Many of us can remember the excitement of tearing off the plastic shrink wrap and opening our first iPhones, but imagine the excitement you’d be feeling 16 years later if you’d kept it sealed in its original box because an unopened iPhone just sold at auction for a staggering $190,372.80.
It’s hard to say exactly why original iPhones are suddenly breaking auction records left and right. Perhaps a flurry of long-overdue cleanings during the Covid-19 lockdowns unearthed a trove of unopened and forgotten iPhones hidden away in closets. Or maybe it’s just that collectors are now looking for better investments than digital images of cartoon apes.
Late last year, LCG Auctions sold an 8GB version of the original iPhone, still in the plastic shrink wrap applied at the factory, for $39,339.60 (the sold price includes the Buyer’s Premium: an added percentage fee pocketed by the auction house), with the final bid being $32,783, after several last-minute attempts to win the auction boosted the price significantly. Earlier this year, in February, after appraisers speculated it could sell for as much as $50,000, another sealed original iPhone 8 sold at auction for $63,356.40, with a final bid of $52,797.
So why did this particular iPhone end up with a final bid of $158,644, and a selling price of $190,372.80, which is over three times what the last one sold for? For starters, it’s the 4GB version of the original iPhone, which back in 2007 sold for $499, while the 8GB model sold for $599. Given the $100 price difference, most consumers opted for the larger 8GB model, and so just a few months after the iPhone debuted, Apple discontinued the 4GB model in September of 2007, making them much rarer today.
This factory-sealed original iPhone also comes with some unique provenance. According to the LCG Auctions listing, “the consignor was part of the original engineering team at Apple when the iPhone first launched.” It’s not known if the previous owner was given the iPhone by Apple as a result of the work they did on its development, or if they had to line up and buy one as everyone else did, but it’s an added bit of fun trivia given how groundbreaking the iPhone was when it launched. This iPhone’s provenance, and the fact it’s a 4GB model, also means that future OG iPhone auctions probably aren’t going to sell for quite this much, unless it turns out Steve Jobs himself also had an unopened box tucked away somewhere.