Take a Byte of the Apple by Investing in Vintage Macs

Take a Byte of the Apple by Investing in Vintage Macs

 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.

Take a Byte of the Apple by Investing in Vintage Macs
Priscilla Thomas

Updated Nov 17, 2022

Many companies on MoneyMade advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear.

Technology

Technology

Collectibles

Collectibles

Long Term Growth

Long Term Growth

  • Rare vintage Macs with a memorable story or cultural impact can be a valuable investment asset.
  • Some vintage Mac computers, like the 1976 Apple I, have increased in value by over 100,000%.
  • Rally offers several vintage Mac computers and devices, which investors can purchase in fractionalized shares. 

 

They just don't make things like they used to. If collectibles had a motto, that'd be it.

From antique furniture to classic cars to top-shelf whisky, collectors appreciate the unique elements of vintage items. 

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.

The impact of Apple computers and products reshaped more than the tech industry...

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.

Why invest in vintage Mac computers?

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.

1. Scarcity

Similar to sports card investments, a rarer vintage Mac tends to be more desirable and valuable than one that's easy to find.

2. Cultural significance

Nostalgia is driven by personal connections, and many impactful pieces of the past represent major moments. Electronics that changed the industry are collectible gems.

3. Memorable backstory

Drama, mystery, even epic fails—an entertaining backstory breathes life into relics of tech.

Best vintage Mac computers to invest in

We gathered examples of vintage Macs that check these boxes and might make an electrifying addition to your portfolio. 

The Apple I

  • Product type: Personal computer
  • Year released: 1976
  • Original price: $666.66 ($3,491.61 adjusted for inflation)
  • Highest sale: $905,000 in 2014
  • Supply: 62 verified

 

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.

post-img

The Apple I

Source: bonhams.com

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.

post-img

The Apple I and a chart of similar asset sales from 2010 to 2021 on Rally

Source: 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

The Apple Lisa

  • Product type: Microcomputer
  • Year released: 1983
  • Original price: $9,995 ($29,905 adjusted for inflation)
  • Highest sale: $50,300 in 2017
  • Supply: 30 to 100 (estimated)

 

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.

post-img

The Apple Lisa

Source: si.edu

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.

 

Back to the Lisa, Jobs chalked its flop up to "Fortune 500-itis." He thought the company had started prioritizing corporate buyers, and that shift in focus produced a computer that didn't work for everyday people—or their budgets.

Jobs repurposed many of the Lisa's features into the 1984 Apple Macintosh, which outpaced the Lisa in every way. It ran at 8 MHz, compared to the Lisa's 5 MHz speed. At $2,495, it cost a fraction of the Lisa's price. In its first 100 days, Apple sold 50,000 Macs—while only a few thousand Lisa units were sold in its first year.

post-img

A 1983 Apple Lisa with ProFile hard drive and a chart of similar asset sales from 1983 to 2018

Source: Rally

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.

The Macintosh Plus

  • Product type: Personal computer
  • Year released: 1986
  • Original price: $2,599 ($7,067 adjusted for inflation)
  • Highest sale: $28,750 in 2018
  • Supply: unknown

 

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.

post-img

The 1986 Apple Macintosh Plus

Source: cultofmac.com

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.

post-img

The signed 1986 Mac Plus and a chart of similar asset sales from 2013 to 2021

Source: Rally

The iPod

  • Product type: MP3 player
  • Year released: 2001
  • Original price: $399 ($672 adjusted for inflation)
  • Highest sale: $25,000 in 2022
  • Supply: unknown

 

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.

post-img

Apple's iconic iPod silhouette ads.

Source: pcmag.com

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.

post-img

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.

post-img

The 1st generation iPod and direct asset sales from 2001 to 2022

Source: Rally

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.

When is a Mac computer considered vintage?

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.

post-img

A vintage iMac G3 converted to an aquarium, AKA a macquarium

Source: inhabitat.com

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.

Are vintage Mac computers a good investment?

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.

post-img

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.

rallyrd
Rally

5.0

Sports Cards

Find your next investment