The mania of postmortem remembrance of Steve Jobs may have reached its apotheosis on Tuesday when the founding documents of Apple -- signed by Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and a third partner -- were bought at auction for $1.59 million.
The documents -- which were initially valued at $100-150,000 by Sotheby's -- were sold by Wade Saadi, founder and CEO of Pencom Systems. Here he is on video last Friday, five days before the auction, talking to Bloomberg's Margaret Brennan.
"I never really told anyone except my close friends that I had it," said Saadi, "and when Steve Jobs died that's when the phone started to ring... To me they represent a point in time when I was fascinated with what Steve Jobs had accomplished at Apple Computer, not only developing a personal computer that Xerox never thought would go anywhere, but successfully marketing it."
So who did Saadi purchase the precious papers from in the first place? He says he bought them from one of the signees himself -- Ron Wayne -- for "several thousand dollars." (Wayne himself says he sold them to an autograph collector for $500. See below.) Wayne is famous as the third founder of Apple, the one who bowed out of the newly minted corporation just 11 days after signing it into existence, thus enshrining him as perhaps the least financially prescient individual of all time.
In an interview with Peter Jon Shuler a few months ago, Apple employee No. 12 Dan Kottke had this to say about Wayne's involvement with Apple:
...then there was the small item of the $30,000 worth of small parts that needed to be ordered. That was the point at which Ron Wayne, who was the third founding partner, got cold feet, because he had a mortgage to pay, unlike these 2 kids. He felt like he was the adult and he couldn’t keep up with these guys. When Steve Jobs told him he had ordered $30,000 worth of parts, that was a lot of money, and Ron backed out.
The contract Wayne signed, then backed out of, gave him 10 percent ownership in Apple, which today comes out to something like $35 billion. Wayne has said he's not bitter about his decision. But that's an awful lot of money to get philosophical about. One would think this week's $1.6 million sale can only add insult to whatever injury there is.
In this Dec 9 Bloomberg video, starting at 2:38, Wayne speaks about the documents from his home in Las Vegas, and lets it be known that he's not a rich guy.
"To be absolutely candid with you, I knew those documents would have some value in the far future. It never occurred to me it would have occurred during my lifetime...as just a casual employee earning a normal sum of money every week, this individual who was collecting famous signatures -- I contacted them through an ad they had, and we agreed on a mutual price of $500."
When asked if he had any interest in buying the documents back-- they were valued at $150,000 at the time of the interview -- Wayne said, "if I did I wouldn't be able to. I can't come close to that kind of money."
Here's part of Wayne's biography from Wikipedia:
After Apple, Wayne resisted Jobs's attempts to recruit him back to Apple, remaining at Atari until 1978 when he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and later a Salinas, California electronics company. He is retired and sells stamps, rare coins, and gold from his Pahrump, Nevada home, and had never owned an Apple product until 2011, when he was given an iPad 2 by Aral Balkan at the Update Conference in Brighton, United Kingdom.
Wayne also ran a stamp shop in Milpitas, California for a short period of time in the late '70s, "Wayne's Philatelics", on Dempsey Road. After a number of break-ins he moved his stamp operations to Nevada. Interestingly, his logo for the business was a wood-cut style design, with a man sitting under an apple tree, with the "Wayne's Philatelics" name written in a flowing ribbon curved around the tree. This particular logo is interesting because it was the original logo he designed for Apple Computer.
He holds a dozen patents but never had enough capital to make money off any of them.