Apple's most shocking behind-the-scenes drama.
The Apple Lisa
Inspired by the work he saw at Xerox Palo Alto research Company (PARC), Steve Jobs wanted the Lisa to be the first Apple computer to use a mouse and a graphic user interface (GUI) instead of a text-based one. But its technological marvels didn't translate to financial success.
Apple spent $50 million and 5 years developing it, but only sold 80 to 100 thousand units. Some retailers ended up trashing the Lisa computers they couldn't sell—2,700 were dumped in one Utah landfill.
Jobs was removed from the project before its completion—and when he complained to the board of directors, they backed CEO John Sculley's decision. So, Jobs left Apple and started NeXT, Inc., where he developed the operating system that became the signature Mac OS X.
Without Jobs, Apple struggled and burned through CEO after CEO before aquiring NeXT, Inc. to bring Jobs back in the fold—but not before he anonymously sold 1.5 million shares of Apple and tanked the stock to a 12-year low. The move eliminated the most recent CEO, who Jobs offered to "temporarily" replace. He ended up holding the position for 14 years.
A 1983 Apple Lisa with ProFile hard drive and a chart of similar asset sales from 1983 to 2018
However, the Lisa still holds its place in Apple history, thus giving it a unique appeal to collectors. In 2017, an operational Lisa sold for $50,300 at auction, and another sold for $31,250 in 2018 (along with a vintage Apple Dot Matrix printer). Rally acquired a 1983 Apple Lisa in 2021, currently valued at $55,000.
While Jobs was at NeXT, Inc., Apple was determined to prove that they were doing just fine without him. They released the Macintosh Plus in 1986, highlighting its user adaptability and expandable memory. Both features went against Jobs's insistence on proprietary Mac software, but they offered purchasers an unprecedented level of customization—at least for Apple.
The Mac Plus also allowed up to seven peripherals, like scanners and drives, and introduced useful software like Microsoft Excel and Adobe Pagemaker. With the inclusion of the HyperCard and Multifinder, Mac users could run multiple applications at once for the first time.
The 1986 Apple Macintosh Plus
The Macintosh Plus's game-changing features kept it in production until 1990, the longest run of any Mac computer. But it's still a valued vintage Mac. A Mac Plus signed by Steve Jobs and nine other members of the original Macintosh team sold for $28,750 in 2018—a 379% increase in value. Rally acquired this same computer in 2020 and it's currently valued at $100,000 on the platform.
The signed 1986 Mac Plus and a chart of similar asset sales from 2013 to 2021
The iPod isn't a vintage Mac computer from Apple's early days, but it holds a significant place in Apple's history. Not only was the music player a pop culture sensation, but it also expanded people's perception of Apple beyond just a computer brand.
Apple's iconic iPod silhouette ads.
The 1st Generation iPod was announced in October 2001 and it revolutionized portable entertainment. Sure, we had mobile phones in Ye Olde 2000s, but if your thumbs needed a break from T9 texting and chasing a high score in Snake, you were probably still relying on a Sony Discman and whatever mix CD you had on hand.
MP3 players existed before the iPod, but you might only have had 8 to 10 songs at your disposal—if you'd set aside a few hours to download them from your PC before heading out.
Then, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. It had 5 GB memory instead of 32 MB, which Jobs equated to carrying 1,000 songs in your pocket. Its slender frame, large viewscreen, and iconic white and silver finishes made it a sleek and futuristic alternative to other players on the market.
The Creative NOMAD Jukebox and the Apple 1st generation iPod.
Source: insider.com and popularmechanics.com
Creative's NOMAD Jukebox, for instance, outdid the iPod on storage with 6 GB of flash memory, but it also cost $100 more. It was also bulkier, weighing in at about 14 ounces and with dimension nearly the same as a portable CD player. It definitely didn't pass the jacket pocket test—or the women's pants pocket test.
Smaller MP3 players that used microdrives instead of flash memory offered less storage with a much higher price tag, like the i2Go EGo's 2 MB for $2,000.
With better design, portability, speed, and storage, the iPod crushed the competition. From its unveiling in October 2001 to the end of December, 125,000 iPods were sold. By the end of 2003, it was over two million, and iTunes downloads had surpassed 50 million songs. By 2007, the iPod had quadruple the sales of the Jukebox.
The 1st generation iPod and direct asset sales from 2001 to 2022
The 1st generation iPod has ridden on waves of nostalgia among collectors over the years. A sealed-in-box 1st generation iPod sold for $20,000 on eBay in 2014. In 2022, an RR Auction closed with a $25,000 winning bid, and another sold in October 2022 for $15,000. Rally's unopened iPod is valued at $37,500 on the platform, where shares have been available to trade since June 2021.
Like furniture and clothing, old Macs are considered vintage when they're about 20 years old. Just because your 2010 desktop feels outdated compared to today's retina displays doesn't qualify it as a vintage collectible. But you can easily make the case for a candy-colored 2000 iMac G3—even if its best purpose is serving as a fish tank.
A vintage iMac G3 converted to an aquarium, AKA a macquarium
The other determining factor of vintage status is that the item represents the era of its production. Like the iPod's iconic Y2K-era design or the Apple Lisa's distinctly 1980s style, these items aren't just old—they're hallmarks of their time.
Investing in nostalgia can feel like a gamble. Just because something was a big part of your life doesn't mean it'll be considered valuable by collectors decades later. And not every fad becomes a fountain of cash in the future (you should probably donate those old fedoras). But the impact of Apple computers and products reshaped more than the tech industry, leaving its mark on pop culture, music, and even how we communicate, work, and learn.
That means there's a good chance that vintage Mac computers continue to draw the attention and dollars of collectors, and with platforms like Rally, you can invest in that interest for a fraction of the six-figure sums they're willing to pay.
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