After E.D. acquired what’s in her photo — a gift for grandpa in 1999 — the world no longer thought of computers as boring beige plastic boxes.
The very first iMac was introduced in 1998 in Bondi Blue. Bondi? Yes, it was named for the surfer’s favorite beach, and that gave a new meaning to the verb to surf. And that was the present she sent to her grandpa who never used it. Now she has inherited it back and needs to know the history and the value.
Some of us will remember the Apple ads from 1999. The shot was from the ceiling looking down at the tops of five wedgy shaped colored iMacs, showing all five colors of the new line.
Bondi was a moderate success in 1998, so in 1999, five colors were launched, as announced by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The ads said “collect them all”: Blueberry, grape, tangerine, lime and strawberry. Almost corny and sappy, other Apple ads suggested the colors were “iCandy” and contained no artificial colors.
So E.D. had one of these blueberry iMacs shipped in 1999 to Grandpa, who didn’t trust it with his personal information and hid it in his garage, never opening the box. You will see that the red box that E.D.’s grandpa’s computer was originally shipped in was HUGE. Yes, the computer of 1999 was fat, and it looked a bit like the head of a Space Fantasy robot.
The “family of colors” was included in the iMac, the iMac DV (DV= Digital Video) and the iMac DV Special Edition, all of which had that wedge shape and a clear-to-frosted colored enclosure. The special edition was slightly different and more expensive in that its enclosure was translucent and glossy, as opposed to the hazier plastic of the standard fruit flavored Macs.
The colors were a success, so in the summer of 2000, Apple introduced five more colors with less corny associations: indigo, sage, ruby, graphite, and snow, another series of five. When I think of the color minimalist of today, Mr. Jobs was ahead of the game, retiring the strident ruby and sage pretty quickly and replacing them with two other Special Editions in colors, the Flower Power enclosure, and the Blue Dalmatian enclosure, (which is to die for), blue and teal spots on white clear plastic.
Hard to believe that in 1997 Apple sold just 1.8 million Macs. So, when colors were introduced in 1998-9, the new iMac G3 helped Apple make a profit for the first time in three years, and it enabled Mr. Jobs to come back to Apple. It also stopped me from using floppy disks, and the iMacs were the top sellers in U.S. stores for three months. In fact, they changed the way designers thought about computer components, and like I said, they broke the mold.
Beige plastic framed screens in a beige plastic box were out.
When I looked into the value of these for E.D, I found some collectors love the glow the iMacs display when turned on. I found one buyer who had all 13 colors of 1999-2000 and still is buying duplicates.
So there are people out there for this look, but of course, the market likes a computer that is usable. And sad to say, the size and power of these pales in comparison to today’s gear.
But they are cool.
I did find a seller with the whole setup who was asking $1,000, but most folks who have unused iMac G3s in the original box are happy to have them leave their garages for $300 and up.
However, I notice that the tech collectors are a rich group of youngsters, and it is my opinion that it might be wise to hang onto this technology.
In 2014, Bonhams put a rare Apple-1 computer up for auction in New York. Estimated to go for between $300,000 and $500,000, it ended up selling for a whopping $905,000. Years later, that is not the highest known price anyone has ever paid for a vintage Apple computer, but it shows you how what was trash 25 years ago, will surprise you in value today.
A working Apple -1, one of the tech giant’s first line of computers introduced back in 1976, was up for auction on eBay for $1.5 million USD in 2021. If you have the desk space, use it!
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.