Steve Jobs' $4.01 RadioShack check set to fetch small fortune at auction

Talk about inflation – bids are now closing in on $30K

A few months after he co-founded Apple on April Fool's Day in 1976, Steve Jobs cut a check to RadioShack for $4.01. That same check could now be yours if you're willing to beat the current top bid of $27,500.

The rather ornate hand-written check is up for auction until Wednesday through RR Auctions, where 24 bids have been placed for the document as of writing, rare Jobs signature and all.

It's not clear what Apple was buying from RadioShack on July 23, 1976 for a mere four bucks and some change, and adjusting for inflation doesn't make it much clearer. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, Jobs would have been cutting a check for $21.61 were he to make the same purchase in 2023.


A check from Apple to RadioShack signed by Steve Jobs and up for auction

Regardless, the check was cut around the same time the Apple-1 went on sale at Paul Terrell's Byte Shop in Mountain View, CA, for $666.66, meaning it was probably for something important. For those unfamiliar with the saga of Apple's early days, Terrell offered to buy 50 of the machines for $500 a pop, but only if they came fully assembled. Other hobbyist computers of the era typically came as unassembled kits. 

So solder, perhaps? 

"That was the biggest single episode in all of the company's history. Nothing in subsequent years was so great and so unexpected," Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak later said of Terrell's order.

US electronics retailer RadioShack, now largely defunct aside from an online presence, was a fundamental part of Apple's early days if one goes back far enough.

In his 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson related the story of Jobs' initial partnership with Wozniak, which began when Jobs saw a market for Woz-built "blue boxes" used by phone hackers to make free long-distance calls. Jobs sold around 200 of the devices for $150 a piece, later telling Isaacson "there wouldn't have been an Apple" if not for Woz's phreaking hardware.

Interestingly enough, this is the second Jobs-signed check from the early days of Apple to be auctioned by RR this year – the auction house sold a $175 check from Apple to managing consultant firm Cramptom, Remke & Miller in May for $106,985.

Anything signed by Jobs, who was famously averse to autographs, can go for a small fortune to the right collector. A 1983 letter from Jobs to a fan asking for an autograph, in which Jobs both declined the request for an autograph and signed the letter, was sold at auction by RR in 2021 for a whopping $479,939. ®

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